House of Cards

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Why are we so defensive on God’s behalf?
Why do we become so frightened of hard questions?
Do we think the Bible asks us to defend God’s character, or is it deeper than that?
House of Cards
Not all of the time, but all of us do harbor a bit of the recurring agnostic inside. A tiny voice that says, what if it isn’t true?
What will become of me if it isn’t true?
This flicker of fear lingers so insidiously that when someone asks a questions to which we don’t know the answer, when someone expresses a doubt we ourselves have thought, we tend to lash out, to push away, to shame.
Remove one piece
If this piece of what I believe turns out not to be true, perhaps none of it is true.
Is God so fragile?
Is the God who flung the stars into space, who has the power to overcome sin and death so uncertain that one piece of the puzzle can bring the entire edifice crashing down?
Is our God a house of cards?
just one piece
what happens to the whole
If your God is a house of cards, you need a new God.
You need a God who is big enough to cradle all our questions, deep enough to hold all our doubts.
You need the God who shows His power through the universe we see, who reveals Himself through His Son in Scripture, who speaks to us through His Spirit within us.
When you know this God, you can let go of your need to defend. You can rest easy with, even welcome the doubts and questions of others.
will it crash down
When you are safe and secure in the LORD Almighty, you become a place for others to find rest. You become a safe place where people can sit with their questions and doubts without feeling shamed or guilty.
What if we as a Church became a place where people could question and yet trust, where people could doubt and yet worship, where people could wonder and yet love.
What if we welcomed the not-so-sure rather than driving them away?
What if we could be comfortable with the hard spaces, acknowledging that not everything has an answer we can know right now?
It starts with you and with me. Can we let go of our fear and trust that our faith is not a house of cards?
this house of cards
Imagine a church where people could worship even when they don’t have it all figured out.
Imagine a church where people could love and serve even in the times when they aren’t quite sure about it all.
Imagine a church full of people like…
Well, full of people like us.

To Know Jesus

I am a learner by nature.
reading
learning
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

Piety or Knowledge?

I have written before of the battle between holiness and justice.  Some say we are to focus on our own moral purity, on becoming more like Jesus.  Others say we are to focus on social justice for others, on being Jesus to those around the world.
Holiness
Justice
When describing the wickedness of Israel, Isaiah says “He looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”
It seems that one of the Deceiver’s favorite ploys is to take a set of discipleship practices, a pairing that works best when done in concert with each other, and separate them, throwing them into battle with each another.  In doing so, he not only diminishes the efficacy of both practices but he also divides the very body of Christ.
Clearly both holiness and justice are important.  We should not focus on half of God’s commands to the exclusion of the rest.
Another battle I’ve been trying to understand is the battle between piety and knowledge.
Is it better to obey God, to act on His behalf, or is it better to learn about God, to know what it is He commands?
piety
knowledge
Some would say that knowledge is too dry, that the life of the mind is on par with selfishness.  It brings to mind ivory towers and keeping oneself unsullied by the realities of the real world.
While it is true that focusing solely on knowledge and learning would keep one from ever actually helping this world of hurting people, modern church culture seems to lean too heavily in the direction of anti-intellectualism.  There is a growing spirit of pragmatism in our churches.  A spirit whose first question about an idea is not “Is it true?” but “Does it work?”.
“Young people tend to be activists, dedicated supporters of a cause, though without always inquiring too closely either whether their cause is a good end to pursue or whether this action is the best means by which to pursue it.” ~ Rev. John R. W. Stott in an address at the Inter-Varsity Fellowship Annual Conference
It seems this is another set of discipleship practices that when separated leads to reduced success.
On one hand you have people rushing crazily about for the next good idea regardless of the wisdom or truth of it, perhaps even causing more harm than good.  On the other hand you have people sitting stagnant with their books, not allowing any of the knowledge of God to seep into their hearts and affect the world around them.
Both piety and knowledge are desperately needed together.  Only with knowledge can you know what God truly wants, what is the wise action to take.  Only with piety can your own heart be changed, can the hearts and lives of other people be changed.
Paul says in II Corinthians that we are to take every thought captive toward the obedience of Christ.
Piety and knowledge.  Obedience and intellect.  The heart and the mind.
Both are needed.  Both are required to continue to bring about God’s kingdom here on earth.
Only together can these practices nourish “a warm and fruitful devotion set on fire by truth.” (Stott)

