Posts Tagged ‘God’

As I have sorely neglected updating this blog, I will post my random, disconnected thoughts about God that I have had in the past couple of weeks or so.  Enjoy.

“We are the children of your mystical union, to share in the goodness of your love.”

“You are my anchor, my axis mundi, and around you I will fix my soul, revolving.”

“God is unpredictable, wild, untamable.  I see God in the Jobian whirlwind, or, as all-consuming fire.  I can relate to the Jesus who casts out the coin-changers at the temple as much as I see Jesus of the Beatitudes.”

“God shows up in unexpected times, to give us gifts we could never imagine.  God is the giver of good things, delighting in our surprise, given at just the right moment. And I am glad that God cannot be contained by our expectations.”

“How is it that the infinite God would pray for your lost creatures, that you would remember us, that you would yearn for us to the point of tears?”

“I want to see and be seen.  To behold the divine and to be held by him.”

“But, I, I look for love in all the wrong places.  When it is you who are my heart’s true beloved.”

“I want to sink into you, and drink from your well.  Engulf me so that I can drown in ecstasy.”

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Because a good Bible study (and the time spent writing it up for a friend) shouldn’t go to waste:

Passage: Genesis 18:16-33 (you should re-read it!)

Why did God feel the need to tell Abraham about what would happen to Sodom and Gomorrah?  I believe there’s a sense in which Abraham’s chosenness has now affected the way that God will act toward him.  In order to be the God that Abraham and his descendants will worship, God wants to prove that he is just and righteous in his dealings with humanity, that his character is good.

This relationship between God and Abraham (and implicitly Abraham’s descendants) is not a static one in which God would demand mindless obedience.  Rather, it is one in which God’s people will have a voice in the way God will ultimately work in the world (think also of Moses’ and Joshua’s intercession for their people when God’s wrath was against them).

Isn’t it amazing that God doesn’t just presuppose that humans do not know that justice and righteousness is?  Even if our concept of justice is not to the standard of God’s justice, we are not given the excuse to simply shrug away our moral beliefs as being ultimately flawed.  We do not know as well as God (that is a given), but we should still be in the process of working out what justice means in relation to what God says, to God’s character, to the sense of “oughtness” that we all have.

Wrestling with God just seems like a risky thing to do at times.  And it is!  We open ourselves to being vulnerable or wounded.  Abraham’s insistence that God will be just and not kill the righteous with the unrighteous did cause him some hesitation and uncertainty.  And yet it was effective (and this is the kind of risk-taking that I would encourage).  He was honest with God with his intercession.  Though the prayer did not ultimately change the outcome of Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham would undoubtedly be changed by his experience and relationship with God.  God heard him and responded positively to him.

Why stop at ten?  I suggested that when we say that Abraham should have gone down to one (any number smaller than ten), we are looking at it from an individualistic society.  While that’s not completely wrong, they would have understood faith in a communal context.  Ten is large enough to be considered a community of believers, and an effective presence in the city.  In the Jewish tradition, they have the minyan, the presence of the minimum of ten to be considered an official gathering.  Perhaps this concept is loosely correlated?  But perhaps the number isn’t the main issue here at all, and the point is simply that God has heard Abraham and has responded.

What would have happened if God did not include Abraham in this dialogue?  How would Abraham have reacted to the news of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed knowing that his nephew is there as well?  As strange as it sounds, God’s reputation was on the line.  If ever an attack against God’s character was thrown at Abraham, he now can say that God is indeed righteous. God did not just destroy the cities because of whim or cruelty or malice, but because the cities were indeed so wicked that not even ten righteous could be found.

How does this story affect your perception of how you should pray? How have your past experiences with prayer changed?  What works for you now?

