Saturday, January 14, 2012

Some Current Thoughts from My Husband

We received and email yesterday from someone wishing that they had an email account with God so they could get answers about life direction within a day or 2 of asking.  My husband can relate to that feeling so this is his response and thought you might enjoy it:

On the idea of getting an email back from God, I know how you feel.  At times when many directions are possible a little clarification or even some kind of hint or just a clue of some sort would be appreciated.   But if it is not forthcoming then what ?   Well, I know you already know most of this, but here is a bit of a calm reminder to help you while you are feeling a bit overwhelmed by not knowing for sure which of all the options to prefer.   I don’t want to distract you from your tasks, but what I have written is intended to help you experience  calmness and peace in the midst of them.   (Another article that I began working on today [also inspired by your email] is  about how although most of us instinctively seek for “glory”, we don’t even have much of an idea of what glory is.) 

I know that there can be, and should be,  experiences of insight and of feeling so confident that we have experienced being guided in some specific situation that it feels like an immediate communication (email) from God.  There are even prophetic promises to such effect:
Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.  19 For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you.  20 And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher(s) will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher(s).  21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.  22 Then you will defile your carved idols overlaid with silver and your gold-plated metal images. You will scatter them as unclean things. You will say to them, "Be gone!"  Isaiah 30:18-22 ESV 18
( I observe here a  connection between getting guidance and getting free from idols but will wait to develop that another time) 
I used to meet young people who were keen to have this kind of experience all the time.  They thought it would make their faith/life easier if every question would be answered and decision confirmed by such immediate leadings and speakings by the Lord.   However there are several problems with this idea that if God just told me what to do at every decision that I have to make, then life would be simple and enjoyable.  
One problem with this idea is that it can easily (as observed in popular preaching about the divine-human relationship) relegate God to the role of a heavenly concierge, whose job description and responsibility is to help us achieve and enjoy our vision of whatever our ambitions are for our holiday on earth.  The only answers we listen for are the ones we want to hear, and the ones that line us up to achieve our own limited vision of our lives.   A related problem with the idea of living only in the “quickened moment” is our naïveté about our willingness to simply obey what we understand we are being told by God.  This particular concept of “easy”, which is typical for moderns, relies on the idea that if we are simply told and know what is good that we will simply do what is good.  There are some indications that in the face of being nagged by people who should know better, rather than continuing to say “No”, God will give the answer that they keep nagging to hear, even if it is not the best plan for them. 
 But they soon forgot His deeds; they would not wait to learn His plan.  14 They were seized with craving in the wilderness, and put God to the test in the wasteland.  15 He gave them what they asked for, then made them waste away. Psalm 106:13-15  13
Perhaps the better answers and instructions are those to questions that we have not even yet imagined to ask until we spend some time waiting, reflecting and wondering in the silence.  For example:  suppose one of the goals and marks of maturity of human persons is not needing to be directed or “led” as if by bit and bridle.     
   I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.  9 Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not keep with you. Psalm 32:8-9
Here there is a hint that the counsel of God is somehow available when God’s eye is upon us.  Apparently this is preferable (a more mature response) to being tugged, pushed or pulled, and perhaps even hollered at or spoken to.    How could this kind of “eye” counsel work ?   I think one mechanism can be observed when children want to get away with something and they will look to see if the eyes of parents, teachers, or police are on them.  If they are conscious of being watched, in effect they are being counselled, in conjunction with their conscience, and previous instruction, not to do what they strongly suspect is not right.   We may not have such a common example of how this works on the positive side, except perhaps the natural impulse of children to want their parents to watch them accomplish things:  “Look at me Mommy, look at me Daddy”.  Perhaps we can revive this inclination and function of childhood by purposefully asking our heavenly father “Look at me, Abba,  doing job applications” or "Look at me,  trying to pastor a parish”.
Perhaps we need to spend time being “looked at by God”.   When we invite God to watch us the invitation is more for our sake, than God’s, to make us conscious of our own willingness to be examined.   Psalm 139 is a prime example of this contemplative exercise of a growing recognition of being looked at and being known.  Our inviting is apt to become a recognition of how much that gaze is already upon us, knowing more about us than we know about ourselves.  The psalm concludes with the psalmist saying in effect “by the way God while you are looking at me you might as well help me with the things and ways that aren’t so good about me”.   The contemplative exercise may have been motivated by a particular problem or issues with “enemies”, but ends by giving control of the curriculum for my own spiritual maturity (back) to God. 
One more insight about getting immediate responses is in the context of long term training.  Perhaps if we did get an email from God she would ask us if we had finished reading and reflecting on our email copy of the whole divine blog (bible).   A teacher or general can give specific instructions to individual students or soldiers but most often commands, (and text books) are given to the whole class or company.  There is so much general instruction (principles / logos to be interpreted and applied)  that we need not wait for a personal visit by the instructor to get started on our projects.   From time to time, we may well be personally visited by the instructor / commander, but in the meantime, knowing what we know from the general instructions and knowing that we are being watched, we continue in confidence, being open to being corrected, confident that  we will not be allowed to screw things up beyond repair and if we need extra help we will get it when our faithful instructor knows we need it most.   If we don't get the instructor's personal attention when we think we need it, perhaps there is more that we can get from reviewing the instruction manual that will be quickened to us and thus the equivalent  of a personal chat.
I think this is a large part of what  faith means.  And so in conclusion: 

