Thursday, October 30, 2008

Being Loved Forever

Recently I spoke in Florida and North Carolina and mentioned Ephesians 1:4-5, then on Tuesday evening our small group Bible study ended up studying the same verses. So, since I don’t believe in coincidences, here are the verses and a few thoughts for you:

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.”

Paul is writing to Christians, and it strikes me that even before God made the world he was in love with me. He was thinking of me. And that his unchanging plan all through the ages has been to bring me into his family. That was God’s dream, and it brought him joy. (The symbol above is the symbol for eternity. I thought that would be apropos for this post.)

As I consider these things, it strikes me how silly it is to walk around trying to affirm myself like the pop psychologists suggest—"I’m a good person. I can feel good about myself. I should have high self esteem. I am capable and unique."

If God himself has been in love with me for an eternity, and dreaming of adopting me into his family, what greater sense of acceptance, belonging and love could I ask for?

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

The Heartbeat of the Universe

I've been teaching this week at a novel writing retreat in North Carolina. As I've been thinking about writing and art and truth, I've been reflecting on mystery as well, and how our relationship with mystery affects our relationship with God.

I think that theology is the greatest threat to spiritual pilgrims when it becomes the game of defining God and gets in the way of letting God define us. In one of the great ironies of faith, the more we try to pin God down, the less spiritual we become.

God doesn’t want us to be comfortable analyzing, categorizing and theorizing about him. Jesus shatters us the moment we try to make him reasonable. He refuses to become our pet. He must be our master or our nothing at all.

Yet when it comes to getting to know God, for some reason Christians all too often try to break him down into bite-sized pieces that fit neatly into one-page doctrinal statements and three-point sermons. We call it Systematic Theology, but the problem is, theology isn’t systematic. It’s narrative. God isn’t a subject to be studied, he’s a Person to be encountered. And we get to know people (and God) best by listening to their stories not by reading their resumes.

I guess that’s why the Bible is the story of God and not the lesson about God. The minute we try to draw lines through the story to explain it all in easy-to-digest morsels, it unravels. You can never experience the full flavor of a story by dissecting it, only by devouring it with the wide-open mouth of your soul. God isn’t an algebra problem to be solved. He is the heartbeat of the universe.