Tuesday, July 22, 2014

When I Don't Understand . . .

The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.    Deuteronomy 29:29 (ESV)
Recently I performed a service for a man who was killed in his early 50s in an accident. Ironically, he was a recent cancer survivor. I shared at the service that while it is tempting for Christians (especially if we are uncomfortable investing in someone) to throw some well-intentioned verses toward someone and expect (hope?) it makes it all OK, the reality is that short of a direct revelation from God this side of Heaven we won't understand things like that which happen all too often in this painful, broken world.

As I was in my reading through the Bible this morning I came across Deuteronomy 29:29. It comes after the people have been reminded of the blessings and curses of obedience and disobedience, and have renewed their covenant with God. I thought it captured so much of our life so well. The secret things belong to God. Those things we don't and won't understand. His ways are not our ways. He knows things we don't know. But, that we might stay in faith and not stumble, the things revealed (the things we DO know) belong to us are intended to keep us in faith and obedience.

I am reminded of Matthew 11:4–6. John the Baptist is in prison and he sends his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus replies, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me" (ESV). The ASV version says, "And blessed is he, whosoever shall find no occasion of stumbling in me."

Keeping in mind that John declared who Jesus was, was there when the Father spoke about His Son, etc., it is an amazing (and confusing) moment, that John would then question if He was the One. Equally perplexing to me when I would read it was the last part of Jesus' response to him. But then one day a pastor I was listening to taught on how Jesus was the one supposed to set captives free, and here John was in jail and rightfully confused. He said Jesus was telling John, "Don't be caused to stumble because of what about Me you aren't understanding—what about Me doesn't match your expectations." That really spoke to me and I believe there has to be some truth in that interpretation.

I shared at the service that while I didn't understand a cancer survivor then dying in an accident a short time later, there were some things I did understand, and that it is those we must hold to and stand on. When I look to the cross I understand that God loves me. Because He loves me I understand that I can trust Him. When I look to the cross I understand that He wants to be with me, and I understand that He understands suffering and loss. And when I look to the empty tomb I understand that He is bigger than death.

"The secret things belong to the Lord our God . . ." Yes, there is much I don't understand. And God has revealed so much of Himself that I don't think it is wrong to seek to understand. Even Jesus, talking to Nicodemus, expressed that we must be born again as we can't understand the things of Heaven if we aren't. ("If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?" John 3:12)

". . . , but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law." But not understanding must not cause me to stumble in my faith. My faith is anchored in what I do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death. Whenever I doubt these the cross and the empty tomb stand there reminding me I don't need to doubt them.

I believe that we, as Christians, must be OK with saying we don't understand something. It is so much better than trying to hide behind verses. And, when I am honest, while I'd love to understand everything, the reality is that if I could understand everything about God He'd be too small for me to trust Him with my life. He is God. He is holy. He breathes out stars and by His power not one is missing. He knows every hair on my head, and He has assured me I am more precious to Him than Creation. This I do understand and on this I must stand.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.   1 Corinthians 13:12
For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.   Isaiah 55:8–9
All of this is not to say that we miss an attack of the enemy, or accept everything as God's will. Things do happen as a result of spiritual warfare, and of poor choices. We must be ready to recognize those things and take action when that is the case. The Bible makes it abundantly clear that our choices do matter—or else God would have no place to be angry with Israel for their choices, or to warn us about the consequences of certain choices, if everything happened by His doing. I am not saying we shouldn't examine things, or that we shouldn't be open to the Holy Spirit teaching us or showing us things, but I am saying that, when all that is said and done, and we find we still don't understand something, we need to be OK with the mystery of God and to not stumble because of it. We need to stand on (and trust in) what we do understand: He loves me; I can trust Him; He wants to be with me; He understands suffering and loss; He is bigger than death.

12 comments:

  1. Thanks for posting, Dad. I know that God speaks to you and reveals things that I am so glad you choose to share. I love you and thanks!

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    1. Thanks, Kiddo! I love to share the things I believe He shows me. And I love seeing you grow in your relationship with Him!

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  2. Thanks Eric..god bless

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    1. You are so welcome, Randy. It was a privilege.

