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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Thinking Forward

Just a brief thought today. I continue to enjoy my read through The Shack. At my current pace of 5 or 10 minutes before bed, I'll have this baby wrapped up by January. Which means it could be the subject of many posts! :-)

In a recent chapter, the main character Mac is again having a conversation with God, and the personification of God (a lovable, plump, black woman) asks Mac where he lives: in the past, the present, or the future. God is making the point that he/she is with him at all times, but particularly in the present. What comes out of this conversation, however, is an awareness for Mac that much of his life is spent in worry and fear over the future. God is aware of this, and points out that while Mac thinks about the future, he almost never imagines God there with him. This future without the presence of God is filled with worries and doubts. But God tries to emphasize that his presence will be with Mac even there.

I've been considering how I think about the future since reading this. I believe that I too, like Mac, often look forward and have fear and worry about what will happen. I imagine a difficult meeting coming up, or a challenging problem that needs to be addressed, and my fear over that future issue begins to rob me of joy and life today in the present. And when I imagine this future, I rarely if ever recognize that God will be with me even then.

And yet I know God is with me now. His presence and his life make a huge difference in the way I view the world. When I look back, I can identify over and over how I have seen God with me through both trials and victories. Yet when I look forward, God is often strangely absent.

Now, I know this isn't an issue with God. God is in my future. This is an issue of my heart and my mind not trusting Him beyond today. And so over the last few days, as I've thought of things to come, I have tried very hard to imagine that God will be there with me. I am surprised at how such a simple realization has brought greater peace to my mind.

God is with you today. But he is also with you tomorrow and in all that will come. Don't allow the joy of today to be robbed by the fears of tomorrow. God will be with you then, and He is Good. Trust in Him for all your tomorrows.

May you know a journey free from fear,


Monday, September 15, 2008

Pictures of God

About a week ago, I finally started reading the best-seller The Shack. Practically everyone I knew was reading, or had read, the book and when that's the case, it's always a good idea to read the book yourself so that you can at least join in the conversation.

With so many friends already having read the book, I began it with a fairly good idea of the overall plot development and the basis for the book. (Spoiler alert!) So I knew that at some point the main character in the book, Mac, was going to have an encounter with God, or at least this author's interpretation and personification of God. I was surprised by what this did to my reading. While I enjoyed the author's style, I found myself hungry to fast-forward to the God-moments. I wanted to just skim through the story and get right to the dialogue and the conversation between man and God.

As I've sat and thought about this, I've concluded that there is something within all of us that longs for a picture of God. As normal, finite human beings we have a natural interest in a super-normal, infinite deity. Because we've never seen him on the news or bumped into him at the grocery store, we long to know what he's really like. And so these pictures of God come to us from all over- from books like The Shack, from the experience of others, from the movies, and from church, just to name a few sources.

I can't help but think that because of this, there are many false images of God out there. God has been created for us in our minds and we've adopted a personal idea of what He is like, but often times very little of this is grounded in truth. (By the way, I find the description of God in The Shack to be pretty on-target, if not a bit quirky and unusual)

That's why I'm so drawn to Jesus. Jesus was very intentional about coming to us and saying, "If you want to know what God is like, then look at me." In fact, Jesus went so far as to say to his disciples that if they had seen Him, they had seen God the Father. When we ground our image of God in the person of Jesus, we get a far different, and far more accurate, picture of God than we might adopt from the world around us.

Where does your image of God come from? I guarantee you have one. But have you ever stopped to wonder and think about the source of that picture? I meet many people whose image of God bears striking resemblance to their earthly father. Or Gandalf from Lord of the Rings.

When we get our picture of God from Jesus himself, we find not an ambiguous deity, but a loving creator that calls us into relationship with himself.

May you know that God on your journey today,