Category: Christian Living

None Like Him: 10 Ways God Is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing)

I like my Kindle, but I have just one little complaint about it. Books can get buried in there! Books that I was eager to buy and to read, but they get lost in all the other books hidden away in my Kindle. Real books don’t do that. They sit on my desk and call to me to be read.

That explains why it took me so long to get to Jen Wilkins’ most recent book – None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing). I read the book and loved every word of it and then my Kindle coughed up yet another hidden book – Discovering the God Who Is: His Character and Being, His Power and Personality by R. C. Sproul. I love it when God puts companion books in my way! Surely He is doing it to make a point.

God is Different From Us

God is so much more than we can begin to imagine. And it’s good to find out who He is and what He has done and how He is so very different from us.

R. C. Sproul writes in the preface to his book, “It is not enough for the Christian to know that God is; we must be driven by a holy passion to know who He is. The pursuit of the knowledge of God must never be undertaken as a casual exercise. It must be the chief business of our lives.”

The chief business! The chief business – the main things we do in life – is to be finding out who God is. Do you hear that? The chief business…pursuing the knowledge of God.

Why Does It Matter That God Is Different From Us?

And where does the knowledge of God bring us?

Jen Wilkins says, “The knowledge of God, and the knowledge of self always go hand in hand. In fact, there is no true knowledge of self apart from the knowledge of God. We cannot understand our human limitedness rightly until we see it compared to the limitlessness of God.”

And for me, understanding who I am in comparison to who God is causes me to forget myself and to worship the almighty God.

When I see God as He is (as much as a finite human can see him) and when I see myself as I truly am, I am compelled to believe Him and to trust Him and to rest in His promises. And I am reluctant to take a step without Him.

What Is Our Response to the God Who Is Different From Us?

Jen Wilkins tells us that God is infinite, incomprehensible, self-existent, self-sufficient, eternal, immutable, omnipresent, omniscient, and sovereign. In the book, she explains these amazing characteristics and gives us room to respond to them. At the end of each chapter are Verses for Meditation, Questions for Reflection, and Pray. I have to admit that when I am not reading a book like this in a group that I skim through the response sections, but this time I journaled my responses, taking time to read and think and pray.

I am so glad I did! Taking time to meditate on God’s ways…making it our chief business…could there be a better use of our time?

And then throughout the day, remembering His character and being encouraged or edified or corrected or motivated by who My God is. This is why it good that God is different from us. It is good for us to stand in awe of the God who is bigger than we can ever know. It is good for us to be humbled before Him. It is indeed the beginning of wisdom – the fear of the Lord.

The Mighty One, God the Lord, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Psalm 50:1

 

photography by Unsplash.com

What Grieving People Wish You Knew

I was standing in the reception line after a funeral waiting to shake the hands of the grieving family members and I was wondering what I was going to say to these people I barely knew.

Standing…waiting…wondering. Those words only partly describe me that day. The word I need to add?

Panicking.

What could I say? What could make this awful thing better? And, yes, I was thinking, “What can I say that will help them and yet not make me look like a complete idiot?”

I mumbled something – I don’t even remember what, but I did come away with the impression that I had said something stupid. So, when I heard about Nancy Guthrie’s book, What Grieving People Wish You Know About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts), I bought it right away.

To be honest, I put off reading the book until a friend was grieving the loss of a dear family member. I had to know what to say to her and what to do for her. I’ve read the book twice since then. I mentioned it in my post Best Books of 2016, but I really need to tell you more about it and convince you that you need to read What Grieving People Wish You Knew.

My first impression of the book is that it is a perfect example of what correction in the church should be. The reader is lovingly called out for mishandling grieving people and then shown how to handle the problem in a way that is solidly based in Scripture. Nancy Guthrie’s kind and loving unwillingness to allow us to dodge the problem and her generous and open sharing of ways to help our grieving friends has given me a great respect for her. More than that it has made me eager to hear her and to follow her advice.

So let’s get on with it – let me give you a taste of her advice to those of us who want to know what grieving people wish we knew. Here are just three from the first chapter entitled “What To Say (And What Not to Say)”.

1. Say Something

Saying nothing tells your friend that her loss was not important – that her loved one was not that important. Saying that you are sorry for her loss is better than saying nothing at all. Nancy also points out that is important to say the name of the person who died. They haven’t disappeared as if they never existed. They have died and the grieving family needs to know that they are not forgotten. Remember that your words won’t fix what has happened, but they can let your friend know that she isn’t alone.

2. Don’t Compare Their Grief to Yours

Before my friend lost her family member, my mother had died. I thought I knew what she was feeling, but the truth is that I didn’t at all. Hearing about your experience is not helpful until and unless your grieving friend asks. This is a time for us to practice humility, keep ourselves out of it, and make it all about our friends.  Which leads to another wise piece of advice.

3. Take The Grieving Person’s Lead

People handle grief in so many different ways and in so many different time frames. We must purposely determine to be listeners and to be companions in the journey, allowing the grieving friend to lead in what she wants to talk about and when she wants to talk about it. Nancy writes, “…there is great power and comfort in simply showing up and being willing to sit in the silence and listen to the person who is grieving give voice to their regrets…fears…complaints…rehearsals of the events…questions…chaotic thoughts, conflicting feelings, disappointments, desires, and despair.” Let your grieving friend talk.

These three pieces of advice are just the tip of the iceberg of this lovely book. There are pages and pages of quotes from grieving people telling us what to do and what to say and what not to say to them.