As for me and my own wrestling with God, I’ve found that no matter how angry or hurt or upset I am with God, it is good to know that he is big enough to carry all the weight of my accusations and pain.  That he listens and that he does not strike us down for our audacity and wayward behavior is a testament to the amount of intimacy that he will allow.  Without the direct confrontations I’ve had with God, my relationship with him would not be as straightforward and heartfelt.  After all, we serve a God who wants our honesty, who wishes us to speak to him about where we are and what we desire, and who is able to respond to us when we come to him with that honesty.  I think that’s worth a lot.  🙂

Anyway, I hope you have found this to be a good source of reflection and encouragement.  Peace.

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I am back home again. Currently, I’m in the process of sifting through my things, putting some stuff into bags for Goodwill. 3 bags so far and more to go. Gosh, I think I come from a family of packrats. We have so many trinkets and stuff we never use that’s cluttering up the house. My room still looks like chaos since I have not been able to put things away (the closet has been taken over by my mother’s things). I guess that’s what happens when you go off to college for four years. 😛

On a new and exciting note, I was able to register for classes today. They include:

:: M.A. Colloquium
:: Spirituality, Seminary and You: Spiritual Formation
:: Introduction to Scripture I
:: Introduction to the History of Christianity I

Additionally, I plan to register to a Harvard Divinity School course called Religious Dimensions in Human Experience. I’m excited and nervous and wondering how I will like the community.

On a new but not-so-exciting note, I will be getting my wisdom teeth taken out soon. I am not thrilled about it, but it’s just one of those things that will have to happen. It’s one of the reasons I came home early. I guess it means that I’ll look like a chipmunk for a few days after I get it taken out. On the bright side… maybe it’s a good excuse to eat excessive amounts of ice cream?? 🙂

I feel like I should say something new and innovative. But I have nothing. All I have is the thought that occupied me while cleaning the house: My God will never leave me nor forsake me. This is true no matter who else comes in or goes out of my life. This is true no matter what life throws at me. This is true no matter how often or not I fail and succeed. Knowing that is like a breath of relief. It has a way of realigning things. As important as those other things are in who I am, my relationship with him will always be more important. It puts who I am in him above all other things, and this is strangely comforting and terrifying at the same time.

“No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. Just as I was with Moses, so I will be with you. I will not leave you or forsake you.” – Joshua 1:5

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

“Let brotherly love continue. Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares. Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them, and those who are mistreated, since you also are in the body. Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we can confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?'” – Hebrews 13:1-6

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I cannot believe that in a week, I will be moving out of Upland and going back home. It’s crazy to think about how quickly this summer has gone in some respects. I feel like so much has happened… this whole year in general. I’m not sure how to make sense of it all. Maybe it won’t all make sense to me for yet a while, but hopefully, one day I will get some clarity.

Anyway, the state of mind that I’m in currently probably have several different contributing factors. And honestly, I think it’s partly that I just need to stop… and pray… and listen. I don’t know about the way it is with others, but sometimes I’m great at neglecting the things that I know I should be doing. Sometimes, it is from sheer thoughtlessness. Other times, I simply lack the motivation or the will to do that which I know I should do. I wish I could say it all came easily to me, that I’m just always a spiritual person. But that’s not true, and in these times, I am greatly indebted to the grace that God offers to me lavishly. He seeks to restore instead of finding fault. His reproach is not without the chance for rehabilitation. My repentance may be long delayed, but it is still accepted.

I think of the Greek word μετάνοια (metanoia) — to turn around, to change one’s mind. That is, to perceive and agree with God and with what he’s said. There is something strange and unsettling in realizing that one has fallen short. People just don’t like to admit their weaknesses, and I am the same way. Such realizations can lead to a paroxysm of guilt. It can be so discouraging that it leaves us incapacitated to do anything about it. In its worst, it can lead to self-hatred that is counterproductive to spiritual growth. But it would be wrong to say that God desires that our admission of guilt is as to make us feel inadequate. That would be cruel, as a bully might hold his physical prowess to psychologically threaten a smaller peer. A better illustration is that of a loving friend who, after being maligned by another, still willingly sits down to confront the person about the wrongs done against him. In the latter instance, there is an understanding of the possibility to improve the relationship once the damage has been handled. Where there is love — and God has much of that to give — there is no fear of condemnation.

God’s grace abounds. The recognition of estrangement itself should be seen as a gift from God, for it is only in the recognition that we are able to turn back to him. It is a restoration. It is being welcomed back into his presence. It is the prodigal son returning home to his father. It is just reason to give thanks and recall his generosity to us. After all, does not thankfulness help us to abide in his presence?

“How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!
How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity,
And in whose spirit there is no deceit!
When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away
Through my groaning all day long.
For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me;
My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer. Selah.
I acknowledged my sin to You,
And my iniquity I did not hide;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”;
And You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah.
Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found;
Surely in a flood of great waters they will not reach him.
You are my hiding place; You preserve me from trouble;
You surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.”

– Psalm 32:1-7

“But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago…”
– Acts 3:18-21

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While packing away some of my things in preparation for the upcoming fall, I ran across some things that I had not looked at in a while. Old letters, pictures, etc. Usually, these sorts of things bring out the sentimental side of people. Everybody loves to reminisce and think about all the fun times that were had. Everybody but me. I’m not usually one to put a lot of stock in the things past and would almost always rather be thinking about what is and what will be rather than what was. Those things just aren’t “me” anymore (though they make up parts of the current “me”). I suppose they should be valued as markers of progress, and I do try to think of them as such. But other times, old memories have a way of bogging us down from the person we’re becoming, and in those cases, they can be a painful hindrance rather than help. Nostalgia is the temperamental ghost that drifts in and out of your life.

Needless to say, I’ve been having a strange couple of days. They have been days in which the low is so low that it has cast me into despair, and ones in which the high has never seemed higher and my soul stretched into the unknowns of infinity. The contrast is stark, poignant, leaving me utterly at a loss of what to do. I just don’t know how to feel at times… But in the midst of it, I was given an epiphany for which I am extremely grateful. And here I will share a small corner of that epiphany: The God who loves me is the one who forces me to be the person I need to be for my ultimate good even when I am ready to turn away from living up to my ethical code.

This truth has been painfully wrought, forged with fire and hammered down by steel. In my rebellion, I had struggled against him as he dragged me to where I need to be. It wasn’t fun. But at the end of it all, I can only say that I am grateful. I am grateful that he is what I cannot be on my own. I am grateful that he will do what I do not have strength to do. The why still eludes me. I do not know what his has in store, but what I do know is that he is creating me to be who I ought to be for whatever that purposes he has in mind. How can one fail to be optimistic in light of being in relationship with a God who is relentless in fulfilling his purposes? Hmmm… I feel like this is déjà vu from a past entry… but maybe it just means that this lesson is still powerful no matter how many times I experience it.

I am as Israel refined by God for his glory… it would be good to remember that our God is an all-consuming fire…

Isaiah 48:9-11
For my name’s sake I defer my anger,
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.
Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.
For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

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I should start making it a habit to write while I’m inspired. But in those moments, I’m always doing something else and forget entirely. 😛

God continues to speak to me in strange ways. Through a word of a friend, through the pages of a book, through a sudden quieting of my heart, through pleasant and unexpected blessings, through the beauty of the world in which I live… This week has been a strange one, to say the least, and I’ve been contemplating on the presence of God. What is it like and what can I compare it to? It is like the thundershower on a summer’s day that comes suddenly and vanishes as quickly as it came. It is like the soft and gentle breeze on an otherwise stagnant day that you feel on your face as you are walking along the way. It is like the pleasure of an unexpected phone call from that friend with whom you talk more infrequently than you ought. It is like having a few words jump out at you from a text and speaking into your life situation…

Obviously, these are merely comparisons, and by their nature inadequate. And yet it is an attempt to describe to you the dynamics of the relationship of Creator and creature. The finiteness of man is such that the presence of God, though everywhere, is not easily captured –that is, comprehended — by men. Perhaps this shows that there is something to be said about the Divine reveling himself to us. This is a quote from a book I’m reading which is profound even if you do not happen to agree with the specifics:

“The feature of divine disruption is typical of all literary genres in all periods of biblical history. It appears in the primeval legenda (e.g., Noah, Gen 6:13), in the patriarchal saga of epiphanic visitations (e.g., Abraham, Gen 12:1 ff.), in the national epic of theophanies to Moses (e.g., Exod 3:1 ff.), in the visions of the great prophets (e.g., Amos, 7:15), in the psalms (e.g., Ps. 139:7), in Job’s pleas (e.g., 23:3 ff.), in the Jobian theophany from the whirlwind (Job 38:1 ff.), and in the synoptic traditions on the appearances of the risen Lord (e.g., Mark 16:11 et par). Biblical man is always ‘surprised by God.'” (The Elusive Presence, S. Terrien, 28).

The way that God reveals himself to me is not always expected and timely. Do you ever go through periods of time where you seek God in great earnestness only to be greeted with silence? It is quite possibly one of the most frustrating things to endure. We always want God to be found on our own time and way. But God so rarely works that way. He hides his presence for a time. but then, he shows up. Perhaps it is in that tension of silence and presence that God’s words to you become profound, and we are able to receive it with gratitude. Perhaps he is teaching us that the God who is creator of all cannot be manipulated by men. Perhaps he is waiting to see if we are listening…

“He [Elijah] entered a cave there and spent the night. Then the word of the LORD came to him, and He said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the LORD God of Hosts, but the Israelites have abandoned Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and killed Your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are looking for me to take my life.’ Then He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the LORD’s presence.’ At that moment, the LORD passed by. A great and mighty wind was tearing at the mountains and was shattering cliffs before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake there was a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire there was a voice, a soft whisper. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave…” (1 Kings 19:9-13)

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The turmoil of my heart can only be met by the faithful love of my Father. In him is my answer, an answer that is more profound that speech conveys, for what can capture its fullness? If I were to pray, “Lord, give me peace,” he would give it in abundance. If I were to ask, “God, give me grace,” his grace would abound all the more. This fierce love which he bestows onto me brings me to the point of tears, for in these moments, words are merely inadequate.

Some battles are best fought alone. There are just some things that other people cannot be adequate aids, merely because they are not meant to be. This is not true in all circumstances, and neither does this mean that they cannot aid in some way. But the bulk of the fight may be given for you and for you alone.

Is that scary? It is a bit. Sometimes, it is terrifying. And yet in the midst of the fight, the Lord will be found strong in weakness, perfect in his power. Indeed, the lonely battle never has to be fought truly alone; God’s Spirit intercedes for us and fights with us, and we find that whatever little efforts we have made will be matched a hundred fold by God. For he is our peace…

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

-Psalm 42:5-6

Return to your rest, my soul,
for the LORD has been good to you.
For You, LORD, rescued me from death,
my eyes from tears,
my feet from stumbling.
I will walk before the LORD
in the land of the living.

-Psalm 116:7-9

“And so our good Lord answered
all the questions and doubts which I could raise,
saying most comfortingly:
I make all things well,
and I can make all things well,
and I shall make all things well,
and I will make all things well;
and you will see for yourself
that every kind of thing will be well.”

-Julian of Norwich

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In the midst of the rush of life, it’s so easy to disconnect. In those moments of buisiness, in the new and exciting, the tendency is to focus on what is ahead. And yet, how often we miss what is in front. The presence of God is in our midst, and yet we look past him, and see what he have wanted to see. When the exciting comes to a crashing halt, then what? What are we left with except a sense of emptiness in the space that new and exciting things have once occupied?

