Sunday, February 25, 2007

Presenting Israel

As I sit here in our church office, I'm thinking about the presentation tonight. We'll be showing a power-point with our photos of Israel and talking about our trip. The idea of presenting the trip, let alone Israel, in one evening is daunting. The country is tiny but huge in history, spirituality and politics. There were so many moments there - moments of intensity and sudden understanding, moments of awe and joy, moments of feeling connected to ancient history and to the here and now. How do we encapsulate all of that?

As I put the photos together they seemed so meagre - meer shadows compared to the real thing. You can see the photo of the rainbow over the Sea of Galillee but you can't feel that cool breeze; you can't turn your head and see where Jesus probably prepared that conciliatory meal for Peter; you can't take in the green of the hills where He went to pray.

But we will do the best we can, and encourage others to make the journey with us next year, so that they too will have many of those moments of understanding and awe and joy.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

God in Our Own Image

God in Our Own Image
By Marcia Lee Laycock

I recently watched an old video called The Prince of Egypt. It’s the story of Moses and the exodus of the Hebrews out of Egypt. Although it is a cartoon version, the creators kept it fairly close to the Biblical account. I have seen this movie several times and there is one scene that never fails to move me – the point where Moses encounters God in the burning bush. When he asks that wonderful question, “Who are you?” God’s answer is at once mysterious and absolute. He says, “I am that I am.”

We know from the Biblical story told in Exodus that Moses responded to God’s call and obeyed His command to return to Egypt and confront Pharaoh. Though he was reluctant, he obeyed. I believe his obedience was in direct relation to His understanding of who this God was. He had talked with Him and the overwhelming affect of that encounter impressed upon Moses that this was the God of the universe, one not to be trifled with. Moses did not have an opportunity to create God in his own image. His perception of God had come from the source.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have that same opportunity. Burning bushes aren’t a common occurrence, even for those who are deeply spiritual. Perhaps that is why we tend so easily to distort the image of God. We see the evil and pain in the world and believe God is cruel and unfair. We don’t get what we want in life and believe God does not love us. We desperately want to live our lives on our own terms, so we create a God who will go along with our plan. We want to live in a world without pain or suffering so we insist God must be a magician who will perform miracles at our command. We want to live comfortably so we espouse a prosperity theology that justifies the accumulation of wealth. We want to justify our actions, so we assign God to our side.

Without a burning bush and the voice of God in our ears, we will create all kinds of gods who are nothing like the real thing. These gods made in our own image may make us feel better for a time, but they are idols and idols never fully satisfy our longing for truth.

So how do we guard against this? How do we get to know the real God?

We do what Moses did. We take off our sandals and acknowledge the holy ground. In humility we admit we don’t know Him very well. We ask Him who He really is and when we hear His answer we fall our faces. We study His word, the Bible. Then, when we hear Him command, we obey.

None of us may ever see a burning bush, but if we humble ourselves and truly seek Him, we will find the true God.

“The humble shall see this, and be glad: and your heart shall live that seek God.” (Psalm 69:32)