A Good Mystery

7

No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.  –1 Corinthians 2:7

My favorite detective show?  Scooby Doo. A gang of squirrely teens riding around in the Mystery Machine fighting crime.  Still love that show.  (Except, of course, for Scrappy).

Collecting clues.  Acting on hunches.  Dramatically unveiling the bad guys.  This is not just Hanna-Barbera material, there are dozens — maybe hundreds of different tv detective shows that have been on our TV screens over the last half-century.

What’s your favorite?  Dragnet?  Cagney & Lacey?  Twin Peaks?  CHIPS?  Murder, She Wrote?  Cop Rock?

I could fill this page with examples.  From Blue’s Clues to Sherlock, it’s a persuasive genre and people watch hundreds of hours of it.

People love a good mystery.

Which does not include, for many of us, the faith kind.  When it comes to faith, it seems we want certainty, instead of mystery.  Here, I think, is why:

Many detective shows follow a mystery – to- certainty formula like this:

  1. A mystery presents itself.
  2. Clues are discovered.
  3. False leads are followed.
  4. The main character has a hunch.
  5. A chase of some sort ensues.
  6. The bad guy is captured.
  7. All is explained
  8. Life is good.

Nothing better than that, right?  A satisfying sense of certainty, wrapped up in an hour.  It makes us feel that all is well with the world.  That problems are solvable.  That a good mystery is nothing that a couple Scooby snacks can’t conquer.

The problem is, faith doesn’t always feel like a good mystery because we tend to not get past #5.

  1.  We encounter a mystery (i.e. Is Heaven a real place?
  2.  We gather clues (Scripture, Tradition, Reason, Experience)
  3. We follow false leads (bad teaching, cultural influences, our own unhealthy desires)
  4.  We get back on track, and have a hunch (Maybe Heaven is both a place and a way of life?)
  5. We chase down our hunch until…we get lost, or confused, or doubtful.  When no perfect answer appears, we give up, or take an easy way out.   We reject mystery.

And so, we turn to easy answers that only a literal, law-based Christianity can provide.  Or we convince ourselves we have too much to do on a Sunday morning and stop doing the work of faith-learning.  Or we substitute the satisfaction of the 1 hour cop drama for the ongoing reward that comes from a lifetime of investigating.

No, it’s not easy.  One question can lead to three more.  There is little room for “Just the facts, ma’am”.  Investigating faith stuff can feel unsettling and never-ending and elusive.

But I’m here to tell you, it’s the best.  The best kind of mystery of all.  For one thing, it’s not always so uncertain.  There are insights and A-HA moments and the kind of knowing that only comes from years of seeking.  There is measurable growth and maturity.  There are an infinite number of clues to find along the way.

But for all that, the Christian Life is still a life of mystery.  A life of wonder, and questions, and seeking, never fully completed.  Always more to know.  Always a deeper relationship with a never-fully knowable God, who knows us insight and out.

So keep searching! The very best of mystery awaits.  Remember, faith means being a detective on the longest, most rewarding case of your life…

even when things get Scrappy.

Have a great week,

Mitch

scrappy

Calling Off The Search

pray_for_my_compatriots_on_malaysia_airlines_flight_mh370-_13010243353

Today, almost three years after it went missing, investigators have called off the search for Malaysian Airlines Flight 370.

Here’s what a joint statement from the three governments conducting the search had to say:

“Despite every effort using the best science available, cutting edge technology, as well as modeling and advice from highly skilled professionals who are the best in their field, unfortunately, the search has not been able to locate the aircraft,”  –http://www.cnn.com

There may come a day when someone finds the wreckage of that plane, out there in the ocean, but that’s little solace for the loved ones still wondering what happened.

It reminds me of other difficult searches people undergo.  Most notably, the search for God.

There may be circumstantial evidence–like debris washed up on the shore–but pinning down definitive proof of God continues to elude us.

