Thursday, August 6, 2015

Knowing about God, and Knowing God--by Linden Malki

Two of my good friends grew up in strict, legalistic churches. They know the rules.  One commented to me that he was in church regularly as a kid, but he's not living it.  The other one was harsher:  "Do you know what the teaching I got growing up makes? Atheists!"  One thing I noticed about both of these guys is anger.   These are not kids--both are middle-aged. One often vividly describes what he thinks should happen to people who cause him trouble or inconvenience.  The other has a history of depression, which is often related to anger.  They learned about judgment, and missed the rest of the story.

I know from my own experience that being nagged to stop being frustrated and angry does not accomplish anything good. The breakthrough for me was realizing one night that the bad temper I was wallowing in was in danger of getting out of control.  I remember calling out to God to take it away;  I could not stop it on my own. And then I could feel it draining away . And God took not just the emotion of the moment, but the trigger;  I do not know any more what it was that set me off.  What I do recall is realizing that  a big part of it was an unhealthy enjoyment in feeling sorry for myself.  What I learned was that I had the choice to be all about own feelings and frustrations; or to deliberately pass it off to Someone who could get it out of my hands and brain, and do whatever, if anything,  truly needs to be done. 

Knowing about God and knowing God are not the same thing.  Knowing about God is a first step; we need to remember that we can never know everything about God this side of eternity, but the writer of Hebrews said it well: we need to know first that He IS, and He rewards those who seek Him.  Knowing only His greatness and power is just the beginning. The real miracle is that He--the Master of the Universe--wants to reach down and have a relationship with little, fallible us.  Peter recognized Jesus' Lordship as He was walking on the water;  he was willing to accept Jesus' invitation to get out of the boat, but found that he could only do it with his hand  in the hand of Jesus.

God has given us the basic principles of becoming fit for His presence; but we also need to remember that like Peter, we can't do it on our own.  In fact, we can't be the people God made us to be on our own; our own priorities and self-centered wants will keep us trapped in ourselves.   If we are willing to hand it over, He can give us the wisdom and strength to do what needs to be done, or drain away what  needs to be gone. (And if you look carefully, the opposite of each of the basic commandments is our own self-centeredness.)  It is important to recognize and confess our failures, but we have to go beyond the wishful good intention to do better.  We have to accept the power of His forgiveness, and let Him get rid of whatever stands in the way of living in His eternal Kingdom.

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