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Madness in the Bible

Here’s a paper I’ll be reading at the Southwest Regional Meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in Houston March 2-3.

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




“Those drops of fellowship were not—had never been—his to withhold”

saunders

 

Did he still want to live?

Yes, yes, oh, God, yes, please.

Because, okay, the thing was—he saw it now, was starting to see it—if some guy, at the end, fell apart, and said or did bad things, or had to be helped, helped to quite a considerable extent? So what? What of it? Why should he not do or say weird things or look strange or disgusting? Why should the sh– not run down his legs? Why should those he loved not lift and bend and feed and wipe him, when he would gladly do the same for them? He’d been afraid to be lessened by the lifting and bending and feeding and wiping, and was still afraid of that, and yet, at the same time, now saw that there could still be many—many drops of goodness, is how it came to him—many drops of happy—of good fellowship—ahead, and those drops of fellowship were not—had never been—his to withheld.

Withhold.

Don Eber, a character with a terminal diagnosis who had decided to end it all, and then changed his mind. From George Saunders’ “Tenth of December.” Get his short story collection here or read the one short story free here). Probably the best argument against euthanasia I’ve read, and in a literary context.




Meet Elroy

blog-el-roi

Do you need a reminder today that God is your Elroy?

Of all the titles given to God in the Bible, this one is most insightful. Come to think of it, insightful is really the best adjective, because this title for God means “God sees.”

In the Bible, we’re taught this name for God not by a prophet or a theologian but by a pregnant teenage slave girl named Hagar. When she fled from unfair treatment, God’s angel met her in the wilderness and strengthened her. She exclaimed, “I have now seen the One who sees me,” and from that moment she called the Lord by the name “El Roi”—“God sees!” (Genesis 16:13)

I wonder if she was drawing from her cultural background when she said that. She was raised in a culture that valued cats whose keen eyes enabled them to keep rats out of the dark granaries so essential for life. In fact, I’m told that the eyes actually glow in the stone idol of the Egyptian goddess Pasht (“Cat”) on display in in the Louvre Museum in Paris. The ancient craftsmen highlighted the eyes with some phosphorescent material as a way to emphasize the visual power of their goddess even in the dark. The artwork is dated a little before the time of Hagar.

It was the Lord that Hagar met in her wilderness experience, not Pasht. But when she described the significance of that meeting, what she valued was God’s ability to see her in the darkness of her troubles. So far from home, suffering an intolerable situation, she met a God who said, “I know what you’re going through.” And she exclaims, “I’m not alone! I have met El Roi, the God who sees me!”

The story of God’s dealings with Abraham is the main plot of Genesis 12-23, not Hagar. And yet in Genesis 16 there is this gracious side note about God’s dealings with his wife’s Egyptian handmaiden. And because of that side note, you and I have another title to call God: El Roi.

When I’m praying with someone in crisis, one of the phrases I tend to use is, “God, show us in large ways and in a hundred small ways how you are walking with us through this experience.” Maybe you need to pray that right now, and then look around for how God is going to answer that prayer. May you see the One who sees you!

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When You Face a Force Reduction

Loss

Have you lost something you felt was absolutely necessary for your happiness, self-worth, or security? Will you look for God to show up precisely there?

Of course we want to ask, “How can that be? How can a layoff or a hospitalization or a romantic breakup be preparation for God to show up?”

Gideon must have wondered that. After all, in Judges 7, God ordered him to reduce his troops over 90 percent before going into battle. And it wasn’t like he had a lot to begin with. When Gideon rallied Israel to join him in a battle against 135,000 Midianite invaders, 32,000 responded: That’s a 4-to-1 disadvantage. But then God directed Gideon to trim the fighters down to 300: That’s a 450-to-1 disadvantage! This was the number God used to win a mighty victory for Israel.

From time to time God will separate us from the things we depend on so that we can learn to depend solely on him. It’s a severe mercy, because some of the things we depend on are very dear: physical attractiveness, health, financial security, a parent, a partner. The odds of making life work without these things may seem as high as the odds Gideon faced without his troop numbers.

But Gideon found that God’s curious force reduction was just preparation to see God’s wondrous work. His story is repeated today. When you experience some sort of heartbreaking “force reduction” in your life, trust that God can use that very experience to display his glory.

The Apostle Paul discovered that God showed up strongest where Paul was weakest. When he wrote about this discovery in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10, he concluded, “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”

Look at the words he used: Boast. Gladly. Delight. We don’t always use these words when describing God’s “force reduction” in our lives. Not consistently; not yet. We may be more like Gideon, who lurched unsteadily forward toward this truth. But at least forward is the right direction!

I covered this in more detail in a recent sermon. Check it out.

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Cross-posted at hillcresttogo.blogspot.com




#WeAreN

Arabic Nuun

Iraqis start painting “we are all Christians” on their homes and buildings after ISIS mark Christian homes and business with the arabic letter “n”, which stands for the word “Nasrani” meaning ‘Christian’ in Arabic.

#WeAreN




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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