Thursday, February 18, 2016

Painting an Invisible God

I want to paint a picture of an invisible God, but unfortunately, I don't know how to paint. I'd want it to be a vibrant painting, full of colour and substance, to display God's stunning character. In fact, I'd want it to portray God the same way King David so wonderfully described Him in Psalm 36...

Your mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens;
Your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the great mountains;
Your judgments are a great deep;

Lord, You preserve man and beast.
Psalm 36:5-6 (NKJV)

I would paint the heavens beyond the clouds so that they were filled with beautiful radiant light to display God's measureless mercy. As you gazed upward, your view would be filled with glorious colours. It would be too much to take in just standing there. You would need to crane your neck back and turn your head from side to side as you spun around gazing at the heavens, and even then your view would be restricted by the horizons all around, which God's abounding mercy would lavishly spill beyond, stretching infinitely in all directions. Oh how I want God's love and mercy to be that enveloping and compelling as I live for Him!

I would want the sky from the earth to the clouds to be its own delightful colour to display God's faithfulness – a special hue as the dew of heaven filled the atmosphere, faithfully falling upon the land. To stand in its midst, you would soon be as wet as a morning meadow in springtime, with innumerable beads of liquid love covering you from head to toe. The sky beneath the clouds would practically sparkle as the moisture in the air gently descended. That is the atmosphere I want to live and move in so that I'm forever saturated in God's great faithfulness!

And there would be mountains. Strong, awe-inspiring, immovable mountains of God's righteousness, so high there'd be clouds amidst their lofty peaks, looking as though they had stood there forever and would forever remain. It would be a mighty mountain range that would leave you feeling small, but a part of something vast and amazing. You would know that the pinnacles of those mountains were far too high to conquer, but that with help, you could explore the beautiful and ever-rising slopes. I'm so grateful Father that You clothe Your children in the righteousness of Jesus, but also that Your majestic holiness will forever be beyond compare!

A great sea would also be a part of the painting, with powerful waves on the surface of deep waters – deeper than anyone could ever explore. There would be great mystery in those depths, unknown plans and untraceable judgments. Staring into those clean, clear waters, one would find some clarity near the surface, but the deeper waters would be impenetrable, reflecting no light and giving no answers. It's such an encouragement that the mercy and faithfulness of God are visible above that daunting sea, but I would want those waters to be no other way, for God's thoughts are far beyond ours, and His wisdom is so much greater than the wisdom of man. 

David goes on further with his imagery in verses 7-9 speaking of a river and a fountain and of God's house in the midst of it all. That's the wonder of all this: this awesome God wants to be very near to us. He wants to make His dwelling place right in our hearts so that we can enjoy Him in His awesome splendour every day on this earth. 

That's why the painting I described above would never be something to put on display, but rather, it's meant to be an illustration of something to be lived! I don't feel fully acquainted with every vista I've just described, but I want to grow increasingly so as I follow the God who lives in my heart and whom David portrayed so poetically.

© 2016 by Ken Peters

Friday, February 12, 2016

Just sittin' here, enjoying the Lord!

I've been off work for nearly 50 days now, and at times, it has felt like a prison sentence. You'd think I'd enjoy such a long break! That just hasn't always been realistic while dealing with the symptoms of the pneumonia and the endocarditis I was diagnosed with. But even as the meds I'm on have helped to improve how I feel, I've still felt frustrated that I can't be working right now. 

On my eleventh day in the hospital in early February, I texted the following to a friend: "Day 11. Still no word on my sentence. A little mouse has begun to visit. I am glad to share my meager portions with him. I think I may have found a way out of here. My plastic spoon is able to remove the rotting wood from beneath the broken sink. But it may take weeks. I will not give up."

I'm home now, and recently as I was shuffling around the house, the Lord suddenly spoke to me amidst my struggles with being off work for so long. What He said was quite simple: I want you to enjoy Me.

I'd been focused on working. The Lord was focused on our relationship. And He wanted me to enjoy our relationship. Amidst my discontent, it was that emphasis on enjoyment that got my attention. Then later that morning, I turned to Psalm 31 as part of my Bible-reading schedule, and it didn't take long for the Lord to reinforce His message to me. King David wrote, "I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul" (Psalm 31:7). Amidst his troubles (afflictions that the Lord knew all about, but hadn't prevented from happening to David, even though God loved David dearly), David chose to rejoice and be glad in God! That's because David knew all about God's affection for him, regardless of the circumstances. And that awareness is abundantly clear in the declaration David made later in the psalm, and which leapt from the page as I read it: "Oh, how great is Your goodness..." (v.19a)!

The Lord was clearly wanting to send me a message! "Whatever your troubles, whatever your frustrations, whatever your distractions to do with work, I want you to enjoy Me, and My abundant goodness is available to you even now!"

In my weakened state, my work-focused mindset seemed more inclined to declare "Oh, how great is the work I feel I must be doing for You!" What a contrast to Psalm 31! The work I wanted to do clearly wasn't something the Lord felt I needed to be doing, because just as in David's case, He hadn't prevented the afflictions that were now hindering me. It then began to dawn on me that the work I was so eager to do was more important to me than it was to God! I wondered if that was because I thought I needed to be busy working just to please God. It's as though I thought my good deeds were necessary to experience God's goodness. And God was gently turning all that thinking upside down.

"Oh, how great is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear You, which You have prepared for those who trust in You in the presence of the sons of men!" (v.19). Is my trust in how hard I work or in how much I accomplish? Or is my trust in the great work that Jesus accomplished on the cross so that God's abundant goodness is freely available to me as I make Jesus Lord of my life? 

I know that choosing the latter is much more likely to result in me enjoying the Lord, as He has affectionately invited me to do in this season. And that is exactly what I intend to do!

© 2016 by Ken Peters