What Is God Like? – #2

Our granddaughter expressed amazement that 50 years ago we traveled half-way around the world without Google or a cell phone. She illustrates how hard it is to understand something beyond our experience.

If you have never seen a tava, you will give me a blank look if I use it in a sentence. But when I describe it as a thick, rim-less frying pan used for cooking thin, whole-wheat nan over a fire in Pakistan, you may be able to picture it.DSCN1448
We learn of the unknown by comparison with the known. So it is with the invisible God. He reveals Himself by comparison with what we know.

How much does God know? “Look to the heavens…He calls them [stars] each by name” (Is. 40;26). Astronomers estimate that there are a billion trillion stars in the observable universe! He knows each hair on our heads and each bird. (Mat. 10:29,30) David exclaims; “You know me…my thoughts…all my ways…before a word is on my tongue you know it completely” (Psalm 139:1-4). God knows everything! Google isn’t even a kindergarten tool in God’s sight. “How unsearchable his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out” (Rom. 12:22). He knows how to solve your problems and mine!

Where is God? David cries, “Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there;…depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn,…DSCN1541far side of the sea even there your hand will guide me” (Psalm 139:7-10). God is in Toronto, in the depths of the sea, in the farthest reaches of the universe. He is everywhere, multi-tasking, at the same time listening to a prayer in Bangladesh, guiding a puzzled teen in Mumbai, comforting a bereaved mother in Mexico. Yet as a spirit, God has no dimensions. His real presence is wherever we call upon Him. He’s there beside us when we’re lonely and afraid.

How powerful is God? Look at sunrise and sunset. Look at the night stars. “His greatness no one can fathom…Praise him sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars…he commanded and they were created” (Psalm 145:3; 148:3,5). There was nothing and He spoke a word and instantly, all the stars were created. He is powerful enough to meet whatever our need is today.

How has God changed over the millennia? Everything in our universe changes over time. Most deteriorate; giant sequoia, mountains, even our sun and the expanding universe. But Moses saw a strange sight in the desert, a “bush was on fire but did not burn up.” From the fire, God gave Moses His name, “I am who I am” meaning many things, but first that God is not subject to combustion, change, or decay of any kind. (See Exodus 3) Since “I the Lord do not change,” therefore we can be assured that His promises and His faithfulness do not change. (Mal. 3:6) I can trust him as Abraham did.

Upon what is God dependent for existence? We depend on our parents for birth, on oxygen and food for existence; upon gravity for stability. Fish depend on water. Plants depend on sunlight. But God is self-existent, dependent only upon Himself, as His special name indicates; “I am who I am”. “God who made the world…is not served by human hands, as if he needed anythiDSCN1325ng, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else…in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:24,25,28). We depend upon Him for every
breath!

What a God! All-knowing, everywhere-present, all-powerful unchanging, and self-sufficient. And yet He says to us, “I have loved you with an everlasting love”. Can we do more than worship and serve Him with all of our energy?

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Searching for the Unsearchable

Life’s most important goal is to know God. But how? No one has ever seen God. As Paul writes; “To the King eternal, immortal, INVISIBLE, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever” (1 Tim. 1:17).

January SunsetHow then can we know what He is like? In fact, we are told, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How UNSEARCHABLE his judgments and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor…For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever!” (Rom. 12:33-36)

Clearly, neither reason nor telescopes nor atomic microscopes can help us find God. He must reveal Himself to us in ways that we can understand. Something like how an Aussie might describe for us a platypus.

Have you ever seen a platypus? No? The dictionary defines it as “a small, aquatic, Moonlit nightegg-laying mammal of Australia and Tasmania, with webbed feet, a tail like a beaver’s and a bill like a duck.” (Webster’s New World Dictionary)

The dictionary compares a platypus with things with which we’re familiar; eggs, webbed feet, a beaver’s tail and a duck’s bill. This familiarity enables us to visualize this Australian mammal.

In the same way, God has revealed aspects of His character and being by comparison with things in our experience. For example, mountains and stars, towers and shepherds, earthquakes and the sun. Comparisons work well as long as we remember they are limited. The platypus’s bill is not exactly the same as a duck’s bill, nor is God the same as a mountain. Limited though they are, metaphors and similes help us to learn much about God.