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  3. Erick,
    I understand your purpose and revelation. I appreciate it. At the same time, I believe "“I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” John 15:15
    I sent you an .rtf document via email (it is 4 pages so to long to fit here) But the bottom line is this: Everything that happens to Christians - has one purpose - to make us more like Christ so that we are better able to share the Gospel of Salvation - even the consequences of poor choices and sin.
    In Christ
    David

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    1. Thanks so much, David. I will look forward to reading that article. I value you and your thoughts a lot. I agree with what you have to say, and that God does reveal a lot to us. Not everything is revealed, or available to us to know, but probably a lot more is then we are listening for or making ourselves open to. Even Jesus in His life here where He said that indicated some mystery to even Himself (only the Father knows the day/hour; if there is any other way . . .; etc.). Sometimes it is more a matter of timing---we may not understand, yet, but we still trust and anchor our faith on what we do understand.
      I'll read over the paper prayerfully. I read it once, but want to again. I understand what it is saying and I agree with it for the most part. I also know that, as it indicates, when we are talking to a family (or experiencing in our own lives) about some very hard losses or some things that just "aren't right" we have to have a place to be able to say, "I don't understand it all right now" and to not stumble in our faith because of that. I don't believe it would draw anyone to Christ at a funeral to say, "God took your father, mother, friend, etc., to make all of us more Christ like." Again, let me read it over some more. I believe that all things can work together in a believer's life for that purpose, but I don't believe that all things happen for that purpose. Sometimes things aren't God's first choice for us, I believe, but He can still work in them without saying He caused them. I believe His Word makes it clear that our choices are very important or it wouldn't make sense to tell us to put on the armor of God, to resist the devil, to strive for certain things, to pursue certain things, etc., if whether or not we obeyed the results wouldn't change. If the results do change based on what we do then I believe it implies not everything in this life is God's first choice for it. And sometimes He spares us, and sometimes we don't see a miracle. My bigger point in it is that while God can work in everything, He doesn't cause everything. Sometimes He intervenes and sometimes He doesn't seem to on the surface. The question is can we trust Him when we don't fully get what He is doing? What DO we understand that we CAN trust. And those are the things I emphasized. Anyway, I'm rambling. Thanks so much for the paper, the time, the thoughts, the love. Blessings to you! ---Erick

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  4. Erick,
    Again, I understand what you are saying. A teacher once told me, "Lessons are repeated until learned." For ME it is about adopting an attitude: "What am I supposed to learn from this situation to make me more like Christ?" It does not matter what the situation is, good or bad [but I usually ask that question most when things are not going well or as I expected].

    The idea of Sovereignty vs Free Will is one of those mysteries that will be revealed. It is enough for me to know that no matter what the result, what the choice or the situation - the final outcome is to make me (and those around me) more like Christ...
    In Christ,
    David

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    1. Hi David. Thanks so much for the thoughts and feedback. I just sent you an email and I'll put part of it here. I also think there is a difference whether you are talking to a Christian or to someone who isn't, about a Christian or someone who isn't, etc. There is a lot that comes to bear in different situations in our lives. I believe there are many, many mysteries of God. Things in Genesis that don't quite make sense to us, now. The fact that prayer is powerful and that at times it doesn't (thankfully!) cause God to do what we ask. The conflicting verses on predestination and free will. Etc. No matter how strong our theology we will always have areas of mystery surrounding God and we must then stand on what we do understand. Because something doesn't make sense to us now doesn't make God wrong or untrustworthy, just that we don't understand yet. Those are my thoughts, anyway.

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  5. A friend posted your article on FB. I loved it. After having some in depth conversation with my brother about free-will vs predestination, which can both be proved Biblically, that with God they ARE both true. I haven't read but I love the title of a book called "You're God is too small" because that about covers it. God is sooo big that we can't even begin to fathom Him in His completeness. And that is just what makes Him so breathtakingly wonderful. He is so Big, that when I get to Heaven, I'll be glad I'm there eternally because that's how long it's going to take to get to know Him completely --- Eternity!

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    1. Amen, Candace! Thanks so much for reading and sharing. I truly appreciate it. I, too, love the mystery of God and His vastness. Sometimes in the midst of pain that mystery can be hard, though, and then we must stand on the things we do understand. Again, thanks for sharing and may He bless you mightily this week with a deep sense of His love for you and presence with you.

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  6. Erick:
    Thank you very much for your words of hope and comfort at Kenny's service. I had so many people tell me what a nice service it was.
    In Christ,
    Julie

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    1. You are so welcome, Julie. Thank you for the privilege. May God pour out His blessing and comfort over you. Don't be a stranger. Don't hesitate to call for any reason.

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Thanks for your comments, I look forward to and value your sharing. Due to a large number of SPAM comments, you will need to enter a word verification before your comment will be sent to me for moderation. Your comment will be visible after I publish it. Erick

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