Mystery

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness; He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.  ~ I Timothy 3.16
In a world of science and proofs and self-evident truths, we serve a God of mystery.
Supernova
Sunset
Blossom
Bloom
We claim to know God, to understand His character, but the truth is that our God is unknowable.  Even as we speak what we know to be true about God, we do not understand how those truths work, how they relate to God, how they fit together.
There are words in the Bible, stories and descriptions about God that make me uncomfortable.  Verses and paragraphs I would rather push aside or gloss over because I do not know how to explain them.
Our churches train us to prove, to argue, to set forth evidence for God.  They train us to thoroughly explain His character, to make rational aspects of His works.
Yet our churches are trained by our culture.  Our culture that says that knowledge is power.  It says that what is worth anything is knowable, what is valued is quantifiable.
…the important truths, that knowledge is power, that knowledge is safety, and that knowledge is happiness.  ~ Thomas Jefferson
As children, we understood that there was mystery in our world and it stirred and excited something deep within us.  As adults, we become knowers, seeking to understand all things.
Childhood is motivated by wonder, and the task of adulthood is not to eliminate wonder but to expand it.  ~ Ken Myers
Lily
Colors in a leaf
Scenic view
Pulsar
DNA
Some find the idea of mystery frightening, wanting to know and to understand.  Don’t we know God as revealed in His Word and in Christ?
Our attempt to speak confidently of God in the face of modern skepticism, a skepticism we suspect also grips our lives as Christians, betrays a certainty inappropriate for a people who worship a crucified God.  ~ Stanley Hauerwas
Yes, we know God and we know things about God.  Knowing, however, means more than just intellect.  It is much deeper than that.  The full revelation of God does not make us want to list the things we know, to produce a dissertation full of facts about God.
Rather, the full revelation of God makes us want to bow in worship of the One who is mystery.
Mystery
Art credits: photographs of space from NASA; DNA strand by Tomislav Alajbeg

Using Science

I have wondered before in this space, wondered why science and our faith seem always to be at such odds. I have lamented the idea that fear is driving the Christian’s response to science and therefore is driving many intelligent people away from our faith and our churches.
DNA
What I did not address in my previous musings is how it seems that every time there is a new scientific discovery, a new theory about our world and our universe, both sides seem to leap upon the premise as proof of their point of view.
Whether we speak of the observation that the earth revolves around the sun or the theory of big bang cosmology, every new discovery or theory is at the first seized upon to carry wide-reaching theological and philosophical consequences.
Pulsar
Those who do not believe in our God grasp at the new discovery to be used as a new attack against Christianity. Those who do believe either dismiss it out-of-hand as patently false, a conspiracy of scientists who twist the facts to suit their own purposes, or else (perhaps more embarrassingly) try to use it as the basis for a new defense for proving their beliefs to the world.
Yet each time this occurs, when “the popular hubbub has subsided and the novelty has been chewed over by real theologians, real scientists and real philosophers, both sides find themselves pretty much where they were before.” ~ C.S. Lewis
Two kinds of words
One would think that we, as humanity, would learn. I suppose, though, that what was true in the third century, BC, is still true today. There is nothing new under the sun.
We would do well, I think, to remember that the purpose of science is to try to figure out how things work.  Science does not give ultimate explanation for the origin and existence of the universe or answer questions concerning the purpose of the universe or of our existence.
Perhaps our role as believers is not, after all, to prove our faith beyond a shadow of a doubt. Perhaps this attempt is what leads us to seize upon science as either a hoax or a tool without really knowing the first thing about the particular theory or discovery we are discussing. This, I think, leads to the valid complaint among unbelievers that we tend to speak hotly about things we do not understand.
Perhaps, instead, we should remember that faith is something that can be pointed to, that can be supported by evidence and can be intelligently concluded to be true, but is not something that can be proved in a way that people cannot help but believe.
Supernova
Sunlight Through a Crocus
When our faith can be proved in such a manner, that, I believe, is the day we will call Judgement.
What we believe always remains intellectually possible; it never becomes intellectually compulsive. I have an idea that when this ceases to be so, the world will be ending. We have been warned that all but conclusive evidence against Christianity, evidence that would deceive (if it were possible) the very elect, will appear with Antichrist. And after that there will be wholly conclusive evidence on the other side.
But not, I fancy, till then on either side. ~ C.S. Lewis

Art credits: DNA photo by Tomislav Alajbeg; Pulsar and Supernova photos from NASA

