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Archive for the ‘God’s omnipresence’ Category

 

“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, O Lord, will keep me safe (Psalm 4:8).”

It’s hard sleeping this time of year. I live in a Nordic country which is currently experiencing “white nights”.

One former colleague posted the sunrise and sunset times in her hometown above the Arctic Circle on Facebook yesterday. There was about 45 minutes in between these events.

In my location farther south it isn’t as bright,but it’s close. The sun officially sets between 22:00 and 23:00 and rises again about 3:30 am. In between is twilight and perhaps about 45 minuted of darkness.

It’s hard enough to sleep in this kind of environment unless you have good curtains or eyepatches. But it’s even worse when your heart is troubled.

I will be unemployed in about three weeks and I am looking for work. Having to write and talk about myself so much to strangers, especially professional ones, is nerve wracking.

Although I have a lot of strengths on a professional level, I haven’t been perfect. In fact, my recent history includes a failed work experience.

 There are all kinds of details I will leave out here. Also, I do not intend to use this space to argue my case or assign blame. Let’s just say that things did not end well.

This makes it difficult when I go to apply for similar jobs as the one I had. When they ask to speak to my supervisor at this place of employment, I inwardly cringe.

I have no choice but to give them a name. I then know that my prospects with the employer I am currently talking with aren’t good.

 So, there’s a lot of stress right now. I really don’t care what time it is because I just sleep when I feel like it. (As an educator my schedule is pretty flexible in the summer.)

It’s easy in my situation to beat myself up over this whole thing.  People have expectations and sometimes you don’t meet them.

Author and pastor Bill Merritt tells of his own experience where he almost lost his job. He notes that talent isn’t enough anymore.

Merritt says that people want you to actually be able  to relate to them. They want you to ask questions and be interested. They want you to be nice.

“Imagine that!”, he writes.

“Nice” was not always my forte on the job I left badly. I think I did an excellent job there, but I could have handled relationships better. As a result there is an irreparable rupture between me and this company.

My apology was not accepted. Subsequent correspondence to this organization has gone unanswered. 

I’ve improved some since then. However, as noted above joblessness is hovering and I don’t have much going on, and this failure hangs around and occasionally surfaces. 

It is hard to recover from personal failure. This is true in the workplace and at home both.

When you fail people don’t trust you. They get mad at you.  Not only that, you get mad at them, especially if you feel as if your treatment is unjust.

You lose fellowship and friendship. What to do?

Well, as a Christian I know that it’s not a good idea to quit on God.  If I stick with Him, He will stick with me. 

However, if I abandon God, He will abandon me. It’s my choice (II Chronicles 15:2).

I noted above that when there is a relational fracture in the workplace that the parties get mad. I notice that God tends to get mad when people don’t treat Him with respect, too.

The Psalmist tells leaders that they had better submit to Jesus, or else!  Destruction is on the way when our Lord is ignored, rejected or rebelled against (Psalm 2:10-12).

The Psalmist says that God is an honest judge. He gets angry at the wicked every day and takes action against them (Psalm 7:11-13).

So, what’s my part?  Well the Psalmist tells ME if I want to sleep at night that I should:

-submit to Jesus myself (Psalm 2:12b);

-control my 0wn anger and trust God (Psalm 4:4,5);

-pray for God’s active protection and action against my enemies (Psalm 3:1-4,7);

-ask God to take care of my reputation (Psalm 4:2,3);

-ask God to rescúe me from the mess in my heart and out there in the world (Psalm 6:1-10).

This last point is especially  profound. Until last night I thought of God as someone who would come in like the calvary to perform his rescue. I didn’t see Him as someone who stuck around the garbage dump I’ve created in my heart and life.

However, it occurred to me yesterday evening that Jesus is down there with me in the junkyard. He is there waiting patiently for me to acknowledge Him while I sit in the stench.

This thought reminded me of an old booklet from my youth. Robert Munger wrote a short story called My Heart Christ’s Home which was popular at the time.

In this piece Jesus is invited into a man’s home. Room by room he begins to set the man’s house in order.

