Acts 7:44-53 – God is God, and I Am Not

throne of heaven

The tent of testimony was with our ancestors in the wilderness. Moses built it just as he had been instructed by the one who spoke to him and according to the pattern he had seen. In time, when they had received the tent, our ancestors carried it with them when, under Joshua’s leadership, they took possession of the land from the nations whom God expelled. This tent remained in the land until the time of David. God approved of David, who asked that he might provide a dwelling place for the God of Jacob. But it was Solomon who built a house for God. However, the Most High does not live in houses built by human hands. As the prophet says,

Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
‘What kind of house will you build for me,’ says the Lord,
‘or where is my resting place?
Didn’t I make all these things with my own hand?’

“You stubborn people! In your thoughts and hearing, you are like those who have had no part in God’s covenant! You continuously set yourself against the Holy Spirit, just like your ancestors did. Was there a single prophet your ancestors did not harass? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the righteous one, and you have betrayed and murdered him! You received the Law given by angels, but you haven’t kept it.” (CEB)

In the doldrums of summer’s heat and humidity and the uncertainties of what is to come in the autumn season, it is a good time to remind ourselves of where we are in the Christian Year. When a long and difficult season comes upon us, whether in secular or sacred time, it may be far too easy to lose sight of what is important.  We have come through Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter, as well as Pentecost.  With the giving of the Spirit, we have entered Ordinary Time.  A healthy way of remembering this period in time is that, in this longest season of the Church Calendar, it is the ordinary vocation of each Christian and every Church to grow in Christ and share the good news of Jesus with the world.

Yet, we forget. The vicissitudes of this life and a penchant for hand wringing can easily take our eyes off our calling from the sovereign God.  Like the ancient Israelites for whom Stephen railed against in our New Testament lesson for today, we might become stubborn, hard-headed, and inflexible. We get lost in doing things our own way to the neglect of what God wants. When that happens, there is damage to God’s people, God’s name, and God’s law. Rather than tongues being used for praising the Lord and encouraging others, God’s prophets who are calling us to holiness are verbally decapitated. Ironically, those who speak and act in the name of the Lord are resisting him.

Every time individuals and groups of people believe they have piously figured everything out, they will soon find themselves fighting against God. The Lord of All has not called us to figure out every mystery and nail down each uncertainty. Those who claim to have done it are living in a delusional world. Perhaps they will eventually discover how large and immense God really is – much bigger than our puny thoughts and misguided practices.

Village Church

How then shall we live? What are we to do?  Let go of our illusions of power and privilege. Submit afresh to the Lord for whom we must bow in all things. If we can do that, then we are well on our way to seeing the only true God in all his immensity. Humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God and set aside self-righteous pride so that he may exalt and honor us at the appropriate time of his choosing, not ours (1 Peter 5:6). Take up our holy calling as Christ’s ambassadors, having become new people and knowing the reconciling power of the cross, through the proper spiritual tools of faith, hope, and love (2 Corinthians 5:17-21; 1 Corinthians 13).

The following practices can help us become more spiritually flexible and open to the Spirit’s work:

  • Stretch your faith muscle. Physical muscles which get little to no use will atrophy – which is why people who are confined to bed or with limitations need physical therapists to help work the muscles. Spiritually, if we are rarely or never in positions which work our faith muscle, then that faith will diminish and eventually atrophy. Faith is not static, but dynamic. It needs to be worked.
  • Breathe deeply. Proper breathing is essential in using our bodies. The same is true spiritually. Fear, worry, and anxiety cause us to have shallow breathing and unable to think straight. When we are amped-up about something, focus on doing some breath prayers, i.e. breathing in saying, “More of you,” and breathing out saying, “Less of me.”
  • Avoid extreme positions. A hyper-extended muscle will tear and cause a lot of damage. An acceptance of limitations and an awareness of our body’s true capacity prevents us from trying to do something our body simply cannot do. Our faith will not support extreme positions which alienate people and put God to the test.
  • Move more. Getting in bodily shape does not have to be dramatic and involve triathlons (but, hey, if you can work your way up to it, more power to you!). Most of us simply need to get out of our chairs and move a bit more and we would be a lot healthier. Faith is mostly lived in the mundane daily decisions of life. Consistently taking small steps of faith each day will go a long way toward our spiritual health and vitality – not to mention helping us see a big God at work.
  • Listen, do not ignore. It is always best to listen to your body— only push it as far as it can handle, even if it is little by little. Many people would be better served if they would just listen to their gut and the spirit God put within them – rather than pushing themselves and others beyond what they can handle. Behind the attempt at doing too much is typically an issue of wanting the kind of control God possesses.

