To Know Jesus

I am a learner by nature.
I love to read, to study, to delve deeply into what interests me.
My current confession is that the knowledge I have about God, about the Bible, can make me prideful at times. I went to a Christian elementary school and a Christian college. I’ve taken the Bible classes (including Jimmy Allen’s Romans class which has been around so long that my parents took his class when they went through school!), studied the texts, aced the tests.
For someone who never sought after a degree in ministry, I certainly know a lot about Jesus. Knowing Jesus Himself, however, is another matter altogether.
I have to be careful. I too often read books about Jesus rather than reading His Words. I too often would rather have deep theological discussions about Jesus than talk directly to Him. I too often prefer to listen to a speaker expound on the life of Christ than listen to Jesus Himself.
I could tell whether I know about Jesus, at least when I was in school, by how well I did on tests. How can we tell whether we know Jesus?
Know His Voice
Jesus told His disciples that His sheep know His voice, that they can follow Him because they are able to recognize His voice.
I sometimes think I only recognize His voice because it is that part inside of me telling me to do something I really don’t want to do!
King David
David, the one God called a man after His heart, gives us a clue to this in how he spoke with God in the Psalms. Perhaps one of the reasons he knew God so well is because he spoke to God about everything…happiness, sorrow, anger, joy, jealousy, revenge…truly everything.
Perhaps just being in the habit of speaking with Jesus about everything throughout every day is what brings us closer to Him. Perhaps just practicing His presence is what helps us to truly know Jesus. Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, showed us how to do this as he went about his daily work in the kitchen of his monastery.
Brother Lawrence
Brother Lawrence spoke of conversing with God as much when he was washing dishes as when he was kneeling in the chapel.
We must know before we can love. In order to know God, we must often think of Him. And when we come to love Him, we shall then also think of Him often, for our heart will be with our treasure.
Like many things, it seems to be a matter of training our minds to continually return to God.
I think I can end no better than with Brother Lawrence’s words, words that I need to hear as I strive to know Jesus in more intimate ways than simply knowing about Him:
You need not cry very loud. He is nearer to us than we are aware. Every one is capable of such familiar conversation with God; some more, some less. He knows what we can do.  Let us begin then. Perhaps He expects but one generous resolution on our part. Have courage.
Have courage and begin.

Art credits: The Good Shepherd by James Tissot; Anointing of David by Alexandr Ivanov; Brother Lawrence in the Kitchen in a book published by Fleming Revell Co.

Seeking Knowledge

Children have control over so little in their lives.
We grownups like to think that we have control over our lives, but perhaps that is only illusion.
Daddies and Mommies tell them when to get up and when to lie down, when to eat and when to play, what to wear and where to go.  Children will often grasp at anything that will give them more power over their lives.
One of the things I’ve noticed that children use to gain a little control is knowing what name to call things, especially when that thing frightens them a little.  When she was smaller, my eldest daughter’s constant response to a loud noise was That was? That was?  Now that she is a little older, she asks What was that? That noise?  Knowing the name of something gives her power over it, makes it seem a little less scary.
She seeks to know.
Perhaps she is not very different from many adults.
Scientists, medical researchers, geneticists, stay-at-home moms who like to learn…people want to know what name to call things, want to know about things, because that gives them power over those things, those ideas.  If we know how something was put together or how something works or even just what to call it, we feel as though we have power over our world.
We seek to know.
A long time ago, in a land far away, around the beginning of the Christian Church (perhaps even earlier), there lived a group of people we call Gnostics who believed (among other things) that matter, the material universe, was bad and that deliverance from our material form could only come through special knowledge.
Not long ago at all, in a land not at all far away, there lived a group of people who believed that their minds were all-powerful, that the dying of their flesh was bad, that through knowledge they could overcome all physical limitations.  They could eat poorly and take vitamin supplements.  They could ignore their children and send them to therapists.  They could extend life and choose the sort of life that they procreated through the technology they created.  They believed that saving our natural resources wasn’t important because their minds, human ingenuity in the form of science and technology, could surely take care of that problem as well.
There is nothing new under the sun…
In C.S. Lewis’ Abolition of Man (in 1943!), he said that mankind’s power to do exactly what it wants seems to be growing all the time through humanity’s so-called “con­quest of Nature” – the progress of applied science.  However, “each new power won by man is a power over man as well.”  We can throw bombs from airplanes but can also be bombed ourselves; a race of birth-controllers is a race whose own birth has been controlled.
We seek to know.  We seek to control.
Why do we feel that Nature is bad, that the material world needs to be conquered?  Even as Christ-followers we seek knowledge because we fear.  We want to know and to name so that we can control that which is uncontrollable.
Is the pursuit of knowledge wrong?  Not at all.
Paul says in Philippians:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. ~Philippians 1.9-11 (Italics mine)
Paul seeks to know.
Paul also said this:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.  I can do all this through him who gives me strength. ~Philippians 4.12-13
Paul is definitely not in control, nor does he seek to be.
Is this a Faustian-like power, this power of knowledge?  A power that gives away everything good that God created in order to gain power and control over His creation?
It can be.
As Christ-followers, do we seek knowledge because we are fearful of the future and wish to wrest control of His creation from the One Who set it all in motion?
Sometimes I do.
Perhaps instead we can seek knowledge in order to praise God with our minds.  Perhaps we can seek knowledge in gratitude for our imagination and intelligence, in gratitude for the complexity of His creation.
I suppose that, as with most that God has created, the goodness or evil of the pursuit of knowledge depends upon the heart of His creation.
May our hearts and minds seek to know out of thanksgiving rather than out of fear.

