Oct 1, 2008

deconstructing Christian cliches - pt 1

I was reminded today of a phrase that Christians often say that is contrary to our belief system. We don't realize it as we do, though, because we're actually trying to share something positive.

The phrase?

"And then God showed up."

You may hear this when someone is sharing about a challenging situation, only to have the situation turn around because "God showed up."

  • "I was having a hard time figuring out what to do, and then God showed up."
  • "The worship music felt like normal music, but then God showed up."
  • "We tried doing some outreach this week, and prayed for something amazing to happen. Guess what? God showed up!"
  • "I couldn't find a parking spot, so I prayed... and then God showed up."
And so on.

Actually, God didn’t show up. He was there the entire time... God is everywhere, all the time. That’s a part of His infinite nature.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. (Psalm 139:7-10)

"Am I only a God nearby," declares the LORD, "and not a God far away? Can anyone hide in secret places so that I cannot see him?" declares the LORD. "Do not I fill heaven and earth?" declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:23-24)

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:17)

Sure... I know what people mean when they say “God showed up.”

  • God surprised them.
  • A prayer got answered.
  • They've finally gotten past a barrier of some sort - intellectual, emotional, relational, etc.
  • A conviction hit their heart from the Lord regarding some hurdle they've created.
  • A spiritual dry spell became refreshed by Jesus.

Unfortunately, this language of "God showing up" makes it seem as though God is playing hide and seek with us. To the contrary, check this out:

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?" (Genesis 3:6-9)

So it's not God who wanders away from us, but it's us who wander away from God. We struggle with all sorts of distractions and inner rebellion that keeps us barely tuned in to the true reality that the Lord is everywhere. So He doesn't have to be "invited" into a situation, but He does need to be invited into our lives - that's place versus relationship.

Here's the rub - while God is everywhere, we can still be distant from Him. Most commonly, it's because we're looking for Him in the wrong ways. Romans 1 tells us He's constantly revealing Himself, and yet we're often focused on the wrong clues.

It's like when you meet someone at a cafe for lunch for the first time and don't know who to look for. You're piecing what you do know of them with your best guess on what they may look like. Sometimes you're looking for someone you've concluded isn't there... only He's in the booth to your right.

That's just what everyone about 2000 years ago failed to realize when the Creator entered His creation in a way that staggers the imagination! The King took on flesh, lived with us, and died for us... but He didn't stop there. Jesus gave the gift of His Holy Spirit to His disciples, establishing a permanent residence within anyone who would receive Him.

Right now, He is wanting to make a real connection with you. Any longing for God to "show up" today reveals the inner distance we often feel between His world and our own. But, it is not He who has distanced Himself. It is you and me.

The great need of our spiritual lives is not one of presence. Rather, the great need is for reception.

So instead of expecting God to “show up,” how about we start entering into His presence preparing and expecting to meet with Him?

God is much, much closer than we think.


Brian Eberly said...

Amen. Well put.

Becky said...

keeping this.....sometimes you know just need reminders...THANKS

Milton Stanley said...

Is the face on the piece of food supposed to be Jesus? Who would have thought that Jesus looked so much like John Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas.

eric said...

or mama cass