Nancy Guthrie also talks to us about what to do for grieving people. When someone dies, we so want to do something to make it better, but there are only so many casseroles a grieving family can consume. What else can we do? Nancy gives us a whole chapter of ideas such as leave messages on the phone, send notes, mark your calendar to make contact on the anniversary of the death, share photos of the deceased that the grieving friend may never have seen, and bring stuff like toilet paper and paper plates – common things that may get forgotten until they are needed.

There’s so much more I love about this book – the insight into the true feelings of grieving people and the loving encouragement to stand by a grieving friend. There’s no condemnation of our reactions to grief in the past – just truth to help us to minister to grieving people now and in the days to come.

You will have grieving friends – it’s a fact we cannot escape. If you want to be useful to your friends rather than panicking in the reception line, read What Grieving People Wish You Knew About What Really Helps (And What Really Hurts) by Nancy Guthrie.

 

photograhy by Unsplash.com

May They Find Us Faithful

Many years ago, when my children were little I heard Steve Green sing these words:

“Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful
May the fire of our devotion light their way
May the footprints that we leave
Lead them to believe
And the lives we live inspire them to obey
Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful.”

Those words stuck with me while we were raising our children, but I think that now, as a grandparent, they instruct me in the way I am to interact with my grandchildren. And the timing seems much more urgent. My oldest grandchild is almost five years old. In another eight years or so, her beliefs about God for the rest of her life will be pretty much established.

Eight years passes by with frightening speed.

So, what can we do to make sure that we leave footprints for them to follow?

1. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your might.

Sounds kind of scriptural, right? If our love for God is not real and strong and devoted, it won’t last and it won’t be obvious to our children. You know how it is – you can preach and preach to your family, but if they don’t see it modeled, you might as well preach to a rock.

I always think of Paul when I think of modeling the Christian faith. Everywhere he went he was genuine and unashamed of his love for the God who had changed him.

Just one example – read the words he wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy.

“But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that day what has been entrusted to me. Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

2 Timothy 1:12b-13

After Paul reminded Timothy of his own faith, he was able to instruct Timothy to listen to his words and to follow in his footsteps.

2. Keep your memories of God’s power in your life fresh.

We all have stories of what God has done in our lives – how He saved us; how He has provided for us; how He has made us strong enough for trials – all kinds of stories. The Israelites who were brought out of Egypt had stories too – stories that God expected them to tell to their children.

Take the crossing of the Red Sea, for example. If you had experienced such a thing – tons of water pushed back by an invisible hand, walking through the sea on dry land, and then watching your enemies destroyed when the waters were allowed to rush back – would you have had any doubts about the power of God?

“Israel saw the great power that the LORD used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.”

Exodus 14:31

And would you ever have stopped talking about what you had seen God do?

And yet they did stop talking about it.

And a generation grew up who didn’t even know the story. A generation who did not serve the one, true, living God.

God has given you stories and you need to be telling them to your family.

3. Pray

Pray for yourself to really know and love the one true God.

Pray that God would keep you faithful.

Pray that God would shine the light through you to your family and those around you.

Pray that those who come behind you would follow as Timothy followed his mentor, Paul, and his mother, Eunice, and his grandmother, Lois.

Pray, remembering that it is God who is faithful to complete the good work He has begun in all of us.

To Resolve, or Not to Resolve…

It’s January 10th already. Did you resolve to resolve? Have you broken any of those resolutions yet?

Or, are you like me – resolved not to resolve?

This New Year’s, as I considered whether or not to resolve, I got to wondering. Where did this crazy ritual of New Year’s Resolutions come from anyway? Who started it? And why?

So I decided to Google it. I didn’t really expect to find anything, but searching for the origins of New Year’s Resolutions turned up some interesting information. Skipping over Wikipedia, I came to an article from History.com (you know – the History channel!) and found out that the tendency to resolve has been around for at least 4000 years.

Wow, 4000 years of resolving and breaking and feeling guilty! Can you see why I’m resolved not to resolve?

Anyway – back to the origins. It seems that the Babylonians got the whole thing rolling during their new year’s festivities which happened in mid-March. To gain the favor of their gods, they promised to pay off their credit cards and to return their past-due library books. Well, not really – they promised to repay their debts and return anything they had borrowed that year.

The difference between the Babylonian resolutions and ours? Theirs had nothing to do with improving themselves. It was all about staying in the good graces of their gods. Makes you stop and think. They had to buy grace from their gods. Our God gives it to us freely. Hmm…

If we move along on the timeline to the Roman empire, we’ll see that the urge to resolve continued. Julius Caesar changed the name of the first month of the year to January after the two-faced god, Janus. With his two faces, Janus was looking back into the past and, at the same time, looking forward into the future. So, in January, the Romans offered sacrifices, presumably to make up for their failings in the past year, and made promises to do better in the coming year.

Again, I can’t help but be thankful that our God does not expect payment for the sins of last year. That very expensive payment has already been paid. And promises to do better? No, instead, we have God’s promise that He will finish the good work that He started in us.

The last thing I learned from History.com is that Christians have been resolving for a long time too. John Wesley led Methodists to celebrate a Covenant Renewal Service during which they would prayerfully look back at the past year and at the year to come, resolving with the help of God to march on to spiritual maturity. Some churches call these events watch night services.

I remember attending watch night services. The hours up to midnight were filled with games and singing and food. Then, as midnight neared, everyone would get quiet as the pastor led us in repentance and in seeking forgiveness and in looking to God to lead us in the new year.

This I can understand. But to save it just for New Year’s Eve? I don’t think so. Surely the whole year should be filled with times in which we go to God with our sin and allow Him to forgive and rest in the knowledge that He always offers us second chances.

So…my resolution for 2017? I resolve to go to my heavenly Father just as often as I need a new start – which, of course, is every day.

 

photography by Unsplash.com

%d bloggers like this: