nearness to God

Psalm 73 is a most interesting mix between closeness to God and complete inward desolation in which one feels not only poor and troubled, but left behind by God. It is typical of many of the psalms which go in and out between complaint and praise.

The sanctuary of God is the key and transition between darkness and light in this psalm. We are often so acclimated to darkness that we actually somehow find some sort of comfort and relief apart from God. It usually and perhaps always for us will be in things which are not necessarily bad in and of themselves. But the sanctuary of God is different. Into that place we take nothing except ourselves in all our brokenness and nakedness before God. We have essentially tuned out other things, and are tuned in to one thing only: the things of God, and more than that, God himself.

Again, other things might have their place, but if we have been in a season akin to “the dark night of the soul,” in which all is difficult, including the sense we can make out of life, all might seem empty, then perhaps that is preparation for entering into God’s sanctuary where we might find the peace and rest, even the very presence of God.

We need that sanctuary, I’m sure again and again, but it’s a reminder that God’s presence actually fills all things, even the very thing which troubles us and threatens to bring us down. But we can only come to realize that through entering the sanctuary, God’s holy place, and remaining there for a time, in and through Jesus.

light and darkness and faith

I am at last slowly reading Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling, and though it is a bit on the heavy philosophical side (though I think I agree that it’s not essentially philosophical), it seems to me to be essentially (to use that term again) about faith, and the primacy of faith. I may post again on the book I’m finished with it. Kirkegaard was an imaginative, as well as challenging writer.

Fear and Trembling (original Danish title: Frygt og Bæven) is a philosophical work by Søren Kierkegaard, published in 1843 under the pseudonym Johannes de silentio (John of the Silence). The title is a reference to a line from Philippians 2:12, “…continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” — itself a probable reference to Psalms 55:5,[1] “Fear and trembling came upon me…” (the Greek is identical).

Wikipedia

It is about Abraham’s ascent to Mount Moriah to sacrifice his only son, the son of God’s promise, Isaac, in obedience to God’s command to do so (Genesis 22). How Abraham, after that three day journey, bound Isaac, and drew the knife to kill his beloved son, just about to do so, before God stayed his hand, commanding him not to. It is certainly not G-rated reading, and I think we tend to gloss over it, thinking of it in terms of the gospel, and having easy ready answers, while not considering the breadth and depth and significance of it, well enough. Kirkegaard meets it head on, from the standpoint, C. Stephen Evans says, of one who unlike Kirkegaard (I think), did not have faith, but very much admired it, and even seemed to hold it in highest esteem, that it is a leap into the absurd (this Kirkegaard in context did believe), which by that enters into infinity, but for finity, or one maybe could say also, into the eternal, but within and for the temporal. All that aside, I want to share one impression the book seems to be making on me as I slowly work through the New Testament/Psalms and Proverbs, which I carry around.

Faith for me, like Kirkegaard was getting at in this book, is a radical trust in a good God. It is the difference, no less, between light and darkness. If we have no faith, we might think we actually do have it by being religious, or making a profession of faith, all the while living in the status quo, or as a good member of society (again, I’m mixing my thoughts into what Kirkegaard may have been getting at). And in doing so, miss the radical nature of what trust in God in this life, in this world means.

For Abraham, it was certainly costly, and yet his entire life was already given to faith, and to the faith as he had received it, from a God who promised that all nations would be blessed through him (Genesis 12). So what took place in Genesis 22, was simply the culmination of his entire life. His choice to obey, as James tells us, was a kind of fulfillment of what he had been doing all along in simply believing God and God’s word, and living according to that.

So I’m left with what seems to be a dilemna, and is most certainly a choice, either to follow God through following Jesus, by the naked choice, and continued choosing, living day to day in that commitment. Or to proceed in my own way, what seems good and right to me, and is most certainly acceptable to others, even if it is not necessarily altogether wise, and above all not really trusting in God. We seem to have it hard pressed in our genes, that we ourselves have to take care of ourselves, and that it all depends on us, so that we take the place of God on our own agenda, or at least on our way of being on God’s agenda. Instead of simply trusting God and God’s word.

