Thursday, April 30, 2009

Truth That Lasts

For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting, and His truth endures to all generations.

                        Psalm 100.5 (NJKV)

Essential Knowledge

Psalm 100 calls us to worship with gusto, to shout for joy, worship with gladness, and sing joyful songs. It invites us to meet God with praise and thanksgiving, because He’s good, His mercy knows no end, and His truth outlasts time. It’s a short poem—only five verses long, its admonitions comprising the two opening verses and the two closing ones. Nestled between them in verse 3, however, we find a marvelously concise definition of “His truth:” “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” It seems too basic to demand much thought. Yet the Psalmist doesn’t insert the verse as a passing recognition of Who God is and why He’s worthy of worship. If that was the case, he’d say, “The LORD is God,” and leave it at that. He says, “Know that the LORD is God, know where you came from, and know who you are.” This is essential knowledge not to be treated lightly.

Who Is God?

We know what God looks like, because He created us in His image and likeness. Therefore, how we choose to “see” Him can’t be wrong. God has no gender (despite grammatically defaulting to the masculine for neuter personages). He has no genetic ethnicity, orientation, traits, or physical features because He has no origin. He always was. John 1.1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Since nothing preceded Him, He inherited no identifiable characteristics. Being none of the things we envision Him to resemble, He’s all of them. So I imagine a patient Patriarch. You see a nurturing Mother. Someone else pictures an awesome Being—for lack of a better analogy, something like an “all-powerful Oz.” We’re all correct. Yet the vast diversity of how God is seen doesn’t alter the truth of Who God is. That remains the same for everyone. That’s what the Psalmist urges us to know.

“God is spirit,” Jesus tells the woman at the well, “and his worshipers must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4.24) When we pray or meditate or worship, it’s vital we look past the God we “see” to reach the God we know. His true nature defies description and boundaries of space, time, and logic. Thus, we approach God fully prepared for Him to respond in atypical, extraordinary ways. He receives our praise as only He can. He hears our prayers in their entirety, understanding every word—including those left unsaid by conscious omission or inadequate insight. He filters our requests through His infinite knowledge and inscrutable wisdom. And His actions flow out of a bottomless reservoir of unconditional love. “Oh, the depth of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” Paul writes in Romans 11.33. We need to know the Lord is God.

Who Are We?

The Psalmist answers this question without qualification. We are God’s handiwork. “It is He Who made us, and not we ourselves.” This truth is double-edged, slicing through self-doubt on one side and cutting down pride of self on the other. God created us as He desired us to be, shaping our makeup for His pleasure and purpose. Eons before our biological conception, each of us existed in His mind. In Jeremiah 1.5 He says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart.” We must never mistake our Maker’s creative process for improvisation. He doesn’t need to throw things together on the fly, since all creation waits at His command. What’s more, God isn’t an “idea guy” who comes up with a concept and walks away. He’s a hands-on Creator Who pays obsessive attention to every detail. That’s why we have no business doubting who we are or allowing others to denigrate how we’re made. If we or anyone else is displeased with us, all complaints should be directed to the Manufacturer—Who, by the way, never fails to accomplish His intentions.

We take pride in our making while checking any notions we’ve made ourselves. Our job is realizing everything God created us to be, not creating something to boast about on our own. Just as we know a Chagall mural or Rodin sculpture when we see it, our authenticity—physically and spiritually—rests on God’s inimitable signature. In Isaiah 43.7 God identifies us collectively as “Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.” Family and friends call us by our given names, but our Creator knows us by His name. He brands us to offset any confusion about belonging to Him. We are His people, the sheep of His pasture. We need to know who we are.

Human progress spawns perishable truths. As each generation’s understanding increases, previously sacrosanct knowledge gives way to new discoveries—the flat world becomes round. This produces a lamentable side effect. No cherished belief is immune to debate and doubt. For example, America’s Founders built their nation on certain “self-evident truths,” including universal equality and inherent rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But it appears these ideals aren’t as obvious today, when ‘round-the-clock, point-and-click dismantling of long-held ideas raises uncertainties about truth. While our truth shifts over time, God’s truth endures because He endures. He is God. He made us. We are His people. This is truth that lasts. Knowing it does not—and will not—change changes our perceptions of Who God is and who we are. It changes us.

The truth of Who God is and who we are never changes. Knowing that changes us.

(Tomorrow: Be Sharp)

Personal Postscript: Thank You

I must apologize for taking longer than anticipated to get back in the groove here. My Achilles’ heel is always expecting things to take less time than they require. But I can’t let this moment pass without thanking all of you for your prayers and expressions of support. Just knowing we were in your thoughts gave Walt and me tremendous strength and comfort.

The sorrow of death brought about unexpected resurrection of several torn relationships. Watching relatives who once shunned Walt embrace him with genuine affection and respect was miraculous to behold. Before we left, he said, “Well, at least I won’t have to go back after this.” By the time God finished fixing the situation, however, we came home with plans to return for several upcoming family events. Psalm 30.5 says, “Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” While we can never replace Walt’s mom, God honored His Word—and your prayers—by giving us a new day. We are forever grateful to Him and you for these blessings.


Annette said...

You are good men. God blesses you because of that. I feel blessed to have you in my life.

You will both continue in my prayers.


Tim said...

You're far too kind, Annette. I can only pray and hope we live up to such a generous compliment!

Thank you for keeping us in prayer. Although we made a huge leap, there are many miles ahead and we'll need God's guidance every step of the way.

Peace, joy, and love,