Saturday, December 20, 2014

In Dark Times, One Thing We Can Hold On To...

Recent events have sent the world spinning. People are despairing and asking more than ever "What is going on in this world?" and "What has the world come to?" This past week in particular, darkness just seemed to surround us, leaving people grasping for answers.

Most notably we have witnessed:
- The "Sydney Siege", in which a crazed lunatic claiming to represent Islam took hostages in a cafe for 17 hours. Two people plus the gunman died.
- 8 children killed in their own home in Cairns.
- 149 people, mostly children, killed by the Taliban in a Pakistan school.

As a Christian, I believe wholeheartedly in the reality of the battle between good and evil and the existence of God and His enemy, (the created being) Satan. For reasons we don't understand, God gives Satan a certain amount of power and dominion over this world, and while Satan is ultimately doomed to destruction in the end, he's certainly making the most of it while he can, achieving his mission to "steal, kill and destroy."

We live in a broken, messed-up, fallen world and I believe turning to God is the only thing left to do. People will continue to mock, scoff and deny this view, but until we let go of our pride, stubbornness and rebellion toward God we will continue to grasp for answers and things won't make sense (although oftentimes they still don't, despite the strongest faith. Some things only God knows). Jesus never promises to take away the storms of life, but He does promise to be with us through those storms. It's our choice to trust or not.

One mistake we make as humans is that we don't "right-size" God. We limit Him, customize Him and shrink Him down to fit our little definitions and boxes. He becomes some sort of magical on-demand Genie or Santa Claus-type character, and when our demands aren't met straight away we curse Him, deny Him, rebel and turn away completely.

Come on world! The reality is that God doesn't owe us anything. He is God, the eternal creator of the universe and can do what He wants, when He wants to do it. Every breath we breathe is a gift of His mercy and grace. It was this mercy and grace that compelled Him to leave Heaven and come to earth, first as a baby, then a boy, then a man called Jesus, in order to make us right with Himself and be able to live with Him for eternity.

Recently I filled in as teacher of a Grade 5 class at a Christian school, and for morning devotion I was able to share with them from a book by Louie Giglio, one of my favourite authors. I love the way he contrasts the reality of our smallness and God's "bigness," particularly with his focus on astronomy and the solar system. 

I read to the students this excerpt from Louie's book "I Am Not, But I Know I AM" (pages 47-53)

Light flies, yet the universe that so easily blows our minds is nothing more than a speck to God. Scripture tells us that “By the word of the Lord, the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of His mouth. He spoke and it came to be; He commanded and it stood firm. In other words, God created the cosmos without lifting a finger. And when He created the universe, He did it all without a “how to make a universe” kit, an existing photo, a template or a diagram. God was creating in the truest sense of the word, speaking the world into existence out of absolutely nothing. God is the One who makes light fly.

He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers to Him. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. “To whom will you compare me, or who is my equal?” says the Holy One. Lift your eyes and look to the heavens. Who created all these? He who brings out the starry hosts one by one and calls them all by name. Because of His great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.

God is more massive than our wildest imaginations, bigger than the biggest words we have to describe Him. And He’s doing good today; sustaining galaxies, holding every star in place, stewarding the seemingly chaotic events of earth to His conclusion within His great story. God is constant. He blinks and a lifetime comes and goes. To Him, one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years are like one day. All of human history could be written on His fingernail, with plenty of room left over for more. And God is doing well today, thank you. He has no dilemmas. No quandaries. No counsellors. No shortages. No rivals, No fears. No cracks. No worries. He is self-existent, self-contained, self-perpetuated, self-powered, self-aware. In other words, He’s God and He knows it.

After an eternity of being God, He shows no signs of wear and tear. He has no needs. His accounts are in the black. He’s the owner, not to mention the creator, of all the world’s wealth and treasure. He made the gold and silver and the trees we print our paper money on. He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and all the hills the cows are standing on. He holds the patent on the skies above- not to mention the earth, the seas and their depths below, the breeze, the colours of the sunset and every flowering thing. They are all His invention, His design, His idea.

God does whatever He wants. His purposes are a sure thing. There’s no stopping Him. No containing Him. No refuting Him. No cutting Him off at the pass. No short-circuiting His agenda. God is in control. He sends forth lightning from His storehouse, He breathes out the wind, waters the earth, raises up rulers, directs the course of nations, births life, ordains death and, in the midst of it all, still has time to be intimately acquainted with the everyday affairs of everyone on the planet.

