Saturday, August 11, 2007

Rethinking God

Isaiah 40
Rethinking God

There is a common idea about God that portrays Him as a “candyman.”  This image tries to say that will make everything go right.  A popular song painted this picture:

(Ill.) used in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory also performed by Sammy Davis, Jr.

“Who can take a sunrise,  Sprinkle it with dew?  Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two…
The candyman, the candyman can, The candyman can 'cause he mixes it with love
and makes the world taste good…”

“Who can take tomorrow, Dip it in a dream?  Separate the sorrow and collect up all the cream,
The candyman? The Candyman can, the candyman can… The candyman can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good… And the world tastes good 'cause the candyman thinks it should…”  []

The fact is Scripture portrays God as having His own agenda, purpose and reason that has little to do with our comfort or pleasure.  Maybe its time to rethink God.

I.    God takes “risks.”

    A.    Risks come in many forms.  (The risk of misunderstanding God)

        1.    Pain

            a.    Pain is useful to tell us that something is wrong.

            b.    Pain can help us unlearn weak behavior patterns.

“For I am about to fall, and my pain is ever with me.  I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.” [Psalm 38:17 – 18]

        2.    Suffering

            a.    God is not ignorant of our suffering, sometimes suffering must run its course.

“For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”
[Psalm 22:24]

            b.    Jesus shared in our suffering!  (In fact we inflicted Him with suffering.)

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.  Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
[Isaish 53:3]

        3.    Trouble

            a.    We try to define what is sin and we try to define what is good an bad.  These definitions tend to be from the human perspective.

“Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” [Job 2:10b]

            b.    But troubled times are a time to seek God.

“Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise.”
[James 5:13]

        4.    Testing

            a.    “No pain, no gain.”  Muscles grow under stress.  Spiritually we grow under stress.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, [3] because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” [James 1:2 – 3]

            b.    Testing shows us for what we are... it either confirms us or shows us our practice of deceiving ourselves.

“Do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the desert.” [Hebrews 3:8]

        5.    Disappointments

            a.    These are the spiritual “valleys” when we don’t “feel” like loving God.

                1.)    Maybe God did not answer a prayer the way you wanted it to be answered.

                2.)    Maybe you just get to busy for daily “routines” that keep you grounded in God.

            b.    They are the “dark side” of our spiritual journey when we wonder, “what if...”  (Ill. “The Far Side” cartoon by Gary Larson, who was teased unmercifully by his brother about possible realities.  This cartoon often highlighted the uncomfortable, improbable, illogical, and bizarre alternative view of humanity through the world of animals.  He focused on the “what if...”  e.g. )

                1.)    Even Jesus, “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [Matthew 27:46]

                2.)    (Ill.) Praying and sensing my prayers were bouncing off the ceiling.  Wife: “It’s a good thing that God is in the room with you.”

    B.    Risks have a purpose.

        1.    They draw our attention away from ourselves.

        2.    They teach us something new about God.

        3.    They move us beyond circumstances.

        4.    They develop undiscovered strength we never knew we had. [v 31]

            a.    (Ill.) Of the eagle... the mother/father make the nest uncomfortable... they snuggle with the young until it is pushed out of the nest or carried out and dropped... it falls or flies...  Often it takes many attempts over many days for the eagle to learn to fly.

            b.    When a storm comes, the eagle cannot stay on the ground (or in the nest)... it must “mount up on wings” and fly above the storm.

            c.    There is a pure joy that eagles seem to have when they are in flight.  They are miserable when caged (you can’t cage a wild eagle).

II.    What do these risks teach us?

    A.    God’s ways are not our ways.

        1.    Preparing a road through the wilderness. [3 – 5]

            a.    Some think this was socio-economic others personal spirituality.

            b.    This was John... he had two things to say.

                1.)    “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is near.” [Matthew 3:2]

                2.)    “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” [Matthew 3:8]

        2.    Changing v Eternal. [6 – 8]

            a.    Human = changing

The emperor Diocletian tried to revive the old pagan religions of Rome by persecuting and killing Christians. He set up a stone pillar in his honor, inscribed with the words that he wanted to describe his legacy: “For having exterminated the name of Christ from the earth.”

            b.    God’s word is eternal.

                1.)    Tamper-proof (make it unaccessible to people by requiring an interpreter)

                2.)    God’s word transforms us, it interprets us, and it corrects us.

    B.    God is “distinct” (recognizably different – Oxford).

        1.    As a Shepherd [v 11]

            a.    He “tends” means to take care of... like a shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.

            b.    He “gathers” means to collect or assemble... like a shepherd who searches for the one who is lost.

            c.    He “carries” means to lift... like a shepherd who finds the lost sheep and loves them all the way home.

            d.    He “gently leads” means to be with in a procreative way...  like a shepherd who is the gate.

        2.    In Creation [vv 12 – 31]

            a.    The “Three Questions”

                1.)    Where you there?  “Who has measured the water... marked off the heavens... held the dust of the earth... weighed the mountains?” [v 12]

                2.)    Do you know everything?   “Who had understood the mind of the LORD, or instructed Him as His counselor... who taught Him?” [vv 13, 14]

                3.)    Can you do the things God does?  “To whom, then, will you compare God?” [v 18, 25] “Who created all these?” [v 26]

            b.    God is God. [v 22]

            c.    God is in control. [vv 23, 24]

            d.    Why are you complaining? [v 27]

                a.    We complain that we cannot understand God. [Can a dog understand a person?  To a limited degree.]

                b.    We complain that we God disregards us. [If we cannot understand God, then how can we know how He works?]

III.    God’s risks cause us to reach.

    A.    God disciplines us.  (Discipline brings strength, like exercise.)

        1.    Correction

            a.    Sometimes we need the rod to be taught something... that our way is wrong.

            b.    Caution: not every pain is God punishing us.

        2.    Direction

            a.    We make plans but when God directs our steps

“In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.”
[Psalm 16:9]

            b.    When God wants to change something, it is for something better than we had planned.

“Many are the plans in a man's heart, but it is the LORD's purpose that prevails.”
[Psalm 19:21]

        3.    Attention

            a.    “This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. [18] If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.” [Isaiah 48:17 – 18]

            b.    Paying attention to what God is trying to teach us is profitable.

    B.    We learn “patient expectation” [v 31]

        1.    KJV = “wait” Waiting is not a value in our “get - r - done” society.

            a.    We see lack of movement as lack of initiative or laziness.

            b.    Biblical ideal, “wait” is trusting God.

        2.    “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” [Psalm 46:10]

            a.    Running ahead of God has devastating consequences, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.” [2 John 1:7]

            b.    In our desire to “make something happen” we have often substituted good things for godly things.

IV.    God’s risk teaches us to move.

    A.    We are “reoriented” (find one’s bearings again – Oxford).

        1.    We move away from evaluation based on circumstances.

        2.    We move toward a God who comforts.

    B.    We are “retooled” (revise or reorganize, especially for the purpose of updating and improving – WordNet 3.0, Princeton University).

        1.    We move away from complaining.

        2.    We move toward carrying out our duty.

    C.    We are “refocused” (focus attention or resources on something new or different – Oxford).

        1    We move away from centering on self.

        2.    We move toward celebrating the majesty of God.


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