As a teenager, I knew everything. You could even say I was omniscient. I marveled at the incompetence of adults on the simplest issues. They just didn’t get it.
And then I grew up, and something strange happened. I discovered that as an omniscient person, I still had a lot to learn.
So many times I stood so sure of myself only to discover how woefully ignorant I was.
- I knew a lot about the Bible until I went to seminary. It turns out, the more I learned, the less I knew.
- I knew everything about marriage until I got married. But matrimony is course in art, not science. I’ll be learning for the rest of my life.
- I was an expert on parenting until I had kids. Parenting offers a long course of study on your own selfishness.
I’ve learned a lot since I became omniscient. But you know where that omniscient teenager resurfaces the most in my life? The same place it shows itself in your life.
When we’re talking to God.
It’s the mantra of today.
It’s the moral lesson of most movies. It’s the guiding light of many lives. After all, it sounds so right, doesn’t it?
Follow your heart.
“Follow your heart” is another way of following your feelings. Even as Christians, our feelings often lead us, don’t they?
- “I don’t feel good about this.”
- “Am I comfortable with this direction?”
- “I don’t have a peace about this decision.”
Following your heart is a popular, but unwise, way to make decisions.
Although our feelings are real, they may not represent reality. And even if what we feel does have some connection to reality, it is never all of reality.
God offers a better way.
We can only approach God’s presence God’s way. But are there multiple ways?
The New Testament clearly reveals that only through Jesus can anyone come to God the Father (John 14:6; 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:23).
But what about in the Old Testament?
After King David conquered Jerusalem and secured it as his capital, he desired to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiriath-Jearim into his new City of David. But in his passion to have God’s presence, David neglected to follow God’s principles. That negligence of improperly transporting the Ark cost a man his life (2 Samuel 6).
Three months later, David correctly transported the Ark into Jerusalem and placed it in a tent he pitched for its keeping.
In this experience, David gained a profound respect for God’s holiness.
This principle directly relates to the question: did the Old Testament offer only one way to God?
Unfair. That’s how it feels. Remember that childhood Christmas when your sister opened the gift you wanted? Or when your brother got a T-bird for graduation and you got stuck with the family Nova? Not fair.
Fast forward to today and ask yourself how it hits you when:
- A coworker gets a raise but you do more work—or perhaps, his work?
- A neighbor decorates her home from an unrestricted budget and you’re gluing the peeling wallpaper back on the wall?
- Your job reduces your salary because of the economy, but another business gives raises and bonuses?
We find ourselves kids again pouting around the Christmas tree.
There’s a reason Scripture has to command us not to covet. It’s in our nature. It’s systemic. If we can’t have more than others, at least we want it equal.
But less than others? Uh, no. That’s not fair.
Imagine with me you have a child—and only one.
The delivery had complications, but the child lived. So you name him Nathaniel—“given of God.”
While recovering at home, you begin the ritual every three hours of feeding little Nathaniel and rocking him while he screams through fits of colic. Without missing one feeding, or letting one diaper go unchanged, or any needs unmet, you never give up because you know your child would literally die without your care.
And as Nathaniel grows, you teach him to walk, change the soiled sheets, and work hard to buy new clothes he’ll outgrow. He starts to drive and you bite your nails until he comes home. Every new stage presents a new set of sacrifices, but you never give up because you love Nathaniel.
The day he drives off to college represents a milestone in your parenting, and you stand proud of what God has made of Nathaniel.
You have no idea that things are about to change.
The Bible doesn’t tell us everything.
Not even close. That’s because there are huge gaps between most events.
(Photo: The Zin Valley in the Aravah of Israel. Picture by Noam Armonn, via Vivozoom)
Oh, to be sure, the Bible tells us all we need to know. But it leaves out most of the details that scratch our curious itches.
- What did Jesus look like?
- Was Nehemiah bowlegged?
- Did Martha have a sidesplitting laugh?
- Was David more handsome than Brad Pitt?
We’ll never know. And this offers a huge encouragement in our life of faith.
I read somewhere that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle once played a joke on twelve of his friends. He sent them each identical telegrams that read:
“Flee! All is discovered!”
Just four words. But within 24 hours, all twelve fled the country.
What Conan Doyle did in jest, God does to us in all seriousness.
The Lord will use situations to awaken ignored or unresolved guilt, testing our willingness to come clean and clear a guilty conscience.
Are you willing? Here’s how.
I’ll never forget the day when one of my daughters learned to ride her bike without training wheels. (The “fall” was an appropriate season for this event.)
As she sped down a hill toward a huge ravine, I saw written all over her face the message: “I’m not in control!”
(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)
As she raced by me, I reached out and lifted her off the bike—saving her from the ravine but causing her to fall. As the bike launched into the abyss, my rescued daughter hopped up hotter than a hornet!
“Why did you do that, Daddy?!” To answer, I simply pointed to the bottomless gorge I saved her from. But that didn’t matter. All she could see was that I caused her to fall.
Years later, I pondered how we can carry this same attitude into our relationship with God.
I loved the innovation of how some New Yorkers chose to deal with their drought-dried lawns.
They paced their yards a few times with a can of green spray paint, and whala! Lawns to dye for. No more watering, no more mowing, just bright, green grass all summer.
(Photo: Elena Elisseeva, via Vivozoom)
Actually, such innovation applies beyond the front yard straight into the human heart.
On the surface, every one of us seems vibrant, successful, content, and happy. And except for the occasional “scene”—when the truth bursts from behind our thin veneers—most of us manage to keep it together long enough to preserve the image.
In social circles where hurting is unacceptable (insert your church’s name here), we quickly learn how to paint on the smile and shake all the hands—while inside we feel as dead and needy as parched grass.
While we may have ideal hopes about tomorrow, and how in that ever-elusive “someday” things will get better, the truth is, life doesn’t fix itself.
Instead, God must fix life.
We live in a world where it seems God turns a deaf ear to pain and evil. Children hunger, immorality runs rampant, injustice occurs in the courts, and our loved ones die of cancer.
All under the nose of an all-powerful God of love.
(Photo: See no evil. Speak no evil. Hear no evil.)
It feels as if He were a God of love and justice and power, He would and could remove all evil. As it is, evil remains. So do our feelings of confusion.
In a forgotten corner of the Hebrew Scriptures we catch a glimpse of this seeming contradiction with the problem of evil.
We also see its resolution.