Only faith gets us there

To reach one of my favorite destinations in Maine, I must cross two bridges. The first is a towering, sleek, impressive, and relatively new suspension bridge. It is supposedly a marvel of engineering, one of only three or four such spans in the world. Still, even before it is in sight, I can feel my body tensing, knowing that bridge is just down the road. It’s scary. True, I could find another route, but that would be the long way ‘round.

The second bridge is old. It is downright frightening as you approach—you come round a bend in the road and there it is, going straight up into the sky ahead of you. You cannot see the other side; it appears that you are simply going to climb up something like the first hill of a roller-coaster and then …who knows what awaits on the other side of that incline? It’s a rickety, peeling-paint bridge; you can actually see the cables shivering when trucks cross. I have no choice but to cross that bridge if I want to get to the island. There’s no other road that leads to my destination.

God’s Word lays out a sure and solid bridge of hope that we can know our Creator. He’s built that bridge as a gift to us. True, sometimes it can be scary and we can’t see every step of the way. But it’s not rickety or outdated or in need of repairs. He says He wants us to know Him and He’s created the bridge to do so.

Yet there’s one necessary thing we must do—Our faith must move us forward to cross the bridge.

God tells us, time and again in Scriptures, that this bridge will get us to our destination.

In the Old Testament, He constantly reminds His people that His purpose was for them to know Him. He was near to them, waiting for them to come to Him (see Deuteronomy 4:7). To those who come to Him and reverence Him, He will be a friend, teaching them how to live (see Psalm 25:14). And the many words from Isaiah and the other prophets that simply say, “I’m waiting. Come. I want you to know me.”

Then Jesus arrived on earth. He said He came to show us God. He came to do away with any obstacles that stand in our way of coming to God. “He has given us understanding so that we can know the true God. And we know we live in fellowship with the true God because we live in fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 5:20).

And then Jesus, in human form, left the earth.

This is the most amazing thing to me—His Spirit still lives here. Within God’s children. And the Spirit is what connects us to God and enables us to know God. In our earthly friendships, we talk about kindred spirits; this is a Spirit connection like no other! It’s another gift of grace–a bond with our Creator. This is the how we can know the Almighty God. The Spirit shows us things we could never “see” or understand with our finite human minds.

Of course, that’s all pretty intangible stuff. It takes faith to believe all that.

It is only faith that moves us forward over the bridge of this hope—to know our Creator, the Almighty God.

But when we do move across that bridge of hope, then oh! the intangible becomes so tangible!

“Oh, that we might know the LORD!
Let us press on to know him.
He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
or the coming of rains in early spring.”
(Hosea 6:3)

Because He says “I want you to know me.”

 

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

Can we know God? Will we know God?

In the middle of the night, unable to sleep, she sat up in bed and said aloud, “God, if this is you speaking, I don’t care. I’m going to do it anyway.” She had her heart set on a plan of action. And she did follow through with it. In few short months, her plans had brought her to disaster.

The second important word in learning to know God is the word choice.

We’ve probably all made the accusation—or been the target of the accusation—of selective hearing. We hear only what we want to hear. And we tune out those things we’d rather ignore. I think it’s a malady we all share.

Scriptures show us many times that humans have simply shut their ears to God.

The LORD says, “I was ready to respond, but no one asked for help.
I was ready to be found, but no one was looking for me.
I said ‘Here I am, here I am!’ to a nation that did not call on my name.
All day long I opened my arms to a rebellious people.
But they followed their own evil paths and their own crooked schemes.” (Isaiah 65:1-2)

Do you hear the heart of God? I was ready to respond…I was ready to be found …I said ‘Here I am’…I opened my arms…

God wants us to know Him.

He extends to us the gift, the offer, the grace of knowing our Creator.

The next step is ours. Listening to Him. Seeking to know Him. Then we’ll discover that He shows us the path to Life (with a capital L) and that His presence in our lives brings a fullness of joy. (see Psalm 16:11)

Sometimes we skim over those well-known words. Today, as I typed them, I thought of the joy we take in our cherished human relationships. We have those people in our lives whose friendship enriches and blesses us. Losing those friends subtracts some of life’s joy. The friendship of God in our lives brings a joy like that—except that this joy is complete, far beyond anything we will ever find in earthly friendships.

Chapter 65 of Isaiah, quoted above, goes on to describe the richness of life for those who have searched for and found their Creator.

Some of God’s words to His people:

“I would not tell you to seek me if I could not be found.” (see Isaiah 45:19)

“If you look for me wholeheartedly, you will find me.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

“I did everything I could to show you my faithfulness…” (Micah 5:5)

Jesus promised that those who seek will find.

James reiterated it by encouraging us to come close to God “and he will come close to you.”

Our Father is constantly ready to respond, ready to be found, saying Here I am, and opening His arms.

The next step is ours

 

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

The gift of knowing God: Pure Grace

So how is it that our hope can believe in what seems impossible? How can we hope to know the Almighty Lord of the universe?

