Sunday, May 27, 2007

The Otherness Of God

“my thoughts are not your thoughts
and my ways are not your ways.
My thoughts are higher than your thoughts
and my ways are higher than your ways.”
Isaiah 55:8

In his article Boats and Burning Bushes, Rich Mullins says, “we may discover a maniac God, a God who is wild and ferocious, uninhibited by our arrogance, unafraid of any cruelty – a God who is passionate about people…one who would truly go to hell and back out of love for us.”

C S Lewis touches on this idea in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Susan and Lucy are talking with the beavers about Aslan:-
Lucy: Is he... safe?
Mr. Beaver: Safe? Don't you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Of course he isn't safe... but... he's GOOD... He's the King.

Yes, we have a God who is personal and intimate, loving and full of grace … but he is not just god, he is GOD. We cannot define him in our terms. He will not be defined. He is the Creator. He was not created in our image, we were created in HIS. As he aptly expresses though the prophet Isaiah in Is 55:8, “my thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways. My thoughts are higher than your thoughts and my ways are higher than your ways.” God is awesome in the literal sense of the word. The same God who speaks in a gentle quiet voice and brings peace to our souls, this same God, is the God who thunders from the heavens, who rages at injustice and sacrificed his only son out of love for us.

Understanding the otherness of God can cast different light on well-known scripture. A while ago, I was struggling with loss of control in my life in terms of health and dealing with tests and MRIs etc. A friend shared with me from Psalm 23. Often we read this Psalm with a lovey dovey feel! The Lord is my shepherd … you know the picture! A romanticized view of lambs – frolicking and bouncing in rolling green fields … the gentle benign shepherd looking on with a smile … BUNK! Coming from a land of 65 million sheep and 4 million people, I do not have a romanticized view of sheep and shepherds! Sheep are stupid! They wander all over the place … if the shepherd is moving them on to other pastures, the sheep don’t cheerfully bounce along thinking, “Oh goodie! Fresh, tasty food. Let’s go!” Nope. The shepherd needs dogs and he MAKES them go where he wants … herds them there. My friend pointed out that vs 2 of Psalm 23 states, “he MAKES me lie down in green pastures” … I did not want to lie down – literally or figuratively. But God’s desire was that I did. And he brought me to my knees. I could fight, or I could submit. God is God. I am not. His ways are not mine. As Steven Curtis Chapman sings in his song God is God:-

God is God and I am not
I can only see a part
Of the picture he is painting
God is God, and I am man
So I’ll never understand
For only God is God

As Mr Beaver said to Lucy, He isn’t safe, but he is GOOD. I choose to submit, trusting in his goodness. As Ps 23:6 says, SURELY goodness and love will follow me … that’s our shepherd … following along behind – watching over us. I have security in the midst of uncertainty.

Currently, I am reading a book called “Face Down” by Matt Redman. The other day I read a very thought provoking comment. He was comparing the existence of his daughter’s goldfish with the amazing things one can encounter out in the deep. He likened this to the church and said, “Sometimes in the church I worry that we have settled for a “goldfish bowl” worship. We convey a tame and domesticated God and then find ourselves stuck in endless pursuit of the ordinary. But the call is to venture out into the ocean, to encounter the extraordinary and to explore the mighty depths of God.”

I don’t know about you, but I do not want to live in my comfortable little goldfish bowl. Apparently some goldfish grow to the size of their bowls. I do not want to be confined to my bowl. I would rather explore the depths and encounter the extraordinary. I have someone watching over me and his plans and ways far exceed mine. I want to know God. I want to embrace his otherness and enlarge. I do not want to be like the people of Israel who knew God’s deeds. I want be like Moses, who knew his WAYS (Ps 103:7). To know his ways, I must embrace and surrender to his otherness. How about you? What is your choice today? The goldfish bowl or … the ocean?

Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Truth, The Whole Truth & Nothing But The Truth!

“The TRUTH? You can’t HANDLE the truth!” This line (from A Few Good Men) often springs to mind when I think of truth. In 2 Tim 2:15, Paul exhorts Timothy to be one who “correctly handles the word of truth”. I’ve thought a lot about this. If Paul is telling Timothy to correctly handle truth, then there is an implication that we can incorrectly handle it. If truth is a knife, we can use it like a surgeon does a scalpel, to facilitate healing, OR we can use it like a knife wielding assassin – slashing randomly in order to serve ourselves.

Truth and Love should always be married. It is not enough to love without truth. It is not enough to have truth without love. Love without truth is dishonest and it’s recipient will never be fully healthy. A surgeon cuts in order to bring health. Truth without love is like using a dirty knife to perform surgery. It leaves wounds that become infected and fester. How often do you hear the phrase, “well I’m just speaking the truth?” The accompanying tone is often defensive or aggressive. Very rarely is it spoken neutrally. When we speak out of anger or frustration, we dirty the knife. When we speak out of love, we cut clean and bring healing.

There is a saying, “people don’t care what you know, until they know that you care”. Do we have the right to speak into people’s lives without relationship? And if we have relationship, are we speaking into each other’s lives – loving, challenging and holding one another accountable? I am thankful that I have friends who love me and who have addressed issues in my life. I haven't necessarily liked it at the time, but much growth has come from these moments. Proverbs 27:6 tells us that wounds from a friend can be trusted.

How should we deliver truth? Timing, prayer and the approach are crucial. Weigh it up. What fruit will come from your words? Is this a good time to speak or would there be a better one later? Sometimes it is better to approach side on as opposed to head on. Some of the smart prophets in the Old Testament knew this. These poor guys were often tasked with bringing truth to people unwilling to listen. Sometimes they had to speak to kings, who had the power of life and death in their hands. Instead of confronting King David head on with his sin, Nathan told him a story about a poor man’s much-loved lamb – stolen by a more powerful rich man (1 Sam 12). David was drawn into the drama of the story and then Nathan let him know that he was the rich man and confronted him with his sin. When intervening on behalf of the Jews, Esther did not approach the King without gathering prayer support first. She came in humility and drew the King in with a series of banquets. Another side-on approach!

Truth in love. How will I know? Run it through the filter of 1 Corinthians 13. If it fails the test, leave it unsaid. That’s the truth!