Eventually, the man realizes he can’t keep his house clean and asks Jesus to do it. However, Jesus tells the man that He has no authority there: He is just a guest.

The man turns the deed of the house over to Jesus. From then on, the man is just the servant in the house and Jesus is master.

I learned last night that Jesus is not content to stay on the outskirts of our lives. I had forgotten this and didn’t think He wanted to be down there in the muck with me, but He does.

Yet, the Psalmist says He does. He wrote,”For you look deep within the mind and heart, O righteous God”. (Psalm 7:9)

When we give over ownership to Jesus, we can sleep soundly. David found this out. He wrote:

I lay down and slept,
    yet I woke up in safety,
    for the Lord was watching over me.
I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies
    who surround me on every side (Psalm 3:5,6)

When Jesus enters the trash heap, it is not His intention to let it stay messy. He intends to clean it up, if I let Him.

If I do, I think I will sleep better despite the white nights. I will have the assurance and peace that He is there to take care of my messy heart and the rest of my trashy life out there.

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“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.”(Joshua 1:9) 

According to intercultural communication expert Galina Elizarova,  with English, everything is articulated in a logical way. The English speaker is straightforward and seeks to get the message out in the shortest distance, especially if he or she is an American.

Elizarova notes how lawyer-oriented we are, with all our details and interpretations. Everything has to be spelled out.

 Conversely, she explains that Russian, her native tongue is expressed quite differently. Whereas an American textbook teacher’s manual will tell a teacher,for example: “Have the students write a dialogue. Put them into pairs”, a Russian would consider that quite silly.”Why”,  a Russian might respond,”of course you put them into pairs. It’s a dialogue.”

 While the Americanl communication is more of a straight line, the Russian counterpart is illustrated by more of a broken line. Some things are articulated and some things are implied. The context is relied on to interpret the message.

 Before I get on my high horse and criticize the Russian communication methods, I need to heed Elizarova. She notes that Russians believe there way of communicating to be world-class, and cites as evidence the great literature of authors such as Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

 Elizarova says that someone who is not aware of the Russian language may hear a discussion and think it is “like a hell. What are they talking about and how do they manage to understand one another?”.

 She cites an example of a terrible miscommunication between an American exchange student and her Russian host mother. It was an episode which left the Russian lady feeling very betrayed and the exchange student, who considered herself quite “Russian”, very confused.

 The host mother got sick with a very bad flu. The American girl, age 22, came to the door of her room and asked her if she could go to the disco.

 The Russian woman’s reply in her language from her sickbed was,”You may if you can.” The American girl processed this through her grid, which came out with: “ ‘You may’=’I have permission’; ‘if you can’=’I am not sick, so I am able to go’.” Off to the disco she went.

The American girl from her point of view was being very responsible at her age even asking for permission. The Russian woman was really saying,”You can’t go because I am sick and I may need some help, like water or something.”

She expected the American to get the context. The Russian host Mom expected the girl to be mature enough to decipher and decode the message she was sending from between the sheets with a high fever.

I sometimes feel these days that I too am expected to  try and decode what God is trying to tell me. However, there is no Star Trek communicator or Google Translate website that will unravel His message.

A friend just posed this joke which applies on his Facebook wall:

For spiritual math nerds:

Jesus was teaching his disciples and said,”The kingdom of heaven is like y=2-6 (x squared minus 6). One of them leans over to his buddy and asks,”What´’s that all about?” The other disciple answered,”Oh, He’s just teaching in parabolas again.