And the difference is between light and darkness both existentially, in our experience, but more basically in our lives. Yes, faith is not just a head matter, but what we call a heart matter, and something which we test in tasting along the way, comparing that with our basic, and actually broken, though to us comparably safe place, or way of living. And yet God calls us to the same faith which our father of faith, Abraham had. Of course God does so with much grace, and in much smaller measure. And none of us would ever ever be commanded to do anything like what Abraham was told to do in Genesis 22, fulfilled when God did not spare his only Son, Jesus. And remember, that even then Abraham never for one minute sacrificed his love for Isaac, even as he had the knife in hand, ready to plunge it into his son. A most disturbing story indeed. And our world will be shook up much the same, if we take God at God’s word and by faith obey. But the difference will be no less than light, as opposed to darkness. Something I’m aware of now in my own life, as I try to work out my own salvation with fear and trembling, as God works in me (along with all others in Jesus) to will and act, to fulfill his good purpose in and through Jesus.

how to deal with lies and inner pain

I remember David, when all seemed lost and his own man were about to turn against him. David found strength in the Lord his God and then sought the Lord’s guidance through which he led the men to rescue their families from those who had carried them off.

I like scripture for a good number of reasons, and one of them is that it is realistic. Darkness is seen and felt in it. But it is not the last word. The light in and through Jesus shines in that darkness, and it’s not only an exposing light, but a healing one as well. And one by which we get up and carry on in the will of God through Jesus.

pushing through

Sometimes there are seeming obstacles at nearly every turn, or maybe one big obstacle. Regardless, we as followers in Jesus need to learn simply to push through. In other words, we have to go on by faith, regardless, and be present, that God may do God’s works, and that we might be taken up into participation in that work.

There is no easy way to push through. We often will do so with doubts and fears. There are certain things I do everyday, and normally every week which often I have to do at specific times. It doesn’t matter how I feel, or what’s up. I have to do it. And in one specific case I do it at a certain time.

There are no easy answers, no one, two and three. We simply have to continue on by faith, no matter what. Trusting God will see us through in Jesus to the very end.

How to Get Through the Dark Places

muddling along

We all love insight along with clarity. We want and need both. The text of scripture lends itself to that, but the postmodern insight that the reader matters is true here, as well. Not precisely in the way and to the extent that postmodern thinkers see it, but we often do see and interpret according to what’s in our heart. Again, scripture excels at helping us humans in that way, since it’s a book which brings to light our darkness, but does so with dignity and the goal to restore us in God through Christ. And we need the Spirit to help us understand God’s revelation in scripture. That will involve good insights, our response to such certainly important. There are so many factors involved in all of this. Often we won’t see straight or very well, and will be groping, feeling our way along, as we cry out to God. But that is part and parcel of the process.

There are “Spirit people,” or so they think —I say, hopefully sadly, but with some frustration as well— who think they have the bright light that the rest of us Christians simply lack. Whether it be something in terms of ongoing experience, or some teaching or way of thinking they hold on to for dear life, they can see. The rest of us are rather blind, certainly lacking, more or less in the dark.

They are often dear brothers or sisters in Jesus. Although sometimes I am wondering if there is a different spirit among them along with the Holy Spirit. And it’s not like any of us, individuals and churches alike, can’t fall prey to this. We can, and indeed need to be on the lookout for such. I would think it happens in spurts here and there. We are not better than they. We need to be aware of this danger ourselves, and confess to God when we ourselves fall prey to it. And to ask God just how we might be caught in its grip ourselves, unaware of that.

I wish life was a blaze of light all along the way, that there would be no valleys of deepest darkness, that there would be no struggles and even defeats, that life would go on its merry way with nothing but light and power. But that does not seem to me to be at all the way of Jesus. Not that we won’t experience light and power along the way from the Lord, because we most certainly will. But it’s in terms of our weakness and dependence on God.

The victorious walk in Jesus is one of the way of the cross, one of sorrow along with rejoicing, of poverty and weakness through which we begin to experience God’s riches and strength in and through Jesus. It is the way of community in Jesus, of God’s grace given to us, of continuing on no matter what with all that we are to grow into something of all that God has for us. It is the way of unity in Jesus, that we are all Spirit people in him, dependent on his grace now and forever. For his glory and for the love of the world, in Jesus. Even as we muddle* on.

*Muddle may not be the best word to use here, but I do so with the thought that we often are at a loss in life, certainly dependent on God and God’s revelation to us in Jesus from scripture. A dependence in which we all live together both in terms of problem and solution.