Perspective: His vs. Ours

I’ve been reading through a year-long devotional written by Billy Graham on YouVersion and one notion that keeps showing up again and again in Graham’s commentary is the concept that our minds are finite while God is infinite. Our days are numbered, but, He is eternal. Our perspective and understanding of other people and events that happen all around us is limited, but, God is omniscient and, from His perspective, He sees and knows everything.

Too often in my life I’ve determined my position, in relation Jesus, in relation to my soul, and in relation to other people, based on my own personal perspective which, one moment, can be one way, but, a moment later, based on any of a number of variables out of my control, or even something as fickle as my mood,  can be completely different.

It wasn’t until I surrendered, after having everything in my life fall apart in a manner that I realized went far beyond anything I could ever repair, to the reality that my only hope begins in a God can that make sense of things that I can’t, that I truly found peace. But, to be able to surrender I had to exercise faith – a placement of trust in that which I can’t see. I had to trust that there is more to this world and this life than what I can see, hear, feel, taste, touch, and process with three pounds of gray matter in my skull.

Everybody has faith. The difference from one person to the next, though, is where each person places theirs. We either place our faith in our own understanding and ability to figure things out and make sense of the world around us or we place our faith in something bigger. For some, this might mean the ever-evolving knowledge of science in which the accepted scientific “truths” of today are turned upside down by the discoveries of tomorrow. For others, the trust that they place in something bigger might be in a form of religion or politics that places one race or group of people on a higher pedestal than another.

My faith is invested in the One who is Love (1John 4:8), the God of Jesus Christ who, while here in the flesh, taught, healed, served, and fed those in need and instructed his believers to, above all else, love God and to love others as themselves (Matthew 22:37-40). He did not come to judge and persecute. He didn’t come to mistreat those who didn’t understand or agree with Him. He came to love, serve, and save and He instructed His followers to do the same.

I am not the most articulate person when it comes to defending my faith by quoting scripture off the top of my head (I had to look up everything mentioned here for the proper scriptural references). I don’t think I posess the quick wit of a person who is apt to win a debate with somebody else they’re sitting across the table from, either. But, I realize and find comfort in the fact that I don’t have to be. My trust isn’t in my finite self, but, instead, is invested in He who is infinite.

“Father, although my finite mind cannot understand all the wonders of the Gospel, I thank You for the assurance of my salvation through Christ.”
-Billy Graham

“Whatever you think is love, whatever you think is peace, whatever you think is good, whatever you think is right, whatever you think He is, He is infinite.”
-Kevin Max

Other posts I’ve written related to the topic of God’s perspective vs. our own:

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

The View From The Valley

Here In This Moment, The Sun May Not Be Shining

A couple of great songs that celebrate God’s providence:

“Infinite” by Kevin Max – His new album, BROKEN TEMPLES, celebrates the fact that when we are broken, we are freed to find our peace in Him – the album is due 3/10 and available for pre-order through Pledge Music at http://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/kevinmax

“The Glorious Unfolding” by Steven Curtis Chapman – One of my favorite albums, now, specifically because so many of the lyrics on the album, including the title track, focus on this concept of faith in our God who can see so much more than we can.

Fear In The Face Of The Unknown

I spent a few minutes this evening looking over different definitions and explanations of what fear is and the most common explanations focus on the perceived thread of danger. Danger, of course, can present itself in many forms, from imminent and extreme danger (e.g., coming face to face with a large, angry bear while hiking) to perceived danger which may or may not actually be a threat (e.g., discovering a lump on your body is may or may not be cancer).

As humans we sometimes suffer under the tremendous weight of fear. On the other hand, we also seem to be addicted to the sensations that come by entertaining a small measure of fear and allowing our attention, emotions, and imagination to be carried away by stories, movies, and sports — when we invest our interest in a particular character or team and allow our emotions to rise and fall with the limited uncertainties of either a happy ending, a sad ending, a win, or a loss.

And that’s all fine and dandy as long as we know the movie will end or the game clock will wind down to zero and the stress will be gone. But, what about in our real lives? In reality we don’t necessarily know when or if the job demands will let up. We don’t know what the biopsy results will be or if therapy will be effective. We can’t be there for every challenge that our kids will face as the grow up to support them through to a safe and happy end.

Fear grips our hearts hardest when we don’t necessarily have any input on the outcome. The weight of burden becomes too much for our finite brains to process and we break down under the weight.