DSCN1541How big is God? “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool” (Is. 66:1)? Imagine a being so immense that he sits on a throne set in space and uses earth as his footstool. Astronomers tell us that the observable universe is 91 million light-years across. (A light year is the distance light travels at 186,000 miles per sec in a year. It takes light 8 minutes to travel the 93 million miles from the sun to earth.) As Solomon said, “The heavens even the highest heaven, cannot contain you. How much less this temple I have built”( 1 Kings 8:27)! And yet, although infinite in immensity, as David described in Psalm 139, God is present with His whole being at any point in space. A paradox that sends us to our knees in awe. He right here with me!

How old is God? Consider the ancient mountains; Everest, K2, Rockies, or Alps or even the worn down Canadian Shield. ”Before the mountains were born or youRockies brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you ARE God” (Psalm 90:2) He is before all and will be after all. And yet, there is no becoming with God. Past, present, and future which is so much a part of our lives is meaningless to God who exists in mysterious, everlasting now-ness. “A thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by…[but we are like] the new grass of the morning…by evening it is dry and withered” (Psalm 90:4-6)

In subsequent blogs I’ll continue to ponder the awe-inspiring greatness of Almighty God. In the meantime, what can we do but echo the Psalmist; “Praise the Lord…praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness” (Psalm 150:1,2).

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

The Power of Touch

A few days ago, I was brought to tears by a hug. We’ve been going through a challenging time. Mary Helen struggles to find relief from debilitating headaches brought on by a recent hit to the head. I’ve been frustrated with both knee and feet problems limiting mobility.Walking stick

The person who gave me the hug, inquired about how we were doing. Her empathy, offers of help, and specific questions about our situation, took me by surprise—but gave me immense encouragement. Not a lot of people ask questions or listen well. This woman does and she is younger than my daughter!

I try to keep my emotions under tight control. After all, I’m an Anglo-Saxon man from the era when men were taught to be strong and unemotional. We didn’t grow up with hugs in our home. We certainly didn’t tell each other “I love you”. Aside from my mother’s affection, that’s just the way it was in a home of four boys.

Over the years I’ve gradually mellowed under the influence of church friends and Mary Helen’s more caring personality. Our kids grew up to be more comfortable DSCN1642with hugs and statements of affection. And our grandkids are even more loving. Whenever we leave the home of those nearby, they always hug us and say, “I love you, grandpa; I love you, grandma.” Our first great-grandchild is even more affectionate. We get hugs coming and going!

And to think that I once tried to convince a congregation of huggers that I wasn’t the hugging type. Right after the service, when I mentioned this as part of a sermon illustration, one of the ladies came up and gave me a big hug! I must say that I’m still leery of inveterate huggers, but that act warmed my heart.

There is power in touch. A week or two ago, one of our deacons gripped me on the shoulder as he encouraged me. His gesture expressed his interest and concern. Much more commonly now, without every thinking about it, I touch people on the arm DSCN1641or the shoulder in an attempt to connect. I even parcel out hugs, somewhat grudgingly, I admit.

Words are certainly the most powerful vehicle of encouragement. But there is an important place for a strong handshake or a hug—whatever is encouraged in your community. It is common in many cultures for men to embrace each other once, twice, even three times. Our youngest son, born in Pakistan, insists on greeting me with three bear-hugs! Whether by word or touch, or hug or smile, we all need the assurance that others are interested in us. Concern and connection can often be expressed by touch. Didn’t the Apostle Paul urge Christians to “Greet one another with a holy kiss” (1 Cor. 16:20)?

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Smiling In Adversity

Winter arrived late this year. But inevitably, the temperature plunged and light snow began to fall. After the weather cleared, knowing it might be the last for some time, we headed out for a walk through our park. I was struck by the hardiness of the ornamental cabbage that had been carefully planted by town gardeners. The ornamentals seemed to smile up at me in spite of the nippy temperature.

They reminded me of the cheerful countenance of those who endure severe Ornamental cabbagetrials. Scripture exhorts us to face difficulties with patience and good cheer. However, I’ve often had to rebuke myself for complaining about some difficulty or trial. A sleepless night throws me into a bad mood. Creaky joints make me grumpy. And yet I see so many saints who endure cancer or some debilitating illness or loss with confidence and faith. Currently, our church lists nine people dealing with sickness or surgery plus another five dealing with cancer.

How could James urge us to “consider it pure joy, my brothers whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). That seems so unnatural, so impossible. How can we wring joy out of pain, loss, or persecution? This kind of joy is not happiness which depends on circumstances or some kind of masochistic delight in pain.

James explains how this impossible attitude is possible in the following verses. “Consider it joy…BECAUSE you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4). The joy comes from knowing that the trial is not wasted but contributes to character development. We are urged to embrace a settled assurance that “all things work together for good”.

Becoming a cheerful person in the face of tribulation takes time and grace. I doubt if Paul enjoyed his thorn in the flesh any more than he did being shipwrecked or beaten. He pleaded with the Lord three times to take away his thorn. God responded, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-10). Learning about the sufficiency of grace enabled Paul to gladly accept his weaknesses so that Christ might be glorified in his character development.

Finding joy in adversity require a revolutionary change in what we value in life. As Paul teaches in Romans five, “We rejoice in our sufferings BECAUSE we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance character, and character hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us” (Rom. 5:3-5). Joy in suffering must bubble up from a hopeful, love-filled heart.

Cobourg SunsetWhen we value these qualities that are elsewhere called, the fruit of the Spirit, more than we value pleasant circumstances, good health, and freedom from trouble, then we have a head start on becoming cheerful in trials. This revolution in thinking and values takes place in the heart. Hopeful, patient people are usually joyful people.

Sadly, too often I allow my feelings and circumstances to dictate my attitude. Not good. It shows I have a long way to go on this journey to heaven.

On the other hand, I can’t imagine Job smiling during his excruciating trial. God doesn’t expect us to be hypocritically cheerful. Since Jesus knew pain, He understands if sometimes all we can do is grimace and weep. But, praise God, He helps us to become more joyful and less grumpy and complaining.

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Comfort for a Concussion Sufferer

Mary Helen suffered a painful concussion several years ago. Recently, another bang on the head brought back headaches which seem erratic and very difficult to DSCN1515control. However, through it all, she has found the most comfort from talking to the LORD; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. These were her thoughts as she wondered down a path in the autumn of that first concussion.

Oh, what bliss to be in your presence, Father…To know that you care.

Lord Jesus, you have promised to never leave me nor forsake me. Thank you for reminding me of that today.

05-07-2007-10-12-28-171As I walk this forest path, the leaves are beautiful in their autumn colours—and you’re here with me. Quietly, yet a very sure presence. Sometimes, the path is even and smooth. Other times it goes up and own, and at times is a bit treacherous. Yet, your arm steadies me and reminds me of your presence. The light ahead is a reminder of our blessed Holy Spirit, leading the way.

From time to time, we meet others, who encourage us and even reach out with encouraging words and actions. Does our Father send angels to clear the way or minister to us through individuals along the way?

The journey of life is empty without knowing you’re there, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Forgive me for failing to share this experience of your daily presence and forgiveness; of your love, mercy, and grace which are so very DSCN1507real. I love you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

I haven’t reached the pain-free zone yet, but see the very edge of it up ahead a ways, so I carry on with a bit more strength in my step and stride. (Mary Helen Wright)

“Cast your anxiety upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). “The Lord comforts His people” (Is. 49:13).

The birth of the empathetic Jesus

Christmas crecheMultitudes cry, does anyone understand how I feel? Sadly, when I was younger, I didn’t have a lot of empathy for those who hobbled around using canes. I wasn’t unkind. I just couldn’t relate. I walked fast, hiked, and climbed hills with verve. Aging has changed my perspective. Now I’m the one who hobbles around, sometimes using a walking stick—I still can’t call it a cane. My knees are shot. One knee has already been replaced.

Christmas, the coming of the Son of God as a baby in a manger, is about God expressing empathy for our human condition enough to live 33 years among us. DSCN1493“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet without sin”(Heb.4:15). “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted”(Heb.2:18).

