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Archive for May, 2009

Is God Fair?

Reading in Exodus chapter 4 this morning, I couldn’t escape this question: IsĀ  God fair? (in fact, any thoughtful reader of the Scriptures is forced to wrestle with that question all the time).

scalesLet’s assume, for the sake of discussion, the general way we use the term fair/fairness on a human level in Western civilization: equitable; treating all sides alike; unbiased. It’s a noble concept when you think about courts of law, or good hiring practices. We all WANT to be treated fairly – we want to be viewed according to personal merits and given our due according to what we have earned/deserved. No-one wants to be on the wrong side of a discriminatory decision – we’re treating you differently because you’re (black/white/male/female/Hispanic/Jewish/short/blonde/whatever).

It’s hard to speak against fairness! But does that which we instinctively embrace on a human level apply to God? That’s a hard question to contemplate (and now I have to go off and teach on it!)

:: As Creator of all things, must He treat every aspect of what He has made in exactly the same way?

:: Is being just and wise the same as, or different from, being “fair”?

:: Would it be better for you and me, or worse, if God was “fair”?

What do you think? Feel free to add your thoughts in the comments…

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Yesterday, we took our dog Mystic for a walk in Tourne Park, one of her favorite activities. She loves hopping in the van, curling up in a seat, and propping her head on an armrest, quietly enjoying the ride.

But when we get to our destination and put her on leash, placid “going along for the ride” is over. It’s sled dog time!

On some occasions, Mystic trots along contentedly, matching her relaxed pace to ours; but most of the time, she seems intent on self-strangulation, tugging mightily on the leash to drive her way forward, like a drag racer straining for the finish line with a permanently-deployed drogue chute.

The irony is, she doesn’t get there any faster. The leash doesn’t change its length, nor do we alter our pace. She simply wears herself out fighting against forces she cannot overcome.

It would go a lot better for you, I find myself thinking, if you’d just relax, get with the program, and enjoy the pace. Don’t fight the leash, or the one holding it.

But then, I realize Mystic is there to teach me, not vice-versa. Who strains against the leash of divine providence? Who needs to stop pushing and let someone else set the pace? Who needs to curl up and go along for the ride?

It’s Sunday, a day for rest. I think I’ll slow down the pace and cease tugging today. All that striving isn’t going to make the future arrive any faster…

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Shattering Glass

I wish I had a picture of all the faces – especially Sandy’s.

We were having a nice, calm dinner last evening on the deck – all of us together, which is rare now that the oldest two are over 18 and working lots of hours. A beautiful, sun-filled day was winding down and the usual playful banter at the table was in full swing.

Someone noticed that my iced tea glass had a substantial crack in it. Not leaking, but clearly, this would be its final tour of duty. This particular glass carried no sentimental freight – it was merely functional.

Suddenly, in a gesture that very few of the female gender will understand (but all guys will!), I decided to heave the offending glassware to its doom, sending it sailing over the table, off the deck, and into a block wall, where it met its demise with a satisfying cascade of auditory tinkling.

Recovering from their momentary shock that steady ol’ Dad would do such a thing, the boys were quite delighted with this resolution to the problem. What I would give for a video or even a still picture of my wife Sandy’s reaction, however.

It was worth the 10 minutes of picking up shards, chuckling at the memory of dinner’s shattering denouement. You see, guys just have to occasionally smash things. We need to blow stuff up. We get into watching “Destroyed in Seconds.” It’s part of our psyche, and if you shake your head in wonderment why even an older guy sometimes needs to delightedly obliterate some wine bottles with a shotgun, or floor the accelerator up a highway entrance ramp – hey, it’s a guy thing. Now where’s that log-splitter…

Glass

(Image credit)

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Not a Snuggie

The way some people speak and write about God, you’d think He was one big Snuggie – some fluffy Being whose sole function in life is to make us feel warm and comfy and better about ourselves.

snuggiegodTry telling that to Moses.

When it was time to get Moses’ undivided attention, we read in Exodus 3 that God caught his eyeballs with a bush aflame, one that burned without being consumed. A blaze is not the most comfy-cozy image ever conceived, but the words He spoke to Moses also demonstrated that God was no-one to mess with: “Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground!”

