Intangible Displays of God

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.” Psalm 19:1

IMG_0117As I made my way to the beginning of the trail where I would run my usual three miles I pondered the beauty of creation around me. Left behind me was the noise of work, phone calls, and unpredictable circumstances. What I witnessed before me was such a stark contrast to the constant hum of humanity and the stresses of life that we humans often seem to feel. I was grateful for this time and looked forward to releasing some endorphins as I ran by the river on a trail I knew so well.

I crossed the covered bridge and, as usual, looked longingly into the river. I am a fly fisherman and simply cannot walk past a river without seeking trout! It’s instinctual for me. I think God placed the outdoors and the draw of its wildness in me as a natural part of my DNA. But today, the beauty was more mesmerizing than usual and, after my short search in the gentle ripples and eddys of the New River for hungry trout, I continued across the bridge for my exercise.

When I came out of the covered bridge I began to stretch in preparation for a three mile run. Most people who know me know that I am pretty laid back and rarely in a hurry. I was enjoying this lazy day in the outdoors, so I took my time. As I began to stretch I noticed a piece of paper stapled to a nearby tree and walked over to take a look. I’m also a very curious person. The words on the paper were pretty typical of what you might see on countless other advertisements and self posted notes. This one caught my eye because it wasn’t in the coffee shop I go to or in a Subway restaurant where you see such signs. I read it’s words a couple of times.

“Lost: gold necklace with a locket attached. Family picture inside. Sentimental value. Offering $75 for it’s return. Please call if found.”

The sign concluded with the person’s phone number. As I read the note I thought about times I had lost something and I felt a pang of sympathy for the person. But once I started my run my thoughts ran elsewhere. What an impossible task it would be for that person to ever find something like a neckless. I mean, posting a sign like that is a good idea, but it was hope against hope at ever retrieving her lost heirloom. And so, on I ran.

As I made my way down the trail an interesting thing happened which, to be honest, took me by surprise. I actually began looking for this poor girl’s neckless. I don’t want sound heartless, but I didn’t know this person and frankly was more interested in getting my run in and having a moment where I thought about me. But, I couldn’t stop looking. In fact, I became so consumed with the task that it was ruining my gait and slowing my pace. A couple of times I almost tripped as I noted shiny objects in the grass along the trail, but it always proved to be a piece of metal or shard of broken glass. I reasoned in my mind that I wouldn’t accept the reward money if I found it. But, it would really be cool to call her and deliver the news that her precious heirloom was discovered and recovered. That thought kept me looking and eventually I gave up on my run and began walking my route instead.

I was disappointed that I never found the neckless, but when I got back to the car I began to think about what I had just done. I asked myself, “why did I waste my run?” I went the entire three miles, but it felt like eternity to finish. My time was precious and I had just lost out on an important routine that I usually guarded. Further I asked myself, “why did I care about that neckless?” and “why did I care about the person who lost her neckless?” Odd questions, I know, but I really did care about that person and her plight. But why?

As I thought more deeply about it, it dawned on me why it was important to me. Because, I reasoned, it was important to God. This caught my attention because it wasn’t so much about the necklace. What caused me to think about this person’s loss was compassion. God ,I recalled, is very compassionate and loves this girl as much as he loves me. These thoughts ignited a realization that drew my attention to the Lord. Scripture tells us that we  are made, by God, in his image, and here I was living that truth out. It is part of what differentiates us from animals. We, of course, are not gods and certainly not God himself, but he displays his greatness by creating a people who reflect him and his character. Of course, sin entering the world has marred that image, but it has not erased it. And thus began the journey into pondering a multitude of other ways we see intangible proofs of God.

As the Psalmist writes,  “The heavens declare the glory of God,and the sky above proclaims his ESAosirisEarth2048x1280handiwork.” As I mentioned last week, in this world, even this marred world, we can see God. There is evidence all around us of his remarkable nature, and, as his children, it is very encouraging to note those intangible evidences. This journey has driven me into a greater intimacy and trust with the Lord. He has used it to teach me what worship is all about and why it is important. He has helped me when I have wandered down dark moments in my life but often reminding me of his presence. The Lord doesn’t promised to remove our problems, but he promises to be with us in the midst of them. Sometimes he has used these intangible proofs to provide gentle and loving reminders that he is with me. And there are many such reminders. In your journey don’t forget to notice all the subtle reminders of this great God we serve. Though muted from what they once were, they are indicators of what is to come. Our help, the Psalmist reminds us, comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121)!

Seeing God

IMG_0010I have to tell you about an experience I had as I was running on a trail. It was a great run and the first one in a long time that felt effortless. As I made my turnaround and headed back to my truck I was praying and thanking God for who He is and what He is doing in our lives and family.  I recall saying to Him, “I would love to be able to just see You.”  And clearly, but not in audible words, I heard Him say, “You can see me.”  As I heard these words I looked at the trees and then up to the sky admiring the beauty of the clouds and sun and the sounds of the forest.  I replied, “yea, I can see You!  I can!”  That amazing thrill lasted about tw0 seconds before I said to him, “No! I mean face to face. I wish I could see You right here in front of me.”  

Almost instantly I sensed His gentle reply. “You couldn’t handle it.” I was a little shocked until I reflected a bit. Moses could only see the back of God as He passed him (showing just His back was an act of mercy on God’s part). And even that limited view lit Moses up so much that he had to wear a veil so he wouldn’t frighten the Israelites.  Then it dawned on me that God is so holy that He doesn’t show Himself to us in ways we think he would (or should).  In fact, this is an expression which shows us kindness. If we were to see Him face to face now it would likely stop our hearts instantly, or leave us in the fetal position experiencing the biggest anxiety attack in history.  That’s true of us, as His friends.  Imagine what it would be like if we were His enemies. The scene from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” might be helpful to give us a glimpse. There, if you recall, the Spirit of God moves through the nazis before melting their faces and completely eradicating their very physical presence.  

But enough imagery. My point is that it is awesome that we can see God, though in a veiled way. Even more awesome is that the book of Revelation is clear that when we arrive in glory we will be complete, and although I have no idea what it will be like to approach him then, I do know that we will live and reign with Him. The very glory that would likely kill us now because of God’s sheer beauty and holiness will then be the light by which we live. In the meantime, the book of Hebrews encourages God’s friends to approach His throne boldly in our time of need. Although I feel like I am always in need, I find this encouragement amazing. Absolutely amazing. He, this perfectly frightening and holy God, invites me, a perfectly frightful and sinful child, into His lap.  

Although we struggle to make sense of what He is doing, we can make sense of His kindness and mercy to us. Even though I don’t understand everything I read about in His word or what is happening in the world, I do know God is righteous, good, and merciful.  And as His child I don’t have to be afraid of His justice. Jesus is the Lord of the Sabbath which means His children can experience rest only as we are “in him.”  We can personally know “shalom.”  That is, rest on all borders.  

I don’t often hear from the Lord like I did yesterday, but I’ve noticed that as I draw near to him, He seems to draw near to me in tender and intimate ways. I love that and am praying that you experience that as well.  

Paul Tripp Blog

Just wanted to recommend a blog post that you might resonate with. Paul offers some thoughts on suffering that might prove helpful for you. As he notes, we all suffer at some time because we live in a fallen world. Our response, however, is key. Read the helpful way Paul breaks it down and offers encouragement.

I hope to write soon on the area of suffering in the world, so stay tuned.

Paul Tripp’s Wednesday’s Word