Inexpressible

This week’s guest essay is written by another college friend, Tiffany Yecke (now Tiffany Brooks). Tiffany and I spent a semester together in Greece, where I learned how very smart and fun she is, and how beautiful her heart is. Tiffany is incredibly talented and works full-time as a writer, so I was very grateful that she agreed to write a little something for my blog space! If you want to read more of her musings, you can find her at Preach Write Act (www.preachwriteact.blogspot.com)
The Inexpressible
By Tiffany Yecke Brooks
Imagine and describe an animal you’ve never seen. Easy enough, right? We’ve all done that at one point or another in our childhoods. Now imagine and describe a food or dish you’ve never had. This one may be a little harder, since it involves having the figure out what the taste or texture or aroma might be in terms of mixing ingredients and mode of cooking—but it’s still doable with a little effort. Now, imagine and describe a color you’ve never seen. Whoa—what?
Go on, just give it a try.
It kind of boggles the mind once you start really thinking about it, doesn’t it? I mean, we’ve all seen the color wheel, which encompasses every hue of visible light. We have seen every color that exists, and we know from basic color theory what combining different colors will produce (blue and yellow make green; green and blue make turquoise or teal depending on how much white or black is also involved; blue and red make purple; purple and green make a gross, muddy brown, etc.). But the fact is, there really isn’t any way for the human mind of conceive of a brand-new-never-before-made color or color mix or shade or tint or anything else because we have already exhausted our ability to see color in all of its various hues. Such a thing as a “new color” simply does not exist given our finite spectrum of visible light.
Without going into a complex explanation of the anatomy of the human eye (mainly because, for some unknown reason, they don’t cover that in English major courses in college so I don’t really know that much about it myself), sight is possible through a complex series of rods and cones that absorb and reflect light onto receptors, which our mind then registers as colors. Human eyes have cones that register red, blue, and green as our primary colors, and then mix the intervening hues accordingly and automatically—almost like autocorrect on your phone or auto-formatting in text documents. If colors are opposite one another on the color wheel or visible light spectrum, like red and green, they render one another nil and instead of mixing, just descend into the dull, muddy family of browns.
[Side note: You probably learned that yellow is one of the three primary colors, not green. And this is true when speaking of a color as a fixed hue. But light exists as both a particle AND a wave, so yellow is the third primary as a particle but green is the third primary when it is a wave. Yeah, I know. I don’t really understand it either. We’re getting into some fairly complex physics here, but you can look it up on Wikipedia if you’re interested in learning more; just trust me that this is a very basic explanation of light theory.]
God invented the whole system of the inner-workings of the eye, and it’s pretty impressive. But here’s the thing: There are colors that exist that we can’t see.
I’m not talking about infra-red camera images or ultra violet lights in those fascinating-but-horrifying exposes about the hidden germs in hotel rooms or on shopping carts or whatever. I mean that there are colors that exist that the rods and cones of the human eye are not capable of mixing, such as red and green, but that are visible to other creatures with different ocular anatomy, such as birds. But that doesn’t make those colors any less real—it simply means that they do not exist on our spectrum of visible light.
There is a fascinating article, which you can read here, that explains this all much better than I can; but, essentially, in 1983, researchers Hewitt Crane and Thomas Piantanida conducted a study published in the journal Science wherein they were able to hold the human eye so precisely steady that the waves of both red and green light were able to hit the subjects’ eyes’ microscopic light receptors individually so that only red and only green as individual colors were registered, without any of the mixing and subsequent cancelling out that would normally occur and result in brown. As the above article states:
The color they saw was “simultaneously red and green” Crane and Piantanida wrote in their paper. Furthermore, “some observers indicated that although they were aware that what they were viewing was a color (that is, the field was not achromatic), they were unable to name or describe the color. One of these observers was an artist with a large color vocabulary.” . . . It seemed that forbidden colors were realizable—and glorious to behold.
Just stop and let that sink in for a minute. Can you imagine what that must have been like to witness a whole new realm of color for which your mind does not even have a category to express, let along to fully fathom?
I wonder if this was part of Paul’s experience, when he writes in II Corinthians, 12:2-4, “I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows—was caught up to paradise. He heard inexpressible things, things that man is not permitted to tell.”
Maybe this is part of what John attempts to capture in his description of his vision of the heavenly city in Revelation:
He took me in spirit to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It gleamed with the splendor of God. Its radiance was like that of a precious stone, like jasper, clear as crystal . . . The foundations of the city wall were decorated with every precious stone; the first course of stones was jasper, the second sapphire, the third chalcedony, the fourth emerald, the fifth sardonyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh hyacinth, and the twelfth amethyst. The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made from a single pearl; and the street of the city was of pure gold, transparent as glass . . . The city had no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gave it light, and its lamp was the Lamb.
There is no way to know for sure, of course—not in this life, anyway—just what it was those men witnessed that transcended description in human words. But it is incredibly humbling, is it not, to think of the realm of the unseen, the magnificent and inexpressible splendor of the fullness of creation and God’s majesty? To behold the awesome, dazzling, indescribably glorious presence of God, unencumbered by the limitations of our earthly bodies and minds? To see with the fullness of the universe? And not just with the fullness of colors, but with the fullness of time, of possibility, of reason, of understanding? The completeness of God’s works, His plan, His love?
Let us cling to this knowledge—that there is a realm outside of our ability to glimpse or comprehend, but no less real—when all the possibilities of our visible lives seem exhausted. That is our hope and our salvation. That is our ultimate goal. As Paul reminds us in I Corinthians 13:12, “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.”

Science, Faith, and Fear

Why are so many Christians afraid of science?



So many Christians get incredibly defensive and angry when it comes to debates and discussions about science, particularly when our origin is the topic under scrutiny. People will argue fiercely and loudly against theories such as evolution or big bang cosmology.

Some would even go so far as to state that Christians cannot also be scientists.

Why do we get so defensive and angry?

Fear.

While most would not admit it, many are, deep down inside, afraid that if such theories are true than their God does not exist. They fear that God is unable to defend Himself and so they get angry in order to drive out their fear.

For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship

I have fear too.

I am afraid that this divide between Christians and science is driving people away from our faith rather than drawing them in.

How can we possibly think that science could destroy God? How can we believe that science could ever come up with a truth that would cause God to cease to exist?



We worship and serve God Who is Truth and science cannot help but point to Him.

Perhaps part of the trouble is that Christians have mistaken the purpose of science.

Science tries to figure out how things work. Science does not give ultimate explanation for the origin and existence of the universe or answer questions concerning the purpose of the universe or of our existence.



What if evolution is true? What if the big bang theory is true? Does that take God out of the picture at all?

God created our universe. The Bible is clear on that point. 



As Richard T. Wright writes in Biology Through the Eyes of Faith:

Whether you believe that His gifts were bestowed at the outset of creation, or periodically over time, or all at once recently, you should see design in what He has done. What we see doesn’t prove His existence, but it does point people in the right direction, and for Christians, what we see and learn should cause us to thank Him and give Him the glory for such a wonderful creation.

Why should we fear science when science can give us more and more insight into how beautiful and complex is God’s design? Science doesn’t deny God, science glorifies God! 

God reveals Himself through His Word: 

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching…

God also reveals Himself through His created world: 

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – His eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.

Why do we try to throw out one of His revelations?

At the end of one of his papers, the biologist David Wilcox says this:

In our speculations, we must be limited by God’s self-revelations – both by Scripture and in His created world. As we seek to be guided by these two sources of truth, let us humbly acknowledge that our interpretations of both sources of knowledge are worldview guided and fallible. We will always need to be guided – and corrected – by the Spirit of Truth, in science or in theology. And when we get home…won’t we have a good laugh at ourselves?!

Perhaps we should trust God. Trust that He is able to defend Himself, trust that He is Truth and that science can never knock Him off His throne.



Whether you believe that the earth is young or old, whether you believe that we humans were created in one day or over billions of years through evolution, when we have debates and discussions with other Christians and with non-Christians, please remember that the most important thing to God is not our origin but that we love Him and love each other.

It is not wrong to have your opinion, to study science and debate with others about various issues, but don’t fear those who disagree–love them. In the end, our love and respect, our willingness to listen and prayerfully consider new ideas is a much stronger way to show Jesus to the world around us than attacking others or becoming defensive out of fear.

…But perfect love drives out fear…

As we think about how we love, may I end with one last thought from Wright’s book?

Over the years, I have realized that even though it is necessary to look at these origins issues and problems, the more important problems are those that are facing us today as we try to learn how to take care of the creation and how best to use its gifts. (If God were to ask us a question about His Creation,) would He ask us what we thought about how He made the world, or would He ask us what we did with it?


