Wednesday, February 23, 2011

When I don't understand...

I've been thinking more about this God we serve...and how often we want things that don't really make much sense.

Specifically, I'm thinking about God's omniscience and the common complaint, "I don't understand why God would allow ______."

Now... if we're honestly asking if God will please show us why, and we're willing to hear a "No, I'm not going to show you this," then I think that's perfectly okay to ask Him about it.

BUT...all too often we are not willing to trust if we don't understand. I've heard people (including myself) disguise this unwillingness in a myriad of different statements...but I think that's what it pretty much always boils down to.

I'd like to propose some hypothetical questions that I think would benefit all of us to think about.

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Let's say there's this stay-at-home mom in Ohio, (like me) who is having a hard time dealing with a situation because she doesn't understand why God allowed something or other to happen. She knows that, if she were God, she would have managed things differently. She's become one of millions--if not billions--of people around the world thinking this same thing.

Now here's a question for you, my readers and visitors: Do you want your God to be limited by what some woman in Ohio can understand? Maybe you know her, maybe you don't. But regardless...do you want Him to always act the way this woman thinks He should?

Honestly! Do you? Think about the most difficult situation you're facing right now. Do you want God to do whatever a mother, a wife, a musician, a disorganized homemaker...thinks He should do...in your situation?

No? You don't?

Okay...maybe she's not smart enough. After all, she's never been to college. So how about her dad? He's a brilliant computer engineer with his name on patents. Would you pray to and trust a god that isn't going to do anything this particular engineer can't understand? (Never mind the fact that he'll admit he has a hard time understanding women.)

Quite honestly...the woman in Ohio is glad that God sometimes does things her dad can't understand, since making her the way she is is part of it!

Okay...let's consider a psychiatrist with many degrees and a renown reputation around the world. She does understand women...and men! (Or so she claims.) The problem is that she gets lost anytime she has to go somewhere new, can't tell you the first thing about what keeps the earth from falling into the sun and getting all of us incinerated, and can't manage her investments well either.

You tell me...would you trust your life to a god who never did anything that this woman couldn't understand? Would your pray to him about your financial difficulties? Would you pray to a god like that if you ran out of gas on a dark night when your cell phone battery was dead?

While we're at it, is there anyone on the planet whose knowledge and understanding is so great that you wouldn't mind God limiting His actions (and non-actions) to what that person can understand?

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Do you see how it's only our own knowledge and understanding that we think so much of?

Unfortunately, there's only one name for this inherent, human tendency. It's pride. Ouch. We think just a bit too highly of our own knowledge and our own ability to understand life and any given situation. (Or maybe a lot too highly.)

We don't want God to limit Himself to anyone else's knowledge and ability to understand...just ours. But that would mean 6.9 billion different gods.

Frankly, the more I think of God and we humans in this way, the more I realize that I should be thankful that God does things I don't understand. Completely and utterly grateful! Because I do not want a god who is limited by any human's understanding...even my own! What would be the point in a god like that?

So next time I'm struggling with understanding something God allowed into my life or the lives of my loved ones, I will give thanks that He is capable of things bigger than I can know, and that His knowledge is beyond what I am capable of understanding.

holy experience


I think it's time to add these things to my list of 1000 gifts, (even though it's not a Multitude Monday):


624. That God is not limited by my understanding...

625. Or my anyone else’s.

626. That I can chose to trust Him because of this.

627. That “not understanding” is really a reason why I should trust Him, instead of a reason that I shouldn’t.

628. That I now see how completely the devil has twisted my thinking on this in the past.

629. That “whom the Son sets free is free indeed.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The God I serve is...

The other day I had a myriad of different thoughts and revelations and realizations swirling inside of me. Eventually the swirl consolidated into a multi-part reality...a series of inter-relating revelations that I think might be part of the answer to why we don't see God move more often. I want to share those that have to do with who God is. Maybe next time I'll move on to sharing who we are.


One thing that God is increasingly impressing upon me is His power.

There are these fantasy novels that I love, and they have a main character who is the most powerful in the land. At least, he is the most powerful among those on the side of good.

At the beginning of the story, everyone knows he's powerful. It's his job, after all. He holds back the evil one. But since no one really knows everything that the evil one has been up to, no one really appreciates the power this hero exerts on a daily basis...even though it's on their behalf.

As the story goes on, however, the reader and some of the characters slowly start to realize that the power they thought this humble hero has is only a fraction of what he really has. And then we realize that again, and again...our awareness of his power growing by leaps and bounds each time. So by the end of the book, not only is our realization of his power many, many times what it was in the beginning, but we also are faced with the fact that his limits have still not been reached. When we say, "He is powerful" at the end of the story, we don't mean at all the same thing we would have meant, had we said it at the beginning of the story.

Just like God. We say, "He is powerful." But the more we come to know Him, the more our meaning in that statement grows and grows.

And so I wondered. How much is our lack of faith not so much that we don’t believe God can do things or will do things, but more because we really have no clue how powerful He really is? What if?

I know we all say that God is all-powerful...but do we really have any concept of what all-powerful means? I don't think we do. I think our concept of His power is more like what everyone meant at the beginning of this story when they said this hero was powerful. It was a true statement, yet the amount of power that they meant when they said it was not true. It was only a fraction of the truth.

And so I ask. How powerful do you think God really is?

I think far too many of us would say, if we were asked, "How can I know the limits of His power when I've seen so little of it?" It is, actually, a valid question, but it only has one answer. Revelation. Yes, God can do something to demonstrate His power...but there are several reasons why no demonstration of His power could possibly provide the answer to that question. The simplest reason is that any demonstration He provided could only ever show part of it. When something is limitless, it is not possible to show it's limits. It has none. Period. He has none. But since you and I do have limits, we cannot comprehend His power. Thus, revelation straight from Him is the only real way that we could come to fathom His power.

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The second thing that we don't fully comprehend is His love. We know He loves us...or we think we know it. But just as His power is incomprehensible, I think His love is as well.

Why do we doubt His love? The answer shows how interrelated these questions are.

When you're lying awake at 2am and the devil throws that doubt at you, it's usually accompanied by a statement to the effect of, "If God loves me, He would have ______." Right?

Sometimes, unfortunately, we embrace that lie and allow chains to begin to tighten around our mind and heart. Other times, we cling to the thought of His love and decide that maybe He wanted to do such-and-such and couldn't...and we make up reasons for why an all-powerful God couldn't do something He wanted...and so we doubt His power.

It's just too difficult to wrap our minds around the fact that an all-powerful God could love us like He says He does and not do what He could have to save us from hurt.

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But we're forgetting something else. What if God knows something we don't? This, I think, is one of the most difficult truths for us to face. Because, to put it bluntly, we don't trust Him. And so we don't trust His knowledge. After all, we're in the middle of it. We know what we face, what we've been through, and we can think of quite a few things that an all-powerful and loving God could have done.

We don't realize that what we're really saying is that we know better than God does. We're judging Him. If He really loved us, He would have ________. If He was really all powerful, He would have _______.

Is God omniscient, or isn't He? We all agree He is...but too often our ideas of this are limited, too. We all say that God knows everything...yet we don't live like we really comprehend it.

We know He sees our sin when no one else does. We know He sees and knows when we're struggling in the dark, and sometimes we feel angry that He can see what we're going through and not use that power we've heard He's got to do what we think He should do for us.

But too often, we stop there.

God not only knows our past and present, He knows our future. And going beyond that, He also knows how any thing that He or you or I or any other person could do would affect every and any other person on earth. That's a lot of knowing!

But how often are you and I able to rest in that when we're in that dark place at 2am? How many times do we consider that maybe God isn't using that power we've heard He has in the way we think He should, because maybe He knows something we don't?

What if it were you? What if you had the power to grant every wish your child ever made? Would you always give the child what they thought they needed? Would you give them every sweet they asked for? Would you give them the answers for all their tests? Would you carry them every time they said they were tired? Even if doing such a thing would make them wind up as an invalid, without the strength to stand and run on their own two feet? Even if you knew that granting their request would put the future joys and pleasures of the playground and sports forever out of their reach?

I know I wouldn't. There are many things my kids think they want that I would not grant them even if I did have the power.

Because I love them.

And I can't always explain it to them, either. You could not explain to a 2 year old why you will not give them what they want well enough that she would believe you. In the same way, God cannot always explain to us why He will not do what we think He should. It's not because He doesn't have a reason! It's because we aren't capable of understanding. (Or we're too stubborn to even listen.)

It comes down to faith and trust. Are we really willing to believe that He does love us? Are we willing to trust that He has a good reason--one that is totally filled with love--for not releasing His power in the way we want Him to?

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It's one thing to talk about these things and evaluate them with our minds. But that's not enough. I think that these are three things that each of us need to have revealed to us. All three are beyond the power of the natural human mind to comprehend. But all three are, I think, attributes of God that He wants to reveal to us.

But I don't think He will give us the revelation of His power until we are willing to trust how He uses His power. And I don't think He wants to give us the revelation of either His power or His knowledge unless we also receive the revelation of His love. For what good is there in serving an all-powerful God if He doesn't care about us? What good it be to us, if He knew everything but didn't have the power to work circumstances the way He knows they should go? And what good would His love be if He was prone to the same types of ignorant screw ups that we inflict on our own precious children?

What comfort would there be in knowing that a weak and ignorant God loves us? Seriously!

He has to be all three, or He is not worth serving. It's a simple as that.

Will you believe? Are you willing to say, "Lord, help my unbelief?"

Do you want to know who He really is?
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