In the March 21, 1944 audio clip from the BBC Series “Beyond Personality,” C.S. Lewis entertains a question that many, apparently, asked him regarding how God could possibly give appropriate attention to millions of prayers being prayed to Him simultaneously:

…I’d like to deal with a difficulty some people find about the whole idea of prayer. Somebody put it to me by saying: “I can believe in God alright, but what I can’t swallow is this idea of Him listening to several hundred million human beings who are all addressing Him at the same moment.”

And I find quite a lot of people feel that difficulty.

Well, the first thing to notice is that the whole sting of it comes in the words “at the same moment.” Most of us can imagine a God attending to any number of claimants if only they come one by one and He has an endless time to do it in. So what’s really at the back of the difficulty is this idea of God having to fit too many things into one moment of time.

Well that, of course, is what happens to us. Our life comes to us moment by moment. One moment disappears before the next comes along, and there’s room for precious little in each. That’s what Time is like. And, of course, you and I tend to take it for granted that this Time series — this arrangement of past, present and future — isn’t simply the way life comes to us but is the way all things really exist. We tend to assume that the whole universe and God Himself are always moving on from a past to a future just as we are. But many learned men don’t agree with that. I think it was the Theologians who first started the idea that some things are not in Time at all. Later, the Philosophers took it over. And now some of the scientists are doing the same.

Almost certainly God is not in Time. His life doesn’t consist of moments following one another. If a million people are praying to Him at ten-thirty tonight, He hasn’t got to listen to them all in that one little snippet which we call “ten-thirty.” Ten-thirty, and every other moment from the beginning to the end of the world, is always the Present for Him. If you like to put it that way, He has infinity in which to listen to the split second of prayer put up by a pilot as his plane crashes in flames.

That’s difficult, I know. Can I try to give something, not the same, but a bit like it. Suppose I’m writing a novel. I write “Mary laid down her book; next moment came a knock at the door.” For Mary, who’s got to live in the imaginary time of the story, there’s no interval between putting down the book and hearing the knock. But I, her creator, between writing the first part of that sentence and the second, may have gone out for an hour’s walk and spent the whole hour thinking about Mary. I know that’s not a perfect example, but it may just give a glimpse of what I mean. The point I want to drive home is that God has infinite attention, infinite leisure to spare for each one of us. He doesn’t have to take us in the line. You’re as much alone with Him as if you were the only thing He’d ever created.

When Christ died, He died for you individually just as much as if you’d been the only man in the world.

The human brain is a physical organ that is limited in it’s potential to comprehend just as much as it is limited in its mass and size. The notion of having every aspect of our lives and, particularly, our futures under control is an illusion that we will never be able to actually grasp in reality.

Consequently, the peace that we seek in security and control is also an illusion. We cannot achieve peace in our lives. We can’t know all that the future holds, but, we can know He that holds the future. We can’t acquire peace in our lives on our own accord, but, we can trust the One who, in His infinite existence, is able to attend to each one of us fully and at all times. He alone is peace. He alone is hope. He is love. He is infinite.

“Infinite” is a song from the forthcoming album Broken Temples by Kevin Max. In it Max celebrates the fact that God is so much larger than human thoughts can hope to conceive and so much greater than human words could ever hope to articulate. We must trust His word, but, should be wary in trying to limit Him to our own personal human conceptions and constructs. It is a perspective not often articulated in music, Christian or otherwise. Feel free to check out the Pledge Campaign purposed to aid in the release of his new project Broken Temples so that it, like his past projects, can serve as a beacon to those seeking peace and truth in an open manner so that we can all dig deeper and rest in the peace that can only come when we trust Him with the purpose and direction of our lives.

In Our Lives: The Glorious Unfolding

“…From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” Luke 12:48

My cup is absolutely spilling over. I’m sitting here on a Friday morning on my couch drinking a special select blend of Starbucks coffee that a good friend sent me (Thanks Shirley!) that I ground up just two days ago and brewed in a French press this morning. Fortunately, it isn’t my coffee that’s spilling over. No, all of that is being enjoyed the way it should be. What IS spilling over is my recognition of all of the good that is happening in my life that I have to be thankful for.

I’ve witnessed God’s plan, devised long before I drew my first breath, unfolding in a wonderful way over the past two years. In the words of Steven Curtis Chapman, it has been a very “glorious unfolding.” Yes, for those familiar with my story, it has had A LOT to do with The Hands & Feet Project (you can read more about that here), but, I’ve noticed other ways that His plan has been spilling out before me, too.

God has been doing amazing things with my family. We’ve been settling into a new church over the past year and seeing the positive effect that this new environment and community has had on my wife and kids has been nothing short of a privilege to witness. Without knowing my wife and kids, you wouldn’t have any point of reference to notice the dramatic change that I’ve seen in them, but, trust me when I say that my faith in the notion that God knows what He’s doing, and that He will do amazing things if we just get ourselves out of the way and let Him work, has been affirmed and emboldened many times over in the past two years.