Art credits: DNA photo by Tomislav Alajbeg; photos of Eagle Nebula and Supernova from NASA; microscopic view of a lime tree by Kriss Szkurlatowski

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.



Beautiful.



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

The Wonder of Learning


She’s heading off to preschool this week.


This eldest child of mine, so full of excitement and curiosity, is beginning her journey of learning.

Although I suppose she’s not just beginning, is she? She’s been learning since the moment she first entered this amazing world.

This thought makes me wonder about the idea of learning. If all of our life is to be made sacred, one seamless piece of fabric that is woven around God, how should learning fit in?

I am reminded of wisdom I read recently: 
Education is the atmosphere we breathe, the envelope of wonder that surrounds us, held by the gravity of our daily habits. ~ Ann Voskamp of A Holy Experience


Is this learning? Simply being in awe of God’s world, desiring to discover as much of it as we can? Perhaps if we remain in awe of God, we naturally gain a zest for learning. Perhaps if we possess that sense of wonder, we become a “creative, thinking, exuberant person who spills with the joy of learning” (also Ann Voskamp).

It seems, as I explore what learning should be and as I re-visit my thoughts about all things being sacred in our daily lives and in the world around us, that learning is, at least in part, simply staying awake in the moment. It is exploring, being curious, holding tightly to that sense of wonder in God and His handiwork.


If so, than learning should happen in every moment rather than being confined to certain hours of schooling. Are the lines that we draw between school and the rest of our lives artificial and wrong?

This idea fits in with other things about which I have pondered. The entire fabric of our lives should be sacred, seamless, one piece woven around praising and thanking our God. 
For in Him we live and move and have our being. ~ Acts 17.28

Earth is crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit around it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude. 
~Elizabeth Barret Browning


My latest issue of Mars Hill Audio Journal arrived this week and caused me to wonder if they had anything to say about learning and knowledge. I found an essay by Ken Meyers in which he speaks of universities and discusses the importance of knowledge to our faith:
We can begin by regularly reminding ourselves that the God who saves us is the God who made us and all things, that our message of redemption only makes sense in the context of the bigger story about creation. Our God cares about all aspects of our lives, and thus the renewing of our minds is as needful as the cleansing of our hearts.

He also says this: 
Loving God and neighbor requires knowledge of the truth about God and the truth about the many challenges and opportunities of human experience in the world God has made.

The importance of knowledge to our faith is something we as a church don’t seem to talk about very much.

In fact, as I think more about it, knowledge and faith often seem to be held up by the church as incompatible or, at the very least, two very separate things, with faith being the essential piece to our salvation.

While I am thinking through these things, our Sunday class (does anyone call it Sunday School anymore?) is studying II Peter.

Our teacher points out that Peter seems to say that knowledge is essential to our faith. Through knowledge of God we have grace and peace. Through knowledge of God we have everything we need for life and godliness. Knowledge sits right between goodness and self-control in Peter’s list of important qualities to seek.

But what sort of knowledge? What does Peter mean by this word?


I dive into my Strong’s.


Oh. There are two different words used in this first chapter of II Peter.


The first one, the word that gives us grace, peace, everything we need, is epignosis (precise/correct knowledge) which is related to epiginosko (to become thoroughly acquainted with, to know thoroughly, to perceive who a person is).


Relationship knowledge.



The second word, the word that Peter urges us to add to our faith along with goodness, self-control, perseverance  godliness, brotherly kindness and love? This word is gnosis (general intelligence, understanding, implying science).


Creation knowledge.



Aha.


Once again, all is related, all is woven together into one beautiful, seamless fabric.


Learning, gaining knowledge, is a large part of how we weave the various parts of our lives together into a seamless, sacred whole. Not something to be relegated to school-type hours.


We seek for epignosis, to become thoroughly acquainted with God, so that we may have everything we need for life and godliness.


We seek for gnosis, general understanding about the world He has created, so that we may keep from being ineffective and unproductive in our epignosis of our Lord Jesus Christ.


May we remain in awe of God and retain our sense of wonder in the world (including its creatures, human and otherwise) He has created.  May we continue to pursue knowledge in every moment of our daily lives and turn that knowledge into praise and thanksgiving, into loving of all those around us.


art credit: Elizabeth Barrett Browning; Christ in the House of Martha and Mary by Johannes Vermeer