The vacation has offered me both the fast-paced excitement and the slow-paced meditation. It’s the way a vacation should be. I am caught between the sharp contrast between the two states that only a vacation can offer. Though there was always much good in what the exploration and the discovery, how easy it is to let excitement overtake us and push aside our God in the process. The God that envelops all suddenly becomes enveloped by our (proportionally) small circumstances. But likewise, we are apt to ignore God just as much in our ennui, in extending our minds and bodies to nothing good. Our natures are such that in whatever circumstance we may find ourselves in, our eyes turn to ourselves. Our inward thoughts and desires stay centered around ourselves instead of on the source of our lives, and this is a sad state indeed. But anything beyond takes much effort, discipline, an intentional stepping back from our world and our pleasures until we come to a place where we are acutely aware of the presence of the One from whom all things exist.

But hear him call. Persistently. Patiently. I run into the arms of my Beloved. For truly beloved he is and will always be. He never leaves nor forsakes me. I place my face to his neck and he embraces me. He tells me, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps 46:10) and “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands…” (Is 49:16). That I am thus loved is too great for me to bear. I cannot pay it back in turn. So I simply accept. And belong. 😀

The last few days before returning to IN have been filled with visiting friends. My trip here has been mostly uneventful. The drive was smooth, and I have the house to myself now. How fun! 😀

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God is continuing to move in my heart.  And I am continually blown away by his persistence in pursuing me.  He calls me with love when I stray and turn cold against him, and he shows me continued, steadfast love as I run back into his arms.  It’s odd that in this time of alienation and isolation that God would choose to show himself perhaps more clearly and persistently than he has ever done in my life. 

Like Israel, when I trusted in my own strength and in my circumstances and did not fully lean upon the Rock of Ages, he hid his face from me.  Though I believed and confessed him, I did not give my self over to him.  Simply, I never felt the need to rely on God.  In those times, he was always “present” but he was never accessible; always “there” but he never felt there.  He let me revel in my pride and did not interfere with my wayward attitude.  Why, then, did he choose to reveal himself to me, now and in this way?  Why in this set of circumstances?  The dynamics have changed and I’m in a new playing field. The God who hid his face from me calls me back to him, as he has done with his people.  He calls me with the love a bridegroom shows his bride.

I cannot help but conclude that my relationship with him has changed in some drastic way.  For though I fail him, he does not turn me to shame, but to hope.  Though I know poignantly the weight of my sin, I see myself no longer as characterized by sin; it is not what ultimately defines me.  I’m perhaps angrier at him than I have ever been in entire life, but that anger is dealt with in honesty and transparency before the Throne.  I see the depth of my poverty only to come face to face with the abundance of his mercy.

Like Job, I do not fully see the reasons behind why things happen the way they do.  I do not see the the answer; I simply see God.  He does not promise to give us a justification of why things occur, but he shows that he is meaning and truth and life.  He gives us himself, and explanations and understanding, though desirable, are meager scraps in comparison to the fullness and the satisfaction that comes from his self-revelation.  Slowly, I open myself to him to trust him more and more. 

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To the One who created the heavens and the earth
To the One who is holy, pure, without blemish
To the One who does not change like shifting shadows
To the One who is without limit or end
To the One who is light and love
To the One who is just and judges accordingly
To the One who knows our innermost thoughts
To the One whose wisdom far exceeds our own
To the One who abounds in mercy and patience
To the One who cuts enduring covenants with his people
To the One who came to relate to us in the incarnation
To the One who reveals himself as Father, Son, and Spirit
To the One who is deserving of glory and honor and praise
To the One who has redeemed us through the cross
To Him we lift up our eyes in supplication.
We know that He does all things well. Through times of crises, though everything else may fall apart, He is still there. He is readily accessible to us, and through the cross He will be found. There is no fear where there is the Cross. There is no condemnation while Christ stands on our behalf. If we were to prove ourselves unfaithful, God would still show himself all the more faithful. Because God is God, he is strong in our weakness, he turns meaninglessness into meaningfulness, and he redeems us from our brokenness. And at the end of the day, his work is all that really matters.

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