*etching is “Faust” by Rembrandt

*edited from the archives

Certainty and Faith

There sometimes comes into the heart of all of us a desire to be sure.  A sudden longing for certainty about that which we profess to believe.
We wish to be able to say I believe with no niggling of doubt that causes us to draw back from the ringing shout we had wanted to pronounce.
Doubt is that persistent shadow that startles us now and again just when we’d thought we’d left it behind for good.  It is that small voice that sometimes lingers and sometimes only whispers and is gone.
We want it to disappear for always.  We long to be certain, to be troubled no longer by questions.
Yet I am beginning to discover that certainty is not faith.  Certainty is based on evidence, on proof, on concrete and unassailable fact.  Faith, however, is relationship.  It is risk and it is vulnerability.
Certainty is about control, about predicting behavior.  Faith is a gift from me to you, a gift of myself placed into your hands.
I have read about certainty and faith in the context of a marriage.  Certainty in marriage is secretly reading all of your spouse’s emails and texts and journals.  Certainty in marriage is hiring a detective to follow your spouse to be sure he is being faithful.  Certainty in marriage is tapping the phones to be sure of the trustworthiness of your spouse.
Faith in marriage is a gift.  It is an offering of myself, of my vulnerability and my heart, to you as one whom I believe to be faithful.
When I trust you, I take a little piece of myself…and put it into your hands.  And then I’m vulnerable.  Then you respond, and I find out whether you are trustworthy…I give you the gift of my trust, and you give me the gift of your faithfulness. ~ John Ortberg in Faith and Doubt
Perhaps, after all, certainty is not what we truly long for.
If by it (the intellect) we could prove there is a God, it would be of small avail indeed.  We must see Him and know Him. ~ George MacDonald in The Curate’s Awakening
Perhaps, after all, certainty is not such a prize to be pursued.  Perhaps, after all, God is more pleased with the vulnerable gift of faith than He is by the chasing after an elusive proof of His existence.
May He be pleased by my trust.

Art Credit: Photographs of light by Kirk Sewell

Speaking With My Father

They speak to me about cookies and caring, about flowers and family, about Legos and love in action.
My Girls
They speak almost continually, telling stories and asking questions, needing to know and wanting me to know.
Their speaking to me is simplicity itself.  They feel curious and they ask, they become excited and they tell, they are frightened and they listen.  They speak what is in their hearts and minds, and they listen to my answers and my reassurances.
 You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”
I do not speak to my Father with such simplicity.
I worry that I do not ask for the right things, I fear that my attitude is faulty, I think I know that I am not silent enough.
Should I pray “I thank You that You hear me” or “let Thy will be done”?  I do not know which is right.
Shall I pray in gratitude for beauty given to me while others are mired in ugliness all around?
If I ask for hard things to be removed am I being ungrateful for the maturity that hard things bring?
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,
They do not worry if the way in which they speak with me is good.  They do not stumble over words, attempting to choose just the right ones.
When they ask for wrong things, when they speak ugly thoughts, when they refuse to listen, I love them.
I help them know which way to ask, how best to speak, and I love them.
Talking Outside
When they are frightened or upset, when they do not know the words they need, I search their hearts and interpret, and I love them.
For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
I am grateful for their simplicity.
Discussing Their Path
I know them.  I know their hearts, and want them to know me.  No anger or disappointment comes when error is made.  I love for them to speak easily, not fearful over content or word choice, but simply speaking and listening, learning to know and to be known.
You have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”…And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
May I, like them, speak simply, without worry or fear, learning to know, and resting in the peace of being known and being loved.
Helping Our Kids
*Scriptures are taken from Romans 8.14-30*

Can I Really Know God?

“This is one of the most beautiful things to me.”

I look at her, my mommy-shepherd, wanting her to continue.

“A mother who knows her baby, who knows what her baby needs by being completely attuned to the cues her baby gives her.”

Yes. This is beautiful.

Our conversation drifts to the back of my mind until I am reading Psalm 139, which begins like this: 

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me.

My mind leaps back to the beauty of a mother knowing her baby as I read more of the psalm: 

…you perceive my thoughts from afar…you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord…For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb…All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

God knows me.

God, the One Who weighs the clouds heavy with snow, knows me even more deeply than a mommy can know her baby.

This is beautiful.

And then I read something that I have read many times. This time, with the beauty of God’s knowledge of me fresh in my mind, I am stunned.

Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

The wonder of this takes my breath away and I want to check, to be sure this is true.

I know that the Old and New Testaments were written in different languages, but I check my Strong’s for the meanings of “know” in both chapters and they are remarkably similar. It is the same kind of knowing.

We will know God as deeply as He knows us.

Stop for just a moment and let that fill up your heart.

Lately my heart has been too full of the mystery of God. I often struggle to see Him in the midst of the busyness, the hurts and disappointments of life. 

My heart needs to hear this, to savor it: God wants me to know Him.

I search for more of this truth. If you, too, need this, go slowly. Let God breathe these words into your distant heart and draw you close to Him.

I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me – just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.

I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.

For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.

This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom…but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD.’

I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD.

I am filled with this beauty.

God knows all of the deepest pieces of me and in all of His knowledge of my dark places, He desires that I know Him just as deeply.


Scriptures in order: I Corinthians 13.12; John 10.14-15; Ephesians 1.17; Hosea 6.6; Jeremiah 9.23-24; Jeremiah 24.7 
Painting is Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer