Tuesday, March 16, 2010

What Would God Do if He Did Whatever He Wanted to Do? - Part 2

Are we comfortable with God’s tendency to be fresh and new? We prefer patterns and predictability, reproducible principles. We presume to systematize, categorize, and alphabetize the Alpha and Omega. We would observe God with objective distance and take notes. We would put God in a petri dish and from our observations we would reduce him to mere formulas. We would edit abridge and abbreviate the Almighty. The Bible becomes a manual for “tips and techniques.” Perhaps our hearts are in the right place but our efforts may be misplaced. All the while as we observe and deduce theological recipes and formulas we unwittingly prescribe acceptable parameters for the Lord. How good of us to show God his place.

We resist accepting God for his unpredictability while he seems comfortable with unresolved philosophical tension, dichotomies and seeming contradictions. He himself is the ultimate paradox. He is light and yet clothes himself in darkness. He is lion and the lamb; high priest and the sacrifice; servant and king. He is near as a song and distant as a sunset. He is peaceable love and a bloodstained warrior.

He is comfortable with the unpredictable, undisturbed with ambiguity. We would have consistently reproducible patterns of action/reaction. But God is out of the box if he does what he wants to do and may not submit to our prescribed principles and methodology. When he is who he is without our prearranged notions of deity, he is raw and edgy. He becomes unrefined, emergent, without prescription and blueprints.

Remember John the Baptist? The way of the Lord is made in the wilderness, in the yet-to-be developed geography. Oh, but don’t worry. The theologians and church folks will come behind and domesticate the terrain, develop, organize, build, set in order. But God, doing as he will, frequents the fringe of development and frontier, seemingly most present where things are just becoming – out where things are not-yet, still unpredictable – wilderness.

The wilderness prescribes nothing for God, offers no limitations, does not disallow. The wilderness permits God liberty to be fantastical in imagination, wild with desire, powerful in his will. The wilderness can be an uncultivated twisted growth of tangled untamed that daunts more civilized hearts. But, you see, he isn’t so civilized. He is more wild than domesticated and the wilderness invites God to be himself.

Out of the wilderness he calls his deliverers. Out of the wilderness he claims a people for his own. There he tempers his own. His more notable servants he tends to bring by way of the wilderness: Abraham’s journeys, Moses, the children of Israel, David, John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul in Arabia, John the Revelator on a deserted island.

God seems to allow our buildings (see David’s exchange with God concerning building the temple - 2 Samuel 1:1-13) but do you think God rather preferred the portable tabernacle in the wilderness? Always ready for a move from one day to the next – unpredictability.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What Would God Do If He Did Whatever He Wanted To Do? - Part 1

“Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief.”Mark 6:5 (NKJ)

What would God do if he did whatever he wanted to do? What if we didn’t resist him with unbelief, cynicism, doubt, fear? What would he do if he did what he wanted to do?
Certainly he may come to church. But he has a tendency to misbehave in church. He contradicts some traditions, disorders the furniture, ruins the bake sale. He has put a beating on a few people – in church. When he comes he rocks the boat. He looks to see what you put in the offering; he challenges your theology, messes with your hermeneutic.

What if we let him out of the theological parameters we have fixed for him? Would he shock or offend us? Would he get beyond what we understand? And you can’t leave him alone. He might talk to the wrong people (e.g., the woman at the well, eating with publicans and sinners, etc.). If past behavior is any predictor of the future, he will misbehave. He will likely make us all uncomfortable.

Would he do that? Look, when you hear someone who says things like, “God wouldn’t do such and such” or “God wouldn’t use such and such a person”, this is usually someone who hasn’t seen God unrestricted. Some generous soul suggested we allow God a longer chain. What we ought to do is let him off the leash. It’s all over then.

Do we ask for revival because we are afraid to ask God to do what he really wants to do? We ask for revival (i.e., re-vive), to bring to life what was dead or to re-do an old thing. But God, doing as he pleases, may not choose revival or restoration. Why restore what has failed? No. Be sure, it may not revival or restoration he has in mind so much as a new morning.

