Tag Archives: Knowing

About Knowing

About Knowing (CaD Ps 141) Wayfarer

But my eyes are fixed on you, Sovereign Lord…
Psalm 141:8a (NIV)

When I was a child, I went through all of the religious rituals associated with the church to which my family were members. My parents had me baptized as an infant. I attended Sunday School and Vacation Bible School. I sang in the children’s choir. I participated in, and volunteered to help with, social activities hosted by the church (including the annual “Christmas bazaar” which I remember being a really big deal in my little kid perception). When I was thirteen, I attended confirmation classes and learned what the church believed. I took the test, agreed to accept the terms of membership, and then received my certificate and my own personal box of offering envelopes.

What I came to realize a year or two later was that all of the ritual, participation, knowledge and cognitive assent to a belief statement had relatively little effect on my motives, my thoughts, my words, or my actions. Knowing about Jesus was not the same as knowing Jesus and being in relationship.

That contrast came to heart and mind in the quiet this morning as I meditated on the text of today’s chapter, Psalm 141. There is little doubt that the editors who compiled the anthology of ancient Hebrew song lyrics, that we know as the book of Psalms, were deliberate in putting Psalms 140 and 141 next to each other. They bookend each other well. Both are ascribed to David and both of them feature a lot of physiological metaphors. The biggest contrast is that Psalm 140 uses the physiological metaphors to describe an unrighteous person:

  • stir up war in their hearts
  • sharpen their tongues
  • poison on their lips
  • hands of the wicked

Psalm 141, uses physiological metaphors to describe a righteous person:

  • a heart that refuses evil
  • hands lifted in worship
  • a guard on one’s mouth
  • a door on the lips
  • a head that receives accountability
  • eyes fixed on God

As I mulled over the contrasting descriptions, it reminded me of being a young man and realizing that having a membership certificate to my local church, knowledge of basic beliefs, and dutifully participating in ritual had not translated into making a difference in my self-centeredness, my selfish behavior, my relationships with others, my actions, or my words. I was a egotistical, selfish little prick much of the time. I knew that I could play a good game, but I was also really self-aware enough to know that there were ugly things at the core which needed to change. I knew about the things Psalm 141 describes, but an honest self-examination and moral inventory revealed a person more like what Psalm 140 describes.

So, about that time I stopped just knowing about Jesus, and I decided to seek to know and follow Jesus in a very different way. It’s definitely been a forty-year process and spiritual journey. In the quiet this morning I find myself mulling over the person I would be today had I not made that decision. I can only imagine a grown-up version of the young man with ugly things at the core. An arrogant, egocentric big prick with a sharp tongue, and a heart in turmoil.

I’m not perfect by any means, and I could point you to a person or two who I suspect might tell you I’m still an arrogant, egocentric prick. I have my ugly moments. But oh, how worse it would be had I not discovered the contrast between knowing about Jesus and knowing Him.

Chapter-a-Day Acts 17

Boy-with-binoculars
Boy-with-binoculars (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“His purpose was for the nations to seek after God and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him—though he is not far from any one of us. For in him we live and move and exist.” Acts 17:27-28a (NLT)

According to a survey cited in the Washington Post, 92 percent of Americans believe in God, a Universal Spirit, or Higher Power.

This isn’t a shock to me. It fits with my own experience through life’s journey. I have come to realize that most people, if not all people, have an inherent awareness of God’s existence and presence around them, even when they can’t quite understand it or wrap any kind of definition around it. Even when I talk to one of the eight percent who profess not to believe in God, I often sense that their unbelief springs out of a rebellion or reaction rooted in spiritual pain or injury caused by religion or misguided religious zealots.

Paul was tapping into this same awareness as he stood in Athens and observed the diverse religious activity around him. He realized that with all of their religion the people of Athens were feeling their way towards God, acting on the awareness of God’s presence all around them. Even today churches are filled with those who are feeling around, trying to find God and grab on.

Jesus said that we will find Him if we seek after Him with all of our heart. I’ve come to understand that the crucial question is not if we believe in the existence of a Higher Power. Most, if not all of us do in one form or another. The more crucial question is: “For what (or whom) are our hearts truly seeking?”

Chapter-a-Day Jeremiah 36

“Starting right now, I’m going to teach them
Who I am and what I do,
   teach them the meaning of my name, God—’I Am.'” Jeremiah 36:21b (MSG)

I played on the worship team in church yesterday morning. Between our rehearsal and the service, I struck up a conversation with one of the other musicians. We’ve played together a handful of times and have been around one another in church for years, but we really don’t know each other. We struck up a conversation. It was the “get to know you” conversation. He asked about me and what I do. I asked about his family and his background. It was a brief conversation, but a good one. We moved from being around each other into getting to know one another. I’m the richer for it.

It’s easy to forget that God desires a relationship with me. It’s not about being around God, the things of God, or even the people of God. God wants me to know Him personally, and wants me to let myself be known to Him in return. You can live your life being around God and never that step into the “get to know you” conversation.

I can be at church with a guy week after week, play on a worship team with him, hang around the same social circles, and run into him on occasion in the community and still not know him.

God could be that guy.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Flickr and luix90