THIS Is Really About THAT (a PINK Tuesday post)

Hands

Can I just start by saying that Thomas gets a BAD RAP?! Forever known as Doubting Thomas… Of COURSE the others believed that Jesus was alive – THEY had SEEN HIM! Good Grief!

But this STORY of Thomas and his honest expression of doubt is REALLY a story about GOD and HIS extravagant GRACE; His scandalous LOVE for His people… for ALL people.

Jesus responded to Thomas’ need for proof, not because He somehow needed Thomas’ corroboration or stamp of approval, but because He LOVED Thomas and wanted him to KNOW that He was alive!

Jesus WANTED Thomas to believe! THIS is the heart of God!

Our Need for “Proof” of God / God’s Desire to be KNOWN

It’s no coincidence, then, that scripture is FULL of evidence pointing to a God who DESIRES that we come to Him, even if that means we come dragging a duffel filled with questions, doubts, fears & uncertainties.

Because THIS (our need for proof of God) is really about THAT (God’s desire to be known)! What we see as our need for hard evidence is actually the work of a God who WANTS us to believe.

Take Hebrews 4:16, for example:

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

And how about this story in Isaiah chapter 7, where God speaks to King Ahaz through His prophet Isaiah, saying:

“Ask for a sign from your God. Ask anything. Be extravagant. Ask for the moon!” But Ahaz said, “I’d never do that: I’d never make demands like that on God!” So Isaiah told him, “Then listen to this, government of David! It’s bad enough that you make people tired with your pious, timid hypocrisies, but now you’re making God tired. So the Master is going to give you a sign anyway.”

ASK for a sign, he says. Ask God for proof. Be bold and approach Him in confidence.

ASK FOR WHAT YOU NEED.

Then there was Gideon – do you remember his story?

An angel of God appears to Gideon, a man from the weakest clan in Manasseh and the self-proclaimed “runt of the litter”, and hails him: “God is with you, O mighty warrior!” To which Gideon naturally responds, Who, ME?”

The angel continues to insist that Gideon is the one who will lead Israel to defeat their oppressors, the Midianites. And this is how Gideon replies:

“If you’re serious about this, do me a favor: Give me a sign to back up what you’re telling me…”

So, the angel does. He creates fire for the offering Gideon had prepared. Then he disappears. And you would think that was the end of it, but it isn’t long before THIS conversation happens:

Gideon said to God, “If this is right, if you are using me to save Israel as you’ve said, then look: I’m placing a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If dew is on the fleece only, but the floor is dry, then I know that you will use me to save Israel, as you said.”

And that’s what happened – wet fleece, dry floor. And you would think that was the end of it, BUT…

Gideon said to God, “Don’t be impatient with me, but let me say one more thing: I want to try another time with the fleece. But this time, let the fleece stay dry while the dew drenches the ground.”

And that’s what happened – dry fleece, soaking wet ground. And FINALLY Gideon believed.

(Blind) FAITH / FACTS

Many perceive the faith of Christians to be contrary to clear thinking. An article in Discipleship Journal says that, “faith is often portrayed as an almost irrational jump into something for which there is little or no evidence, much like believing in the tooth fairy.”

I saw a bumper sticker the other day that makes this point to perfection – it said:

“Jesus is an imaginary friend for adults.”

Maybe you know someone who would subscribe to this bumper-sticker philosophy? The article in Discipleship Journal goes on to say that, “Our beliefs are rooted in facts, though we do not presently see Christ or have video evidence of His life, death and resurrection.”

The gentleman who wrote this article also edited the 4 volume Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary for Zondervan Publishing and says that he was “amazed at the abundant historical evidence illustrating the accuracy of the New Testament… The story of Jesus was no fairy tale… The events of His life – even His resurrection – are well attested historically.”

But of course, we already know that…

Or DO WE?

ANSWERS / QUESTIONS & what happens TO US as we ask them

This fact-focused thinking tends to lead us to a fixation on ANSWERS – finding them, knowing them, and being able to give them to others. But I propose that THIS (our search for answers) is really about THAT (questions, and what happens to US when we ask them)!

There’s a wonderful song by Michael Card that expresses this idea better than I can:

“Could it be You make Your presence known more often by Your absence?

Could it be that questions tell us more than answers ever do?

Could it be that You would really rather die than live without us?

Could it be the only answer that means anything is You?”

If we are to be authentic, relevant witnesses in this world, we MUST deal as honestly and transparently with our DOUBTS as we do our CERTAINTIES.