This might sound like simplistic piety, but I think a very important part of deciding (after all attempts at discerning seem to produce little clarity regarding purpose, means and methods), is that whatever is decided is decided in the context of faith and trust.   Living in the context of faith and trust will include most of these aspects: 
1.     I know that there is a purpose to my life,
2.     I know that it is worthwhile to seek God and that my diligent seeking will be rewarded, (whether or not the reward is immediately recognized). 
"And it is impossible to please God without faith.  Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” NLT Hebrews 11:6 =
3.     I know that God is capable of communicating with me and I have been doing my best to watch and listen for that communication. 
 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. Isaiah 30:21
I will instruct and teach you  about how you should live.  I will advise you as I look you in the eye.     Psalm 32 8
4.     I also know that God is capable of guiding me, even if the means of that guidance is not fully comprehended by me and I am not fully aware of how that guidance is being worked out.  My intention to seek guidance and submit to it is my part.  Whether it comes to me through plain and simple or through complex and mysterious ways is up to God. 
 For our salvation is by hope: but hope which is seen is not hope: for who is hoping for what he sees?  25 But if we have hope for that which we see not, then we will be able to go on waiting for it.  26 And in the same way the Spirit is a help to our feeble hearts: for we are not able to make prayer to God in the right way; but the Spirit puts our desires into words which are not in our power to say;  27 And he who is the searcher of hearts has knowledge of the mind of the Spirit, because he is making prayers for the saints in agreement with the mind of God.  28 And we are conscious that all things are working together for good to those who have love for God, and have been marked out by his purpose. Romans 8:24-28
5.     So being guided might just be as simple as us declaring our trust and the Lord taking us at our word.   Thus:
The earlier revelation was intended simply to get us ready for the Messiah, who then puts everything right for those who trust him to do it. Moses wrote that anyone who insists on using the law code to live right before God soon discovers it's not so easy—every detail of life regulated by fine print! But trusting God to shape the right living in us is a different story— no precarious climb up to heaven to recruit the Messiah, no dangerous descent into hell to rescue the Messiah. So what exactly was Moses saying?
   The word that saves is right here,
      as near as the tongue in your mouth,
      as close as the heart in your chest.
It's the word of faith that welcomes God to go to work and set things right for us. This is the core of our preaching. Say the welcoming word to God—"Jesus is my Master"—embracing, body and soul, God's work of doing in us what he did in raising Jesus from the dead. That's it. You're not "doing" anything; you're simply calling out to God, trusting him to do it for you. That's salvation. With your whole being you embrace God setting things right, and then you say it, right out loud: "God has set everything right between him and me!"
11-13 Scripture reassures us, "No one who trusts God like this—heart and soul—will ever regret it." It's exactly the same no matter what a person's religious background may be: the same God for all of us, acting the same incredibly generous way to everyone who calls out for help. "Everyone who calls, 'Help, God!' gets help." (Romans 10: 4-13)  
By Rev. Dell Bornowsky January 13, 2012

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