Everything hinges on three words: grace, choice, and faith.

Today, contemplate grace.

Grace is the word we’ve chosen to describe something that is really beyond description: it is God’s kindness and blessing bestowed upon us even though we don’t deserve it.

It is not based on our merit or our abilities or our accomplishments or our track record. God’s kindness to us does not come out of anything we are or have done. It comes solely out of God Himself, out of who He is.

This is the whole story of the Bible, the story of God’s offer to us, an offer we have not earned.

God, the one and only God, the Creator, the forever King of heaven and earth, said to His people thousands of years ago and continues to say to every generation:

“You have been chosen to know me, believe in me, and understand that I alone am God.” (Isaiah 43:10)

His grace has made the choice; He will be known by His creation. At the same time we stand in awe of Him, He offers us a relationship in which we can learn to know Him. Think about it. He could have created and stepped back and left His creation to whirl through the universe. Instead, He comes to each one of us and says I want you to know me.

Every hope we have sits firmly on this bedrock of grace. Every single thing we’ve meditated upon for these last 8 months is an offer, a gift from God, that we do not deserve.

And the greatest of those gifts is to know Him.

 

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

“I want you to know me.” (Repeated, for emphasis!)

Show of hands, please. How many of you have read at least one book on relationships? There are, of course, countless books about the age-old efforts of the sexes to understand each other. And then there’s advice on business relationships, parent-child relationships, “how to handle difficult people,” and advice on friendship. The possibilities go on and on.

Once upon a time, at a much younger age, a girlfriend and I were browsing a bookstore. One book we found sent us into uncontrollable giggles. The title, Everything Men Know About Women, was too, too tantalizing. We had to pick it up and browse through it to check if the author really knew what the title claimed he knew. It’s still available and touted as “the most comprehensive understanding of men’s knowledge and understanding of the opposite sex.”

Flipping open the book, we found blank pages. From beginning to end.

It seemed funny to us then. Now, I’d probably react differently. I think it makes a sad statement.

We grope about like blind people wandering unknown streets, trying to understand each other. Trying to know each other and let ourselves be known. And our difficulty in relationships is not limited to the differences between men and women. Even the best of friends sometimes travel bumpy roads.

Yet here is Almighty God, the Creator of the universe and the great King on the throne who comes to us and says,

I want you to know me
more than I want burnt offerings.”
(Hosea 6:6)

A lot of us have worked very hard at the “burnt offerings.” We’ve tried to be obedient to a long list of rules, we’ve followed the rituals of worship, we bring offerings of money and time to the church.

But more than all of those things—He wants us to know Him.

How can we ever understand God? We who have so much trouble just with our human relationships? We spent all of last week thinking about an Almighty whose thoughts and ways are so far beyond ours. How could we expect to know Him?

Yet that is what He wants.

I want you to know me.

Can that happen? How is that gonna happen??

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of God’s answers to our questions, but today, bask in this fact — The God of the universe wants YOU to know Him.

 

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)

“I want you to know me.”

There are different types of knowing. Of course, you know that.

Having just finished an edit of a book about one man’s hike of the Camino de Santiago, I know quite a bit about that pilgrimage trail. But I’ve never set foot in Spain. I don’t really know the Camino as the author knows it. He’s experienced it. You could even say he’s had a relationship with it.

God wants us to know Him in a “relationship knowing.”

Knowing in this way is far more than having a grasp of the facts. Some languages have two different words for know. One means “I know about someone or something.” The other means “I know it personally.” Our English language limits us in this case. We have to add an extra word or emphasis to convey exactly what we mean. I’ve sometimes been asked if I know a person, and my response has been, “I know who she is but I don’t know her” with a big emphasis on the second know.

The English grammar teacher in me is on the loose today, throwing around all these knows. It would be so much easier if we had two different words. Unfortunately, we don’t.

But you see what I’m getting at.

God wants us to know Him, not just know about Him.

Remember that the demons Jesus cast out knew who He was. But they weren’t pals. And although I can’t find Scripture to prove it, I’m pretty sure that God wants us to know Him in a completely different way than the demons knew Jesus!

To a people who had pretty much told God they wanted nothing to do with Him, He still said,

“I want you to know me.” (Hosea 6:6)

Yes. Those were His words even to people who had treated Him with contempt. That’s the whole story of the Bible—the Almighty God saying to His creation, I want you to know me.

The Lord of the Universe says that to us, as in our psalm prayer this week.

“Come,” the Creator says. “Come and talk with me. I want you to know me.”

To my hope, that’s pretty amazing.

And my heart responds, “Lord, I’m coming!”

 

 

 

Psalm Prayer:

My heart has heard you say, “Come and talk with me.”
And my heart responds, “Lord, I am coming.”
(Psalm 27:8)

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© Elaine Starner 2015 Photo credits: Thanks to Claire Pridgeon, Paul Stutzman, Lana Turner, and Mary Jane Smith for sharing photography I’ve used on this site. (Click on each name to see more.)