All of us find it difficult to understand those in situations that we haven’t experienced. I remember a conversation in which a friend talked about their antipathy towards cities, Toronto in particular. Personally, Mary Helen and I love both the countryside and the small town in which we currently live. But we also love to immeCobourg Colourrse ourselves in the multi-ethnic nature of Toronto. Hearing different languages, seeing different races— to us this is a taste of what heaven will be like. We can even understand why many prefer the convenience of city life with its transit, sh
opping and proximity to great museums, art galleries, and concert halls.

What of people from other cultures? In today’s climate many have no sympathy for Muslims. With ISIS in the news, we can understand people’s antagonism. Fortunately, we’ve had happier experiences among them. Mary Helen and I, having lived 16 years in an overwhelmingly Muslim country, have more empathy. ???????????????????????????????Most Muslims—the Taliban and their ilk excluded—long for the same things we do: education for their children, economic security, basic human freedoms, and a safe place to live. Let me assure you that most Muslims are as appalled as you and I by the unbelievable barbarity of ISIS and suicide bombers.

It’s human to react, express puzzlement or disapproval of something or someone we don’t understand. For example, few of us understand the conditions under which our aboriginal people live because we haven’t walked a mile in their moccasins. But DSCN1507God understands.

At Christmas God sent His Son among us to save us from our sins, but also to express empathy with our human condition. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Who, being in very nature God…made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness…became obedient to death—even death on a cross”(Phil. 2:4-8)!

So as we read the Christmas story, let’s remind ourselves of the lengths Christ went to so he could empathize with our condition. AndDSCN1496 let’s express a lot more understanding of others—especially as we welcome refugees like Jesus, whose parents fled as refugees to Egypt from the barbarity of Herod.

Have a Christmas full of empathy and understanding!

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1 LinkedIn: Eric Wright )

Rumors of My Demise

Last week I got a startling phone call from a friend, laughing about the fact that I was alive and kicking. Evidently, he had just received an inquiry from a cousin in a neighbouring town about my demise. What!

The newspaper in that town, the Peterborough Examiner, had printed a long and glowing obituary about my writing career. My photograph accompanied the piece.

In the next day or two, both our church office and my son-in-law received calls about my passing.

However, the gentleman they eulogized was not me, Eric E. Wright, but Eric Wright a mystery writer from Toronto who has written a series of books featuring a Toronto policeman.

Oh, the ignominy, or pale glory, of living under the shadow of a popular anderic-fall2 well-known personality. Just the month before, as has often happened, shoppers at a book fair had assumed I was that mystery writer. “Didn’t we see a review of your books in the Toronto paper?” Sadly, no.

Occasionally, I’ve been tempted to enjoy his reflected popularity. In the summer I received an email informing me that I had been the honoured recipient of an award for lifetime achievement–only the second time that award had been granted. For ten seconds I thought, how wonderful! Then I realized it was my nemesis. Augh! I immediately sent back an email declining the honour.

At other times the confusion has been scary. Years ago our bank called up one morning to inform us that we were thousands of dollars overdrawn in our US account. After our initial shock, we realized that it was our most worthy colleague. Fortunately, the bank rather quickly back-peddled when they realized it was the other Eric Wright charging a rather expensive Caribbean vacation to his account.

About the obituary; I phoned the editor and explained the confusion. He profusely apologized for this serious error. Evidently, when they accepted the article from one of their stringers, they just went to their huge online catalogue of pictures and picked an Eric Wright photo. They had actually, printed a review of one of my books in the past. As a consequence of their error, the editor promised to print a retraction with some reference to my ten published books and a link to my web site.

Book collageFinally, I may come out from under the shadow of my nemesis and get some publicity. Mind you, I’m not going to hold my breath—but it could happen. At least I’m in good company. Wasn’t it Hemmingway who said, “The rumors of my demise have been greatly exaggerated?”

(Further articles, books, and stories at: http://www.countrywindow.ca Facebook: Eric E Wright Twitter: @EricEWright1   LinkedIn: Eric Wright )