In cities and villages, on college campuses and even in our local churches, there are many who have been searching, searching to no avail.

And so, many have called off the search.  If there is a God, the proof remains murky, down in the depths where it cannot be found.

There’s a problem with giving up the search for God, and it this:

It presupposes that God is the One who is lost or hiding.

And that’s not true.

God is not lost.  We are lost.

God is, in fact, searching desperately for us.  Longing to bridge the gap between God’s powerful Grace and our stubborn hearts.

God is near.  Close as our next breath. Obscured from view by sin and fear and doubt and anger and shame and even the coldness of our logic.

People are like Malaysia Airlines flight 370.  Lost, hidden, damaged. Desperate to be rescued but broken and silent.

Ah, but unlike that aircraft, we have a locator beacon that works, if we choose to use it.

It’s called faith.

Faith is a steady, spiritual “ping” that cuts through the layers of murk that separate us from God. Faith signals our desire to be found. Delivered.

For some, it may take years to tune that beacon in to the frequency of God’s Grace.

I know this because I once was lost, but now am found.

I know this because faith is a spiritual muscle that must be strengthened and developed.

I know this because millions and millions have been pulled from the oceans of chaos by our powerful Rescuer.

God will never call off the search.

Nor should we. Keep looking. Keep pinging.

It may not happen today.  It may not happen tomorrow.  But it will happen.

A light in the depths will surround you.

And you will know.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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The appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

morgan-freeman

What does God look like?

Good question.

I have an office full of Bible commentaries and theological texts, but to answer this question I went to the most reliable source I could think of:

Google Image Search.

So, here’s the first picture that came up:

Cima_da_Conegliano,_God_the_Father

There you have it.  The stereotypical old white guy with the beard, looking down lovingly from heaven. A classic!

But then I noticed this guy:

Ludovico_Mazzolino_-_God_the_Father

Umm, why is God bald here?  Moving on…

There’s this guy…

God-02

And this guy…

God

But, I’d be tempted to go with this one:

images

(That’s the Monty Python version of God).

Now, not every picture of God on Google was of an aging bearded white guy.

There were lots of pictures of God depicted as…Jesus!

Like this…

weneedneedgraphic

And this…

Jesus-creation

and this…

our-great-god-jesus

There are a lot of pictures like the ones above.  You can go see for yourself.

So is that it?  Is this what God looks like?

The title of this devotion comes from the book of Ezekiel.  Ezekiel had a dramatic, almost surrealistic experience of being in the presence of God.   What he describes looked something like this:

ezekiel-vs

Or this…

the_first_vision_of_ezekiel_

Or this…

63-hesekiel1

Actually, they all look a little like the cover of a Boston album from the 70’s, if you ask me.

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Whatever Ezekiel was describing, this vision of God was ultimately beyond description.

Thus the words, “This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.”

The        appearance
of the     likeness
of the     glory
of the     Lord.

Did you catch that?  That’s at least 3 times removed from a definitive God sighting!   But even that was enough to send him bowing to the ground in awe.

I don’t know what comes into your mind when you try to picture God, but chances are it’s an incomplete picture.

That is as it should be.

Let Ezekiel be a reminder that we see only the appearance of the likeness of God’s glory.

And let Google remind us…

to keep on searching.

Have a great week,

Mitch

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Yahoogle

From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. –Deut. 4:9

Let’s pretend it’s 1985.

I tell you I’m a genius.  You can ask me anything.

So you give it a shot:  “The weather today in Botswana?”  Clear and 61 degrees.  “The Russian word for ‘rope’?”  верёвка.  “How many McDonalds restaurants in Council Bluffs, Iowa?”  Three.  The most common ground squirrel in New England?  Ahh, trick question.  In New England, ground squirrels aren’t nearly as prevalent as tree squirrels.

In 1985, I would be hot stuff.   Probably rich.  Maybe an advisor to the president.

But here in 2014, I’m just a dude with access to the Internet.

