Only God

In the book, “Axioms” by Bill Hybels, he spends a few pages talking about this concept: only God.  Hybels spends most of these pages sharing some pretty amazing stories about the work that he’s watched God do.

Three different things came together to help me kind of get this in my own life.

First off, I’ve been doing my over intellectualization thing, pondering it and chewing over it.  And the thing that occurs to me is that that when we’re looking at big, God-sized things, there’s a few things that somebody might say.

Even if it’s a thing only God is capeable of, they might say, “I can do it.”  This is wrong, in two ways.  It’s wrong as a matter of fact and wrong morally.  It’s an act of idolatry, a replay of the fall at the Garden of Eden.

The second option we have is to say, “God could do it.”  This is to recognize that God is active in our lives, but not required.

Only by putting the two words together, “Only God could do it” Do we recognize that God is not only present, but is in fact required.

As I was chewing over all this, I was reading Judges, Chapter 5.  I wasn’t seeking out a story that explained this principle.  I’ve been taking the wacky bible-reading strategy of starting at the beginning and finishing at the end.  That was where I was today.

The story of Gideon, it’s so very perfect for this idea.  Gideon is called by God to throw off the people who had been opressing Isreal.  He rallies this giant army.  And God says,”Naah, that’s too big.” So Gideon sends off a bunch of people.  And God says again, “Nope, still too big.  Send down everybody to the river and watch them drink.”

Most of them used their hands to drink the river water.  Three hundred of them just bent down and lapped it up with their tongues.

Can you picture that?  Somebody down with their head in the water, dog-like?  Not exactly the behavior perscribed by Miss Manners.

God says, “Those are my people.”  I love that God doesn’t go after the cream of the crop, the hoity-toity, the rule followers.  He goes after the people who just dunk their heads in the water and slurp it up.

Their are only three hundred slurpers.  And this is how God narrows the playing field down.  He sends the slurpers into battle for him.  And they rout the invaders.

The connection here is that God says, “I want to be such a small army that nobody can doubt that it was me behind it all.”

In effect, God says, “It’s not enough that you say ‘God did that’  I want you to say ‘Only God could have done that.'”

And so as a balanced this truth of scripture in brain with the passage of scripture I read, it occured to me that this was an ‘Only God’ moment, on a tiny scale.  Only God could have orchestrated the timing of my contemplating Bill Hybels with my reading of Judges chapter 5.

But on a larger scale, I was feeling pretty challenged this morning.  Disapointments bordering on attacks are coming in on a variety of sides.  I’m happy to say that I responded to this by going to scripture.  In the name of transparency, I’ll confess that’s not usually how I respond to challenges.

But it occured to me that when those water-lappers looked around at each other, and saw that just three hundred of them were going up and against an army, they might have felt some ways I felt this morning, on a much grander scale.  It’s a small comfort, but undeniable.  Perhaps one of the things I can think, as all these challenges move in on me, is that God is setting me up for a rescue as he so often has.  At the end of it, He wants me to declare, “Only God could have gotten me out of that.”

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jeffsdeepthoughts

The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “Only God”

  1. God is not interested in numbers but in the quality of our faith, as has been demonstrated by the action He commanded of sending the army to drink, and then accepting only the minority who lapped up the water like dogs.

    I often wondered what was the meaning of that decal I see on the rear windshield of cars, especially minivans, that says “Only God” in white letters.

    Myself, I don’t hold by decking my vehicle with stickers or decals proclaiming my faith. To my of thinking, that is not a witness—it’s impersonal—and witnessing can never be impersonal. It just seems like a numbers game. “If enough of us Christians slap “Jesus is Lord” stickers and Ichthys fish on our cars, the world will know we’re out there, and that there’s lots of us.”

    So that’s what’s behind the slogan “Only God.”

    What I thought it might mean is, “For me there is only One priority, One ultimate concern, and that is God.” It reminded me of the Bible Study sessions we used to have with our former pastor, Father Jim. He called the sessions, “Only Christ,” and the emphasis was this: That when we met together to study the Word, we each and every one decided ahead of time to put away our own thoughts and opinions, and be ready to hear what Christ Himself, the Divine Word, would speak to us as we read the bible together. Having this attitude had a tremendous effect. There was very little time wasted by people opining and speculating, or worse yet, pontificating. It’s like, when you know in Whose presence you are sitting, at Whose feet (that’s the meaning of session) you are waiting open-eared to hear His voice, like Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus. Those bible studies were the best I’d ever been too. We were really taught by God, not by men.

    The reggae song has this lyric: “Gi’ me a session, not another version.” This is what divides the “Only Christ” from the “Only Man” attitude. To whose voice are we willing to listen, to His, or to our own?

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