In other words, I’m not your Snuggie.

Sure, there is much revealed about God’s kindness, His sympathy toward His people, His warm and gentle heart. But it is all in a larger context, that includes His purity, justice, holiness, and ultimate Other-ness. When He tells Moses his name, He says, ” I am that I am. Tell the children of Israel that I AM sent you.”

I’m Steve, and I’ve only been around for a few years. When a self-existent God reveals Himself as the I AM, His presence demands awe and respect. Egypt’s Pharaoh would soon find out how far disbelief and arrogance would get him – he discovered rather decisively that God was no Snuggie.

We’re all tempted to re-make God into some image that we’d prefer. A Snuggie idol sounds nice and cozy. Until you need unstoppable power and irresistible grace. Then only the real God will do…

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mosesinreedsWhat kind of mother would abandon her child in some reeds by a river? After 3 months bonding with her little boy, what woman could possibly package up a child in a wicker basket, float him in the weeds, and walk away?

A mother with great love for her son.

In Exodus chapter 2, we see just this event. The Hebrews had been charged by Pharoah to put all the male babies to death, since the Egyptians, owners of the land, were being outnumbered by the fecund visitors from the north, the sons of Israel.

Moses’ mother, as was the case with many at that time, was disinclined to acquiese. So she hid her baby for 3 months, then embarked on a bold, risky, and ultimately successful plan to preserve his life.

She shrewdly put Moses in a waterproofed wicker basket and placed him in a spot where she knew that the daughter of Pharoah came to bathe. She also planted her older daughter in the vicinity to watch what happened, and to provide some guidance at just the right time if the plan worked out.

The plan worked out. Pharoah’s daughter saw the baby, and though she knew it was a Hebrew child, her heart was stirred as she stared into the face of a real human being. Genocide comes about by classifying people as faceless undesirables. But a woman looking gazing into the eyes of a needy, abandoned baby – that’s a different story.

Conveniently, Moses’ older sister then approaches and volunteers to find a nursemaid for the little infant…of course, summoning her own (and Moses’) mother for the task. The mother is even paid to care for the child!

Of course, underneath all of this extraordinary drama is the reality that even by saving her son’s life, she’s going to eventually “lose” him – Pharoah’s daughter will bring him up once he is weaned. But for her mother’s heart, it is enough that her child is saved.

The irony is, that this act which appears heartless turns out to produce Moses, a prince in Egypt who eventually is called of God to deliver his long-suffering people, the Israelites. A mother’s sacrifice creates a world-changing result. You might well wonder what would drive a woman to risk it all and put her child in the reeds. Now you know.

(Image credit)

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monalisaPeople go to extraordinary expense and trouble to view, first-hand, an outstanding work of art. Gazing at Michelangelo’s David, or the Mona Lisa, we are struck by the amazing skill and creativity that went into producing these (static) works.

Any crass visitor who came through and dismissed the Mona Lisa with a throwaway comment such as, “ahhh, just a random assortment of paints…nothing to see here!” would be viewed as uncultured at best, and utterly stupid at worst.

So…are you (and your kids) just a random assortment of chemicals, or a an amazing (and living) work of art?

Here is what we learn in Psalm 139:

    You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are your works, and my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth. Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; and in Your book were all written the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them.

The language of the psalm is itself a work of art; but greater still, it points to the most effective shield we can give our children who are navigating through a world of negativity and peer pressure.

You are not a random assortment of chemicals, here with no purpose, and subject to the pinball pressures of your peer group. You, as you are, are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are designed for a purpose; uniquely gifted and wonderfully woven together by God. You needn’t try to remake yourself into the image of others who aspire only to tear you and others down; instead, embrace what you see in the mirror, and offer whatever you have to your Creator and His world.

You may feel like you’re a nobody. You may find yourself wishing you were someone else. You may be tempted to think that you’re God’s first mistake. That you’re doomed to insignificance because you aren’t (strong/tall/pretty/talented/athletic/sexy/smart) enough.

But you’d be wrong.

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