God knows everything about everything and everyone. His eyes race back and forth across the cosmos faster than we can scan the words on this page. There is not a bird flying through the air or perched on a branch that escapes His field of vision. He could start with Adam and name every man, woman and child who has ever lived, describing every detail about each one. To Him, pitch darkness and midday are as one and the same. Nothing is hidden from Him. He wrestles with no mysteries. He doesn’t need to wait for a polygraph machine to decipher the truth. He sees clearly and comprehends all He sees. He’s never known what it is to have a teacher, a role model, an advisor, a therapist, a loan officer, an adjuster, a doctor or a mother.

God’s rule and reign are unrivalled in history and eternity. He sits on an everlasting throne. His kingdom has no end. Little gods abound but He alone made the heavens and the earth. God has never feared a power struggle or a hostile takeover. He doesn’t have to watch his back. He has no equal. No peer. No competition. It makes perfect sense that His name should be I AM. And even more sense that my name is I AM NOT.

You and I are tiny. Miniscule. Transient. Microscopic. A momentary and infinitesimal blip on the timeline of the universe. A seemingly undetectable alliance of particles held together by the breath of God. The sum of our days is like a vapour; out accumulated efforts are like chaff in the wind. Among us, even the richest of the rich owns nothing. The strongest of the strong can be felled in one faltering heartbeat. Frail flesh. Little specks. Phantoms. If this fact makes you just a tad bit uncomfortable, you’re not alone. Invariably when I talk about the vastness of God and the cosmos, someone will say “You’re making me feel bad about myself and making me feel really, really small,” as if that’s the worst thing that could happen. But the point is not to make you feel small, rather to help you see and embrace the reality that you are small. Really, really small.

But that’s not where the story ends. Though we are transient dust particle in a universe that is expanding faster than the speed of light, the unexplainable mystery of mysteries is that you and I are loved and prized by the God of all creation. Simply because He wanted to. He fashioned each of us in His own image, creating within us the capacity to know Him. And if that wasn’t staggering enough, in spite of our foolishness and rebellious hearts, God has pursued us with relentless passion and patience, fully expressing to us His unfathomable love through the mercy and grace of the cross of his son Jesus Christ.

Sure, just a glimpse of His glory instantly resizes us to microscopic proportions. But God is not trying to deflate us with a Milky Way-sized put down that erodes any sense of self and reduces us to a pointless existence. Just the opposite. When we see just how tiny we are, our self-worth and our God-worth can become one and the same as we are stunned with the reality that we have been made in His very likeness and invited to know Him personally.

I am not, but He knows my name.
I am not, but He has pursued me in his love.
I am not, but I have been purchased and redeemed.
I am not, but I have been invited into The Story.
I am not, but I know the creator of the universe.
I am not, but I know I AM.

Let the depth and wonder of the words sink in. I am not, but I know I AM.

That’s the complete story, the whole truth about who you are. You are small, but you can be on a first-name basis with I AM. You’re beyond tiny, but every ounce of you has been bought and redeemed by God’s Son. You are a galactic nobody, in fact 99.99999999 percent of the people on earth have never heard of you. But God knows everything about you and calls you His own. What more could we possibly achieve on earth that is greater than what we already have? We are already friends of God. What greater prize or position could we hope to gain? What praise of men could eclipse the voice of I AM speaking directly to us?


I know that is a lot for a bunch of Grade 5 kids to take in, but my job is merely to plant seeds, and I hope that this picture of the reality of God spoke to their hearts in some way.

A thought that popped into my head while I was reading this to the students was "It is good that there are some things in this world that are mind-blowing, unfathomable and unexplainable (such as the "bigness" of God) because this makes us contemplate them, study them and think about them over and over again. Contrast this with simple facts like 2+2=4. We hardly ever think about these simple facts because they're basic and we just know them to be true; they're within our sphere of understanding."

The love, grace and mercy of God are indeed unexplainable and unfathomable, and rather than ask "Why?" like I used to, now I just say "Thanks!" and do my best to live a life that brings glory to Him.

No comments:

Post a Comment