Nowadays everybody has access to just about all the information there is.  Books, facts, charts, pictures, it’s all a few keystrokes away.   It’s exciting!  Enough to make you want to shout, “Yahoogle!”

However, sometimes I wonder if there’s a downside.   The fact that I can instantly access scores for high school baseball games played in Guam seems a tad much.   The notion that if I wanted to, I could read reviews for the movie Captain America in Ireland is just…strange.   It used to be that information was a commodity, a prize to be accumulated and treasured.

Now?  We’re way past information overload.   Now information is just….there.  Constant.   Like a constant buzzing sound in your ear.

I don’t know.  Maybe this is what the world looks like when it’s populated by geniuses.   Everyone has access to all there is to know, but somehow we still have the same problems.  “Smart” people still argue over the facts when it comes to political issues.   The rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer.   I guess I’m disappointed the search engine hasn’t saved us all.

One thing you can’t find on Yahoo! or Google is the meaning of life.

Oh, there are a number of opinions on the subject (47,000,000 to be exact) but when knowledge moves from the realm of facts to the realm of faith, the answers become more elusive.   If you want to know God, or your place in the world, or how humans should treat each other, there are plenty of articles you can read.   But truly finding that kind of Truth comes from searching your heart (not to mention the Good Book) and growing your faith.  There’s more to it than typing in keywords.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that as our technology increases, we must make sure our wisdom and our faith don’t lag behind.  The Internet may surely be a cause to shout Yahoogle!  But without a filter of faith…

It all sounds like nonsense.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

 

 

 

 

(This devotion was first published in 7/11)

Yahoogle!

From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find him if you search after him with all your heart and soul. –Deut. 4:9

It’s 1985, and  I tell you I’m a genius.  You can ask me anything.

So you give it a shot:  “The weather today in Botswana?”  Clear and 61 degrees.  “The Russian word for ‘rope’?”  верёвка.  “How many McDonalds restaurants in Council Bluffs, Iowa?”  Three.  The most common ground squirrel in New England?  Ahh, trick question.  In New England, ground squirrels aren’t nearly as prevalent as tree squirrels.

In 1985, I would be hot stuff.   Probably rich.  Maybe an advisor to the president.

But here in 2011, I’m just a dude with access to the Internet.

Nowadays everybody has access to just about all the information there is.  Books, facts, charts, pictures, it’s all a few keystrokes away.   It’s exciting!  Enough to make you want to shout, “Yahoogle!”

However, sometimes I wonder if there’s a downside.   The fact that I can instantly access scores for high school baseball games played in Guam seems a tad much.   The notion that if I wanted to, I could read reviews for the movie Captain America in Ireland is just…strange.   It used to be that information was a commodity, a prize to be accumulated and treasured.

Now?  We’re way past information overload.   Now information is just….there.  Constant.   Like a constant buzzing sound in your ear.

I don’t know.  Maybe this is what the world looks like when it’s populated by geniuses.   Everyone has access to all there is to know, but somehow we still have the same problems.  “Smart” people still argue over the facts when it comes to political issues.   The rich still get richer and the poor still get poorer.   I guess I’m disappointed the search engine hasn’t saved us all.

One thing you can’t find on Yahoo! or Google is the meaning of life.  Oh, there are a number of opinions on the subject (47,000,000 to be exact) but when knowledge moves from the realm of facts to the realm of faith, the answers become more elusive.   If you want to know God, or your place in the world, or how humans should treat each other, there are plenty of articles you can read.   But truly finding that kind of Truth comes from searching your heart (not to mention the Good Book) and growing your faith.  There’s more to it than typing in keywords.

It doesn’t take a genius to know that as our technology increases, we must make sure our wisdom and our faith don’t lag behind.  The Internet may surely be a cause to shout Yahoogle!  But without a filter of faith…

It all sounds like nonsense.

Have a Great Week,

Mitch

Photo Credit: Will Lion