So, what now? Now, I will continue to seek His purpose for my family and I. A friend recently introduced me to the word sovereign. It is a word that I may have heard before, but, had no idea what it meant and I had certainly not ever used it. Just in case you, the reader, don’t know what it means, I’ll give you an in-my-own-words definition of sovereign: God is good and everything He does, as a result, is also good whether we understand it or not.

I recognize at this point in my life that there is nothing in my house, my garage, my shed, or my bank account that can offer me any security. Sure, I could work my tail off to fill each of those with things that I think will make me feel more secure, but, the fact is, there is nothing that I can do to protect myself or better myself as a person.

There will always be external circumstances that can compromise, if not completely destroy, what I think I have. So, instead of building up my stores, focusing on the substance of life is my goal. In Randy Alcorn‘s book, THE TREASURE PRINCIPAL, he emphasizes the biblical principle that whatever possessions we gather here on earth are subject to forces and circumstances beyond our control:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”

Matthew 6:19

Alcorn makes the point that while the material things that we collect and gather over the course of our lifetime are finite, treasure that we build up in heaven by living out God’s will in our daily lives, is eternal. Whatever we think is good here is temporary and fleeting in comparison to God’s infinite purpose.

Yet, this is not a matter of working hard to serve others here so that I can benefit down the road. No, from my perspective, there is great satisfaction that can come from serving others here and now and, hopefully, giving them a chance to see the hope that lives in me. It is out of gratitude for the blessings and purpose that God has given me that I seek to help and serve where I am called to do so.

If I were $10,000 in debt and you handed me a check for $20,000 to cover that amount and give my bank account a little breathing room to boot, I would, without a doubt, feel compelled to, at the very least, shake your hand and say thank you! But, I am even more compelled to let His will work in me and to serve in the manner that He has called me, since He has taken my life, void of vision and deeply in debt to all of these things in the world that I thought were worth my time and, instead, has filled my days with a real and tangible purpose and awareness that He can do things with and through me that will have far-reaching positive consequences for his kingdom beyond what I can possibly comprehend!

I truly believe that it is our responsibility as believers to look for where the need is greatest and, then, to look for ways that we can address that need. That is precisely what Christ did and what I will continue to do going forward. His grace has and will continue to be sufficient in my life and I will gladly move forward, one step at a time, without as big of a concern for a final destination, but, instead, with every breath, a prayer of thanks and a request for guidance to know where to land each new footfall on the path that He has prepared for me.

Randy Alcorn, Kevin Max, and Infinite Providence

I came across a blog post this morning by Randy Alcorn called “Surrendering To God’s Wisdom,” and it proved to be quite a worthwhile read. In it Alcorn highlights the dynamic between Job’s limited understanding and God’s infinite providence. Time and time again, God has proven that He can take my messes and reshape them into His victories. As I was noting to a friend today during a lunch conversation, I am starting to notice a pattern in my life: challenges, trials, and circumstances that weigh heavily on me, making me uncomfortable, if not completely disorienting me, keep turning out to be the fertile ground out of which His providence proves true. He knows what he’s doing! It’s really not that complicated, but, too often, I tend to over-analyze each and every circumstance in my life, letting trials and challenges pull me under a rising wave of fear and depression. Because I place too much emphasis on my own need to know what’s going on and to understand all of the variables, I miss the chance to trust God. I miss the chance to live without fear. I place the limited confines of my own brain next to the limitless expanse of the mind of God and then, like an idiot, get flustered and scared when I can’t make sense of the narrow view that I might have of His big picture. The fact is that, whatever I think he is, HE IS INFINITE.

Defined

The question

Cliché and worn

Like an out-of-style

What Would Jesus Do? bracelet

Dropped like a hat

Casually

In this equally-worn

Small southern town

Are you saved?

Yeah.

I got saved on…

The date so easily recalled

Like the day you earned

Your drivers license

Because

Like other rites of passage

That is what you do

When you grow up

Down here

Unlike what is brought by

The fire and brimstone

Ultimatum as written

On the inside cover of

A pocket-size Gideons’ Bible

Handed to you

On the way to recess

By suited men

Just beyond

Your public school door

I breath peace

Born by hope

A notion that

Like a loving parent

His grace is infinite

Even with the pain that I’ve caused

Lying out in full view

Before Him

He holds me close

Whispering good news

That these tears

Are not cried in vain