For some time now, I’ve believed there’s more than we’re seeing.
Someone who has more to reveal, more to teach, more love to pour out. Who waits to speak to me through music and joy and sorrow and simplicity. Someone whose presence is behind and before me, above and below. Invisible, yet more real than anything else. Someone greater than our ability to imagine.
What if God is more than we know?
Last spring, my daughter and I visited many cathedrals in Europe. I couldn’t have imagined the size and grandeur of these churches. St. Vitus, shown here, was far too big to fit in a camera lens. Constructed as many as 900 years ago, we marveled at how these huge, intricately designed structures could have been built with the limited technology, transportation, and resources they had then. Many of these churches took 200 years or more to complete … meaning that the architects, suppliers, and craftsmen who began the project could devote a lifetime to it, knowing they would never see the magnificent finished cathedral.
Most of the time, we entered shoulder-to-shoulder with tourists who came to see the architecture and priceless artwork. These buildings, constructed for worship of God, seemed to be filled with people who weren’t looking for Him there. Here and there, someone sat in a pew with head bowed or lit a candle at Jesus’ feet. Yet many were tourists pushing through, satisfied with the surface beauty. Many times, I was just like them, eager to go on to the next attraction. But I wondered what it would be like to come and sit quietly with no crowd, to worship there unobserved. I did long for that. And later, I wondered how it is that we miss Him. How is it that we stand in awe of man-made wonders and miss the greatest wonder — the broken body of God’s son voluntarily hanging on a cross?
Even in the midst of the most profound human attempts to reveal God, we miss Him.
“Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”— Jesus (Matthew 13:13)
And that’s what I’m afraid of.
Seeing, but not really seeing.
Maybe some readers would say, “I don’t know about you, but I’m a Christian; I’m not missing God.”
But what if you are … what if we are, my friend? At least missing the full picture. There are respected pastors who have admitted they were missing Him until something happened to open their eyes. I’m afraid we sometimes put Him in a cardboard box built out of convenience and culture. We lock Him in a church or in “religion” because it’s easier if He stays in there.
But the more I search for the Truth, the more He comes busting out of our man-made boundaries like a roaring lion that can’t be caged.
A.W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”
Can we be honest?
It’s easy to think of Him as if He exists to make our lives more convenient.
To judge Him according to how life treats us.
To allow our culture to interpret Him for us.
To focus on portions of scripture that justify our position or wishes.
Box Him up, contain Him.
“Though seeing, they do not see.”
Is it just me? Am I the only one who needs to turn my view of God inside-out?
“The (reverent) fear of the Lord is the beginning (the prerequisite, the absolute essential, the alphabet) of wisdom;
A good understanding and a teachable heart are possessed by all those who do the will of the Lord.”Psalm 111:10
If I want wisdom, I must begin with a desire for an accurate understanding of God and a teachable heart —
not with my own opinion and right-ness.
God is not one component of my universe. I am literally a speck in His universe. Yet, miraculously, I have limitless value … because of His love for me. I should be defining Me from the reference point of Him. HE is the Alpha and Omega, the Creator and Master, the great I AM. And I am NOT the great I AM, despite the temptation to think so.
And quite apart from my experience or whatever I choose to believe, God is who He is and He always will be.
“When heaven’s stagehands direct the spotlight toward the star of the show, I need no sunglasses. No light falls on me. Lesser orbs, that’s us. Appreciated. Valued. Loved dearly. But central? Essential? Pivotal? Nope. Sorry.”— Max Lucado
I don’t want to tell you what to believe. I have a good knowledge of the Bible, but I only understand Him in part. What I want is to inspire you to seek Him out. Even if you’ve been a Christian since you were a child. To strip away clichés and culture-saturated assumptions and HUNT HIM DOWN. I am inviting you to join me in the most worthy pursuit there is, one that will last us at least to the end of our days on earth.
I very much want to see and hear and understand. I’ve learned that, only when I see God truthfully, can I see the rest of life clearly, too. I want to grow in the ways that matter. I want to use my time wisely. Most of all, I want to honor Him. (It’s the only thing that motivates me to eventually dare to hit the “Post” button and share thoughts that are easier kept to myself.)
I can tell you some things with certainty. Like what I don’t see in God’s Word. I DON’T see a genie dispensing wishes, or an umpire waiting to strike me out, or the aloof presence in the sky that I envisioned a long time ago. Not at all.
I do not see a benevolent old man. Or a wishy-washy Jesus. Nor a wispy spirit. Not a man-made God. Definitely not a convenient God.
No. This is a raw, breathing FORCE like nothing else whose truth and depth course through our universe. A power we could never control or filter or hinder or manipulate.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand, who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone – while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?
Do you know the laws of the heavens? Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? Can you raise your voice to the clouds and cover yourself with a flood of water? Do you send the lightning bolts on their way? Do they report to you, ‘Here we are’?”— God (Job 38)
I’d like to propose something, and grammar people, you’ll get it:
God is a noun before He is a verb.
I believe that true understanding comes in learning who He IS … more than what He does. He doesn’t just know the truth, shed light, love us, redeem us, create things, strengthen us, and act good. (Yes, He does all that.) But He actually IS Truth and Light and Love and Redemption and Creativity and Goodness and Strength and more. God doesn’t just DO these things. He IS these things and they are Him. They do not exist without Him. He is Spirit. And the things that lie outside of His character comprise darkness and evil and deception. And maybe this is the barest beginning of our understanding.
Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear?— Jesus (Mark 8:17-18)
If we could just open our eyes and hear with our ears, we specks wouldn’t even try to weave who He is around our limited vision. Or stuff Him into our politics. Or leave Him inside our church walls … or any walls. Or instruct Him on how to answer our prayers. Or reshape His Word that has existed since the beginning to fit our opinions.
No, we would fall on our knees. We would breathe deepest thanks. We would throw off our thin veneer of perfection. We would stop justifying our own way. We would beg to understand more. We would follow Him without excuse or question. We would trust in the depth of His love and power even in our greatest trials. We would see the future stretching out to eternity instead of retirement.
If you ask me how to pursue Him, I will direct you straight to His Word. Last week, I read where Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz, recounted her mother’s advice and example: “Read your Bible. Every day. Study it. Learn to love it. Live by it.” It sounds too simple. But it’s transformative. Reading the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is one good way to start.
Like Moses, I have dared to ask God if He will show me His Glory.
Because pursuing God is the beginning of every true answer.
You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, and will bring you back from captivity.— Jeremiah 29:13-14
And should your eyes be opened, you might see Him in a bare tree against the sky, stripped of leaves. You might feel the burden of His love for His people as you walk down a sanctuary aisle. You might glimpse Him in suffering-filled words of thanksgiving. You might realize the enormity of the sin He has cast away from you. You may hear Him quietly singing over you as you get ready for church on a Sunday morning. You might look up at a black velvet sky and see the pin-prick stars as tiny windows of hope. You might touch His nail print when you hold the hands of your aging parents. You may sense His bright presence standing protectively next to you at your weakest moment. You might hear Him call you by a new name. You might discover His unwavering faithfulness winding through every dark turn and new clearing.
And you’ll want to see more. You will want to see more.
Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
All your waves and breakers have swept over me.
“Look for Christ and you will find Him. And with Him, everything else.”— C.S. Lewis
Teach me, Lord, the way of your decrees, that I may follow it to the end.
Give me understanding, so that I may keep your law and obey it with all my heart.
Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.
Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain.
Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.