Because the citizens of this world aren’t “buying” what today’s church is “selling”, and here’s why:

FEEL GOOD theology doesn’t work when you are broken, abused, mistreated and marginalized.

PROSPERITY theology doesn’t work when you can’t afford to pay your mortgage because your family has to EAT.

A ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL band aid of faith just doesn’t FIT when your life is an infectious mess of gaping wounds.

Our churchy answers to the gut-wrenching questions of this hurting world ARE NOT WORKING – they’re not even scratching the surface. People don’t just need to hear from us, “disciples”, that WE have seen the Lord…

THEY – like Thomas – need to see Him for THEMSELVES.

Longing for God / God’s Presence IN US

Some of us, well, we’re still looking. And some of us look at the Christians we know and think that somehow THEY have it “all together” – they never have doubts – they must be SUPER-Christians. They must be the blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe” people that Jesus talked about.

To which I say – MOTHER TERESA. (Does that seem random?)

Listen to these words – her own words, written in her own hand – as she lived out one of the most visible and fruitful Christian lives… EVER!

“So many unanswered questions live within me – I am afraid to uncover them – because of the blasphemy. If there be God, please forgive me… They say people in hell suffer eternal pain because of the loss of God – they would go through all that suffering if they had just a little hope of possessing God. In my soul I feel just that terrible pain of loss – of God not wanting me – of God not being God – of God not really existing… What do I labour for? If there be no God – there can be no soul. If there is no soul then Jesus – You also are not true. Heaven, what emptiness – not a single thought of Heaven enters my mind – for there is no hope.” (Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light; edited by Brian Kolodiejchuk, MC; Doubleday 2007)

From all outward appearances, you would have thought that SHE was one of THEM – the “supers” – but the writings found after her death in 1997 reflect an inner life that was marked with a crushing darkness while her outer life SHONE for Jesus.

We may be sitting here today, longing for some sign, some proof, something REAL to tell us that Jesus is alive, thinking that because we haven’t SEEN God at work, either HE isn’t REAL or something is WRONG with US.

BUT… THIS (longing for God) is really about THAT (God’s presence IN US)!

This “Saint of Darkness” – as Mother Teresa referred to herself – also said that: “The sure sign of God’s hidden presence in this darkness IS the THIRST for GOD, the craving for at least a ray of His light. No one can long for God unless God is present in his/her heart.”

This longing in us isn’t about our lack – our faithlessness. It’s about God’s abundanceHis presence that is already IN OUR HEARTS, creating the longing for Him in the first place!

We wouldn’t be seeking Him if He wasn’t already HERE.

THIS is the God who says to you today, “I love you too much to let your doubts keep you from me, so:

  • I am going to SHOW UP
  • I am going to BE THERE
  • I am going to HOLD YOU
  • I am going to SPEAK TO YOU
  • I am going to STAND UP FOR YOU
  • I am going to RESCUE YOU
  • I am going to SEND A SIGN
  • I am going to ANSWER YOUR PRAYER
  • I am going to REACH YOU THROUGH MY WORD
  • I am going to do whatever it takes to draw you to Myself

BECAUSE NOTHING, not even your doubting heart, can separate you from my love.” (Romans 8:38-39)

Resurrection of Jesus: “Gospel” / Jesus’ Resurrection in US!

Let me ask you a question…

If people had only your life to look at, as the only example to consider, and they were asked the question, “Has Jesus risen from the dead?” How would they answer?

HAS HE?

Jesus stood before Thomas and said, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe.”

This resurrected Jesus is ALIVE IN YOU today.

YOU ARE THE GOOD NEWS!

YOU ARE THE GOSPEL!

All of this is really about that.

Advertisements

God of the Aftermath (a PINK Tuesday post)

NASA Satellite Image of Japan Captured March 1...

Image by NASA Goddard Photo and Video via Flickr

PINK Tuesdays have become, for Pink Shoes Ministries, an opportunity to unearth the treasures which are often buried deep beneath the surface of our ordinary lives. These treasures are often the byproduct of tragedy, tension, struggle and loss; treasures that are often left undiscovered, having been covered with layer upon layer of life’s sedimentary deposits. Treasures that, when excavated, turn out to be priceless artifacts; pointing to God’s ongoing, healing work in the wake of life’s natural disasters.

Many of us are still reeling from last week’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Streaming CNN into our living rooms, we’ve seen the video and photos. We’ve heard the raw and gut-wrenching testimonies of loss. Even when we leave the house, we find ourselves looping these stories and pictures in our heads, illustrating scenes of devastation beyond our comprehension. The faces of frightened and heartbroken survivors are etched into the synapses of our brains. And of course, the inevitable question flashes like neon in the night:

Where is God in all of this?

Where is God when the literal (and figurative) swells overwhelm us?

Where is God when the lives and livelihood of the innocent are washed out to sea?

Whether we’ve been personally affected by this tragedy or are taking it personally from a distance, we find ourselves lost in the aftermath,  looking for God in the rubble.

Let’s be honest, though. It’s hard to get past these questions when, as my friend Janine said this week, “people don’t see God as someone who dwells in the debris, the aftermath, the dirt, the nuclear waste…”

There’s an unsettling irony in the aftermath of tragedy: that the God who created the earth and everything in it, who called His creation “good,” is as present in the sunrise and the springtime blossoms as He is in the contaminated tides that ebb and flow, carrying the debris of lives lost and homes destroyed to a deep and watery grave.

Who among us isn’t living in the aftermath of something? Cancer. Divorce. Death. Job loss. Bankruptcy. Accidents. Bad choices. Disappointment. Natural disasters. The Bible recounts story after story about people who found themselves in the aftermath of something. There’s a pattern here, in scripture, that I’m noticing for the first time. I believe that I’m noticing it so that I can share it with you.

Joseph

In the aftermath of rejection and betrayal by those closest to him, his brothers, Joseph rose to take his place as the one whose leadership saved the lives of nations. Joseph was sold into slavery, set up by his employer’s wife, sent to prison on trumped up charges, and yet he found himself second in command as he lived in the wake of these painful personal storms. Genesis 37:18ff

David

In the aftermath of death threats and being hunted by King Saul, David not only rose to the position of king but was also known to be “a man after God’s own heart.” David was literally on the run to save his life, suffering from lack of peace at every turn. Unable to tell the difference between friend or foe, he lived this part of his life in fear, sleeping with one eye open and one ear to the ground. When he woke from this extended nightmare, he found himself in a position of great influence, privilege and God-given power. I Samuel 18:6ff

Daniel

In the aftermath of war, Daniel was hauled off to Babylon where he would live out his days in exile. His name was changed. His beliefs were challenged and his religious practices outlawed. He was persecuted along with his people, foreigners in a distant land. Yet even Daniel, in the wake of political and religious unrest, rose to become a leader and trusted advisor to the king. Daniel chapter 1ff

And then there was Elijah. The prophet Elijah, used powerfully by God, saw to it that the entire contingent of so-called ‘prophets’ of the no-god Baal were silenced in one afternoon at Mt. Carmel. As a result, the vindictive Jezebel issued a death warrant for Elijah, which sent him running for his life.

Elijah arrives at Mt. Horeb after forty days and nights of running away, and he is spent. Depressed. Ready to lay down and die. He tells God:

“I’ve been working my heart out for [You]… The people of Israel have abandoned your covenant, destroyed the places of worship, and murdered your prophets. I’m the only one left, and now they’re trying to kill me.” I Kings 19:10 (The Message)

God gives Elijah some pretty specific instructions at this point. He tells Elijah to:

“Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” I Kings 19:11 (NIV)

Don’t miss what happened next:

“A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.” I Kings 19:11b-13a (The Message)

God wasn’t in the hurricane wind that destroyed everything in its path.

God wasn’t in the earthquake that shook the mountain.

God wasn’t in the heat or flame of the fire.

God was in the AFTERMATH. The still, small voice in the aftermath.

And in the aftermath of the winds, the earthquake and fire, God spoke to Elijah. God told Elijah where to go and what to do. God lifted him out of the aftermath of fear and hopelessness and gave him a purpose and a calling.

In the aftermath, God spoke. And in the aftermath, Elijah rose to complete the work God had given him to do.

Maybe when we ask the question, ‘Where is God in all of this?’ we need to remember Elijah’s story.

Maybe God wasn’t in the earthquake that triggered the tsunami that caused death and destruction and chaos on the shores of Japan.

Maybe God Himself is present in the aftermath; the quiet, gentle whisper that we can only hear once the storm swells have stilled and the fires have been put out. The gentle touch of the rescue worker. The quiet voices of strangers sharing space in emergency shelters. The tearful whispers to family members over the phone.

And if God, our God, is God of the Aftermath, then maybe He wasn’t in the cancer, or the automobile accident, or the pink slip, or the divorce decree. Maybe we had to experience those storms in order to be able to hear His voice as He speaks to us now, easing our fears and raising our hopes, giving us a purpose and clearer sense of call. Strengthening us to complete the work He has given us to do. In this world. On this day.

In the aftermath.