Given that I hated geometry in school, and any kind of math for that matter, you can see through this bit of humor my frustration with God’s communication. However, I know Him well enough I believe to think that He does want me to know His message. God is not in the business of making the finding of His will like some kind of shell game where I have to guess where the object is.
It’s not His fault I find His communication so cloudy. As Richard Niebuhr noted in his work “Christ and Culture”, Jesus is not a part of culture or even “above” culture. He is transcendent. Jesus is in no way subject to or related to our culture; He transforms it.
God’s made his transcendence clear through the prophet Isaiah. He said that His way of thinking and His way of doing things were not ours –not even close (Isaiah 55:8).
 Paul echoed this view of God in Romans:
Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and[i] knowledge of God!
   How unsearchable his judgments,
   and his paths beyond tracing out! 
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
   Or who has been his counselor?”[ (Romans 11:33,34)
Thus, as a Christian I am faced with a God  who seems to be speaking Klingon to me. Although I want to follow Jesus, the communication is so high context (out of this world) that I don’t get it.
Larry Crabb in his book “The Silence of Adam” seems to have an answer to my dark dilemma. Crabb says it is my job, not God’s,  if I am to be a manly man, to speak into my darkness.
Unmanly men, says Crabb, walk around asking God,”What should I do?.” As the author notes, these men say,”There has to be a code.”
 Nope, there isn’t a code or a decoder.  Crabb writes,“God knows what we should do. Surely He will tell us…He is telling us what to do, but it’s not a code. He tells us to be men, love Him and then to do whatever we think best.”
To repeat Crabb: It’s our job to speak into the darkness. If we are followers of Christ and are doing our best to seek Him, Jesus whispers in our ear,”You can do it. Go get ‘em tiger.” Jesus isn’t a micromanager.
 The problem, says Crabb, is that there is a second underlying question to the “What should I do?” interrogative. It is,”Do I have what it takes?”
 Where we men especially fear to step into the darkness is in our relationships, says Crabb. However, he says we have to do so, giving others freedom, “releasing all efforts to control the outcome.”
 This is quite a hard teaching for someone like me, the ultimate control freak. While Jesus isn’t a micromanager, I am. As Crabb says, there are no guarantees, however.
 What he says unmanly men do is stick to the comfortable, stay with what they know, and avoid risks. What he calls for is for us men to step into the “mystery of relationship” and yet to avoid lighting our own fires as we do.
 I recently had an interaction with a lawyer by Email. I believe this woman was getting very frustrated with me because I was trying to cover all the bases and stay away from any kind of risk, or at least keep it to a minimum. (Maybe I should have been a lawyer!)  Only when she assured me on a bunch of counts did I give the go ahead to proceed.

I am in a pretty dark place right now. I have no idea what to do.

Oh, I take that back. I think I know what I should do, but I don’t have the resources and it scares me to death. Like I did with the lawyer, I am trying to cover all eventualities and avoid losing face, or worse.

This is where trusting God in the darkness comes in. I am following Him these days I think to the best of my ability. Oh sure, I have my moments, but generally I am hanging on to His every word (although, like I said above, I think I need a decoder).

In my current midnight hour (and I ask, when will the dawn ever come?) I don’t have much choice. Yet, I am hoping I end up like Howard Schulz, who was given this quote by Harriet Beecher Stowe when he began to turn Starbucks around after the recession a few years ago:

“When you get in a tight place and everything goes against you, till it seems as though you could not hang on a minute longer, never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”  

Nice words”, the skeptic in me saysBut there is no need for cynicism if the same communication is penned by God.  

Even if I don’t decode the message right and the tide sweeps me away(again, there are no guarantees), God is still trustworthy, hey. I am made in His image.

I am His son. He has delegated a whole heckuva lot to me. My word to myself is, “Run with it.”

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“You hem me in behind and before, and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain (Psalm 139:5,6).”

Jimmy McNulty  is a detective enjoying a Saturday out with his two boys. Theyare browsing around a Baltimore farmer’s market when McNulty spots Stringer Bell, an elusive leader of the Barksdale drug gang.

In an episode of the hit TV series “The Wire”  called “Lessons”, McNulty tells his sons to employ a game he has taught them called “Front and Follow”.  One boy walks in the path Bell is facing while the other tails him from behind.

McNulty doesn’t follow Bell himself. The crook knows who he is.

Bell leads them out into the street outside the market area. There he gets into his car.

One of the boys steps aside and takes out a pen and paper. He writes down the license number of Bell’s car before the mobster drives away.

The technique their Dad taught them has proven to be quite effective. There was no way they were going to lose sight of Stringer Bell.

The kids are so good at this spy game that not only do they get valuable information about a criminal, but they lose their father.  McNulty, having lost sight of his boys, ends up having to get the market management to help him find them.

With the boys’ effective strategy, Bell has no idea that he is being followed. He has no clue that  people who are perilous to his welfare are lurking around.

In this world, believers in Jesus Christ have the same problem as Bell. We are being tailed by some expert followers of Satan who wish to do us harm.

According to the Apostle Paul, Satan is pretty good at blinding people, especially those who have chosen to ignore God and reside under his authority. The devil and his minions are out of sight, but they are doing their own version of “Front and Follow” in order to get the goods on their targets (II Corinthians 4:4).

If you you think Satan is not alive or well today, or some guy parodied at a Halloween party, think again. Better yet, pick up a copy of Bill Scott’s book “The Day Satan Called.”

In this book Scott relates a true story of his encounter with a demon at the radio station where he once worked. The call was initially handled by a colleague.

When Scott first met with the situation, the coworker had just gotten off the phone and was white as a ghost. He related to Scott that he had just talked to a demon.

Scott was skeptical at first. However, once he took one of the calls, he too was quite scared.

The actual calls were placed by a 16-year old girl who claimed she was living in a witches coven and would be sacrificed on Halloween, which was coming in a few days. She would then be interrupted by a demon, who would come on the line in a voice that was not human and spit out venom, blasphemy and threats.

While not blind to spiritual things like those who do not follow God, believers are still subject to Satan’s “Front and Follow” techniques.  Paul himself didn’t see the devil visually, but he felt him. Paul wrote,”We are hard pressed on every side (II Corinthians 4:8a)”.

The Scriptures discuss not only our openness to the devices of Satan, but also to the world system under his control (I John 2: 15-17; I John 5:19). We are surrounded by an increasingly chaotic culture in which right and wrong have been turned upside down.

David Jeremiah notes that believers are under a lot of pressure to conform to the culture today. In a message calling for the Christian to be totally consumed by commitment to Jesus Christ he says:

“We are in a very vulnerable place in our nation and in our churches. If we continue down the road of just trying to be Christian enough so that we can get counted on the roll, we are going to be victimized by the culture in which we live.”

It is as if the believer is a submarine being hunted by an enemy on the surface whom they cannot see.  However, the “ping, ping, ping” of the sonar is there.

When the attacks come, our boat is subject to collapse under the pressure.  If we don’t have internal fortitude, the stress will kill us if the external bombs don’t.

Thus, not only do we have to battle against Satan and the world system, but also fight our own selves. This is why it is so necessary to have the radical commitment to Christ Jeremiah talks about.

He summarizes one of Paul’s arguments for this: “If we’re going to function, if we’re going to be faithful in this culture, you have to present everything there is about you to everything you know about Him.”

One of the things I do know about God is that He is omnipresent. He is present everywhere.

God is not controlled by space. He is not limited by time. Thus, there is no ability for us to  slip out of His sight (Jeremiah 23:23,24; Hebrews 4:13).

God also doesn’t fall asleep at the switch. He constantly has His eye on things. The Psalmist writes:

 He will not let your foot slip—
   he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
   will neither slumber nor sleep.

  The LORD watches over you—
   the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
   nor the moon by night.

  The LORD will keep you from all harm—
   he will watch over your life;
the LORD will watch over your coming and going
   both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121:3-8).

Another thing I know about God is that He calls Himself our Father. However, he is not a Dad cut in the mode of a Jimmy McNulty.

He is completely “all that”. Our Father will not lose track of us. In fact, He wouldn’t put young boys up to a dangerous surveillance mission of a mobster either.

Indeed, God has His own version of “Front and Follow” which He engages in on His own. While Satan and his demons are out there spying on us, God has His own eyes on those evil beings on our behalf.

The only difference is that God doesn’t need two of Himself to play the game! It’s mind boggling.

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