We take his mercies from a Tupperware bowl or a zip-lock bag - you know, leftover God. Leftover God is safe. Leftover God is predictable. We know the routine. But it is not leftovers he has for you. His mercies are new every morning. New - not revived. Make no mistake, he doesn’t wish to revive so much as to reform (or re-form) – to make different. We want the good-ole-days of the past; he anticipates a good new day. He is not caught in paralytic nostalgia. We imagine God forlorn, reminiscent of the past. In reality he is into the present and the future.

What would he do if he did whatever he wanted to do? Would he provide thirst-quenching water to lesbians and gays? Would he woo the hearts of your neighbors? He might startle you, misbehave, surprise you, embrace you, convict you, whisper your name. He may just put on a show you have never seen before. He may leave you in the dark. He’ll save people you wouldn’t talk to, and love you all the while. If God does what he wants to do, anticipate incomprehensible redemption.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Relationship vs. Research - Part 5

God desires a love relationship with you that gets further and deeper than the commandments. Behavior modification is not an end in itself. We may restrain ourselves more than the commandments, due to love. It is not about the checklist.

Remember the rich young ruler who kept the commandments but still lacked something? Remember Paul the apostle who claimed to be perfect concerning the law yet did not know Christ? We certainly do need to be reminded of boundaries and proper behavior. We need occasional encouragement toward forbearance. A checklist may prove helpful, but covering the points on a checklist with mere mechanical precision may be done purely mechanically or perfunctorily. If there are valid points on the checklist, they serve to facilitate the relationship. The relationship does not serve the checklist. Yes, we need dos and don’ts. Without a ditch on either side of the road we might forget the road. Regulations may serve to keep us from death but life is in the relationship.

Knowing God requires more than cerebral engagement and playing by the rules. It is a total engagement of the person. It is an engagement of the mind, but an engagement of the heart as well. It includes the body, the soul, our feelings etc. All of these must join together for a synthesis of complete personhood in pursuit of the One who pursues us completely. To know God is not to be up to speed on the divine data. To know God is to experience and interact with God by way of the whole person. We must experience God. And having experienced God by way of the whole person, there is required a response by the whole person. Having touched and having been touched, what will we now do?

Are we not accountable for what we experience? What will we do in response? Is a reciprocal response not due? Or do we count the experience like one more tourist attraction on a road trip? - Snap a picture or two, buy a souvenir and be on our way. Do we take it in like we might in the sighting of a falling star? - A moment of surprise followed by a wish and soon forget.

Our God is making himself known to us. There is a move in our direction. Will we believe and respond? We must be responsive and obedient. Our experience in God should be accountable to the written Word but we must be attentive to the living Word as God reaches for us in love today. To know his love is to experience his love, to be affected by his love. Our experience drives who we are, what we know and what we do. And there is a dynamic quality to all this which makes it more like an electrical storm than a controlled experiment.

In all of this God will endeavor to break free from our presuppositions. Rather, he would free us from presuppositions. The predictability we demand puts us in a box more than it confines the Almighty. It restrains our experience of him. Do you sense a call to the unfamiliar? Do you sense his deep calling you deeper? Have you noticed he is waiting on you? Will you respond? And if so, will you risk unguarded openness and vulnerability?

Can one be invulnerable and in deep love relationship simultaneously? Can one know without really being known? Is this what Genesis is getting at describing Adam as naked before the fall? He walked with God in complete vulnerability. It was after his sin that Adam covers himself. The relationship was broken. What if Adam had not covered himself? What if we did not cover ourselves, i.e., we did not come to God with less than complete vulnerability? To reduce our relationship with God to a mere act of reason is to cover ourselves. Eventually, something has to die for us to remain covered. Instead of really pursuing God, Adam was found hiding. If we pursue God without vulnerable openness before him, in actuality, are we not hiding as well? In our well-intentioned academic or reason-based pursuit of the Holy One, is God not responding, “Where are you?"