"As a deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God?" (Psalm 42)
"Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them. Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. He has caused his wonders to be remembered; the Lord is gracious and compassionate...The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise." (Psalm 111)
Yesterday we had communion at Living Waters. Pastor Scott decided to work the service a little differently, so we sort of had the communion portion in the middle of the service instead of the end. Scott wanted us to focus of two ideas as we contemplated what the bread and the cup represent. He said it was to be about "Gravity & Gladness."
Scott is correct in pointing out that our body has a pretty easy time with the whole "Gladness" part of worship. We are a happy bunch most of the time. I'm unconvinced that many mighty-tighty Fundamentalists would enjoy being around most of us.
But Scott was also correct in pointing out that when meditating upon the God of the bible, we ought to do so with "Gravity." (And I'm not talking about the things that keep you attached to the planet.) The God portrayed in the bible is a very joyous being, but he is also a very holy being, too.
Which is an odd choice of phrasing, because you can't really be very holy. You are either holy or you are not....like being pregnant.
God's state of holiness is so completely different and "Other" than our state of being, that I'm certain that we can't really get our minds around it. Chip Ingram has a great book out called "God as he longs for you to see him." He goes off on a tare about how different God and his holiness is from us and our brokenness. He is just so completely unique and different, that it is too much to fully comprehend on an intellectual level.
Ultimately, God must be experienced
and not merely jotted down on a piece of paper
as an intellectual exercise.
When God says that we are to fear him, it is not the type of fear that people usually think of. There are those who assume God to be some cosmic grouch who is always looking to bring the smack down on us. But that isn't biblically accurate. In fact, a portion from Isaiah 8 that Scott used in the service yesterday illustrates that point.
"Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.
The Lord Almighty is the one you are to fear,
and he is the one you are to dread,
and he will be a sanctuary."
Now THAT'S an interesting turn. If you fear God, he will be a sanctuary, a place of refuge...your protection?!?!
Sometimes when I think of fearing God, I think of an electrical socket. I do not run in terror every time I encounter an electrical socket. However, neither do I walk up to it and stick my tongue in it. I have a healthy sense of respect for the power that can come out of that little 3-pronged hole. Maybe that is what God is getting at when he says we should fear him.
It's always interesting to me to see how people in the bible react when ever they have an interaction with the "Holy One." It generally consists of an immediate realization on the part of the human that they are about as worthy as a sly pimple on the buttocks of the universe when compared to YHWH. Then, there tends to be some form of cardiac arrest, seizure or various forms of passing out. Finally, God in one manner or the other has to tell the person to relax, chill out and NOT be afraid...which is easy for him to say.
It gets to the point where you would think that God would simply hand out a flyer prior to coming near to a human, with the various instructions as to what was about to happen and how the person could prepare a head of time with a pillow or mattress conveniently placed near by.
I can only speak for myself on this matter, but encountering God is not that unusual. However, it also seems like it comes at different levels of engagement. The times, and there have only been a few of them for me, where God has drawn close to me in a big way, have been so overwhelming that I could barely handle it. Almost devastating...in a positive way, if that makes sense.
This is why I am naturally so skeptical of some of these weirdo preachers out there who seem to talk to God...with God audibly responding back on a regular basis, while said preacher is shaving in the morning. If I tried that while shaving, and God spoke to me out of the mirror, I would cut my nose clean off.
This is why I think that God is very delicate about interacting with people. He knows what affect he can have...and he is not merely being a Drama Queen, either. I also fully believe that this is why he took on human form as a servant. (That would be Jesus, kids.)
Yet, when you think about how Holy, how "Other" the God of scripture is from us, and that this being would have a deep and passionate desire to be in a relationship with us, it really gets mind blowing. King David once asked God why he was mindful of humans. God never answered him on that question.
I heard a sermon once on God's love for weak, fallen humans. The speaker pointed out that Jesus never spent much time explaining the "Whys" of God. In his parables, Jesus never gives an explanation as to why God heals, blesses and loves. God just does so because that is a central part of who God is. He can't seem to help himself. God is just a generous being. Maybe John put it best when he said, "God is love."
I think it breaks God's heart that so many people will turn away from that kind of love...that kind of sanctuary.