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“What if His majesty is not as important to Him as His children are?”

With the news of Nabeel Qureshi’s death, I remembered one of my favorite sections from his superb book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity:

“Or are You Jesus?”

My heart froze, as if indignant at my mind for risking hell.

“Allah, I would never say that a man became equal to You! Please forgive me and have mercy on me if that’s what I said, because that’s not what I mean. No man is equal to You. You are infinitely greater than all of creation. Everything bows down before You, Allah subhanahu wa’tala.

No, what I mean to say is that You, O Allah, are all powerful. Surely You can enter into creation if You choose. Did You enter into this world? Did You become a man? And was that man Jesus?

“O Allah, the Bible couldn’t be right, could it?”

As if on parallel timelines, my lips continued to pray in sajda while my mind relentlessly fought with itself. The Arabic phrase was to be recited twice more before the sajda would be complete. Subhana Rabbi al-ala. Glorified is my Lord, the Highest.

“But how is it conceivable that Allah, the highest being of all, would enter into this world? This world is filthy and sinful, no place for the One who deserves all glory and all praise. And how could I even begin to suggest that God, the magnificent and splendid Creator, would enter into this world through the birth canal of a girl? Audhu billah, that’s disgusting! To have to eat, to grow fatigued, and to sweat and spill blood, and to be finally nailed to a cross. I cannot believe this. God deserves infinitely more. His majesty is far greater than this.

“But what if His majesty is not as important to Him as His children are?”




“Gradually the effect wore off and I made no effort to retain it. I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course.”

Clark

When the sense of something—Someone—beyond natural experiences breaks in on us, what do we do? Here’s what Lord Kenneth Clark did. He was one of Great Britain’s most prominent art historians and authors, and the producer of the BBC television series Civilization. When he was living in a villa in France he had a curious episode:

I had a religious experience. It took place in the church of San Lorenzo, but did not seem to be connected with the harmonious beauty of the architecture. I can only say that for a few minutes, my whole being was radiated by a kind of heavenly joy, far more intense than anything I had ever experienced before. This state of mind lasted for several minutes…but wonderful as it was, [it] posed an awkward problem in terms of action. My life was far from blameless. I would have to reform. My family would think I was going mad, and perhaps after all, it was a delusion, for I was in every way unworthy of such a flood of grace. Gradually the effect wore off and I made no effort to retain it. I think I was right. I was too deeply embedded in the world to change course. But I had “felt the finger of God” I am quite sure and, although the memory of this experience has faded, it still helps me to understand the joys of the saints.

Fanny Crosby, the late 19th-century hymn writer, had a different reaction to a similar experience.

Pass me not, O gentle Savior,
Hear my humble cry;
While on others Thou art calling,
Do not pass me by.

 

quoted in Stuart Babbage, “Lord Kenneth Clark’s Encounter with the ‘Motions of Grace,'” Christianity Today, June 8, 1979, p. 28. Referenced in Tim Keller’s  Making Sense of God, pages 18-19.




Sovereign Over Chaos

When the Book of Psalms speaks about God’s control over the floodwaters, it’s a boast about his control over cosmic chaos and destruction.

Lifeway’s Biblical Illustrator magazine asked me to write an article about how the Psalms portray God’s battle over “the sea.” You can find it here:

(Click the little box with an arrow and you’ll get a large enough image to read the print)




From Gratitude to God

pig_0

I usually open my small-group study for those considering belief by asking what they hope to get out of the course.  One woman’s answer surprised me:

“I want to know who to thank.”

My class is called The Anchor Course, based on the class textbook I wrote with the same name.  As we get acquainted with each other during the first week, one of the questions I ask is what drew them to the study.  Most people express their desire to find something that will give meaning to life, but I remember one woman who gave me a unique answer.

“I have a different reason to be part of this study,” she said.  “I just had a baby, and my life is filled with so much joy.  I want to know who to thank.”

What a profound statement!  This young woman recognized that much of the wonder and joy in her life could not be attributed to anything she had earned.  Perhaps for the first time in her life, she felt an overwhelming sense of what could only be described as gratitude, and for her that implied a Giver.  It led her on a search for someone to thank.

We can be like pigs that came upon apples on the ground:  We can enjoy the sweet things of life without ever looking up to see where they came from.

It’s true that a lot of people experience unfair pain and disappointment, but we are not looking at all the facts if we simply point to the undeserved heartbreaks of life and conclude that an attentive God doesn’t exist.  We have to take into account the undeserved joys of life, too.  When we do, like the young woman with her new baby, we will ask, “I want to know if there’s someone to thank for all this.”

David, the beloved poet-king of the Old Testament, had someone to thank.  In one of his poems, overwhelmed with a sense of wonder and gratitude, he said to himself–

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits.”
     –Psalms 103:2 NASB

This Thanksgiving season, let a heart of gratitude lead you to the Someone you can thank!

(For more information on The Anchor Course, go to www.anchorcourse.org.)




A Good Reminder

Big_Fish_Poster

Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook
or tie down its tongue with a rope…?
Can you make a pet of it like a bird
or put it on a leash for the young women in your house…?
Any hope of subduing it is false;
the mere sight of it is overpowering….
Who then is able to stand against Me…?
Everything under heaven belongs to Me.

Job 41




About Tom

ANCHOR COURSE LOGO Tom Goodman is a graduate of Baylor University and Southwestern Seminary in Fort Worth, and he holds a doctorate from New Orleans Seminary. He has served as pastor in Louisiana, north Texas, and overseas in Grand Cayman before becoming the pastor of Hillcrest Church in Austin, Texas. Diane and Tom have been married since their days at Baylor University, and they have two sons, Michael and Stephen. Tom enjoys scuba diving, watching the latest Netflix DVD with Diane, and chasing mis-hit golf balls.
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