Another art adventure: I once asked a group of 6-year-olds to draw pictures of things you cannot take to heaven. Then I said, on the other side, draw things you can take to heaven.
When I asked a group of adults to do this, the adults balked. “Is this a trick question? You can’t take anything to heaven,” replied one man. “I can’t draw,” sidestepped a mom.
But the kids did not hesitate!
One boy exhibited his crayon work, saying, “I can take mommy and daddy and brother and my friend TJ.”
A girl explained, “These hearts mean I can take love to heaven.”
The Surge offers a new program for life groups. It draws me in! But I admit that at first I had, ahem, adult hesitancy.
Here’s how it goes. Among other activities, each group member silently reads an assigned Bible passage and asks simply, “What does this make me appreciate about God?” Then the members share.
Now, asking, “What does this tell me about God?” has been part of my reflections on the Bible and life, pretty much forever. However, this was just one of several questions I asked myself. In a thirty minute session, this particular question has tended to get, oh, about ten seconds of my attention.
But big advantages exist in sticking to this simple question, “What does this make me appreciate about God?”
In his book, Your God is Too Small, J.B. Phillips lists over a dozen problematic images many people have of God: God as Policeman. God as Santa Claus. God as Lazy Landlord. God as Capricious Tyrant. Now, granted, pretty much any expression of an idea about God will be inadequate to the reality. Dialogue is one technique to help me at least puncture the deadly complacency that I have “God in a box”, as Phillips puts it, the presumption that my perspective of God can't be improved.
Still, I worry about approaching the Bible or anything with a limited toolkit. I once received a gift, a popular Bible Commentary titled, What the Bible is All About, by Dr. Henrietta Mears. Dr. Mears asked of every passage this question: “What does this tell us about Christ?” Consider the first five chapter subtitles in What the Bible is All About.
Hmm. I thought Exodus was about God through Charlton Heston leading the Jewish people out of Egypt, and no small task that. Finding Jesus in every chapter of the Bible struck me as the limited view of just one blind man. Extracting Jesus from every chapter would require the obsessive allegorization in which medieval Christians indulged. So I was skeptical about any “one question fits all” gimmick. However, I found that this Bible study through a monocle has precedent. Jesus treated the Bible this way! "And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.”
Paul would have liked Dr. Mears. Speaking of Christ: “For all the promises of God find their Yes in Him.”
There's another neat thing about asking, “What does this tell me about God?” I can ask this not just for Bible verses, but for the verses of my life. My answer must sometimes be, “I don’t know just now what this situation tells me about God." But I’ll be better for pondering the question.
A favorite booklet of Christians for many years, The Practice of the Presence of God, tells how Brother Lawrence appreciates God all the time, even while washing dishes. It opens with these lines:
The first time I saw Brother Lawrence was upon the 3rd of August, 1666. He told me that GOD had done him a singular favour, in his conversion at the age of eighteen. That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which has never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased in above forty years that he had lived since.
Thanks to Emily for highlighting the question, “What does this make me appreciate about God?” It surely isn’t the only good question one can ask of the Bible and life, but for me it is a question to ask as often as I can.
Postscript! Emily emphasizes that the question she asks is not, "what does this tell me about God?" but rather, "What does this make me appreciate about God?" Happy is the one who progresses from seeker of propositions about God to appreciator of God's love applied to this world. Read Emily's book online: Enough Already
At The Surge we love doing things together... that includes writing a blog! Here are a few of our main contributing authors:
Our fearless leader, Dwaine is the lead pastor at The Surge. His experience in counter terrorism with the CIA prepared him for ministry and he likes dogs and babies even more than E does.
E (short for Eric Reiss) is the Wingman at The Surge and likes dogs, music, Mexican food, his wife Karen and his little girl Evangeline... not necessarily in that order.