To do the will of God, we must have a growing awareness and knowledge of a huge unlimited God and a small limited self. This will take loosening up on the stubbornness and opening to greater flexibility. In doing so, we bless both God and the world, while discovering our true calling. And, we might just discover the largeness of grace operating in our lives.

Holy God, heaven is your throne and the earth your footstool.  You cannot be kept within any one church or any single place.  You are much too big for that!  Forgive me for my small thoughts of you and my weak faith.  I humble myself before you so that you can live in and through me for the sake of Jesus.  Amen.

Ezekiel 1:26-2:1

            Our view of God determines our view of life.  A small view of God limits our lives in what we can be and do. Seeing God as little more than wishing for people’s obedience through paltry sacrificial oblations only makes one wonder if God is really able to do much in this world.  But if we have a very large view of God, then there is nothing he cannot do or accomplish in his great big world.  So huge is God that the earth is merely his footstool.
 
            The prophet Ezekiel was given a very grand, majestic, and large vision of God in his majesty and royalty.  The glimpse of God which Ezekiel received was so immense that the prophet struggled to put it into words.  Indeed, God is so huge that he cannot be contained or even described by mere words or language.  Now this is the kind of God which Christians serve:  a God so colossal that, like the prophet, it causes us to fall prostrate in the face of such enormous glory and holiness.  Although we must seem very small in God’s eyes, yet he still notices us.  “Stand on your feet, and I will speak with you,” said God to Ezekiel.
 
            Unless we have a staggering and realistic sense of God’s towering massiveness we will wallow in life’s vicissitudes as if they are giants we cannot overcome.  It was Jesus who said that it only takes faith the size of a mustard seed in such a God to command mountains to move, and they will obey.  It is not the size of our belief that matters, but where that faith is located.  And if it placed rightly, in the gargantuan God of the entire universe, then we can ask anything in his Name and it shall be done. 
 

 

            Holy God, you are grand and worthy of all glory, honor, and praise.  Who am I that you should notice me?  Yet, you have called me and spoken to me.  I only want to be found full of faith and obedience each and every day you give to me through the power of your Holy Spirit, in the Name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.

Psalm 39

            God is a pretty big God.  He is big enough to hear whatever is on our hearts.  It really does no one any good to have pretense with God.  The psalmist initially thought he had to hold back in speaking with God:  “I was mute and silent; I held my peace to no avail, and my distress grew worse.  My heart became hot within me.  As I mused, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue….” The psalmist goes on to speak openly and honestly to God about what was really on his heart and mind.
 
            Sometimes we might get the mistaken notion that we need to be guarded with God – that somehow we should treat him like we do with other people – coy, hesitant, keeping a respectable distance in conversation.  Maybe that ought to happen sometimes with other people, but it is silly to approach God in such a manner.  With God, we ought to be brutally honest about how we are really doing and how we are actually feeling.  God is not going to move mountains for us if we aren’t willing to admit there is one right in front of our faces.
 
            I’m quite sure that God has literally heard it all from people in the long millennia of human existence.  He isn’t going to be surprised by any of our thoughts and words.  So, why hide them?  It may be a radical thought to say that we can say anything to God and express our deepest emotions to him, but it is nonetheless true.  God wants to help us move along in this pilgrimage of faith we are on, but he will only do so if we are up front with him about our current location.
 

 

            God of the Ages, you are above all and know all things.  Hear my prayer, O LORD, and give ear to my cry; hold not your peace at my tears!   I am a sojourner with you, a guest, like all my forefathers.  Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!  My hope is in you; without your abiding presence I am nothing.  Come, Lord Jesus, come.  Amen.

Psalm 104:1-9, 24, 35b

            My kids grew up in the ‘90s watching Veggie Tales.  The tunes were catchy and full of some solid truth about God.  One of their favorites was “God is Bigger.”  Here is the chorus:
 
God is bigger than the boogie man.
He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV.
Oh, God is bigger than the boogie man,
And he’s watching out for you and me.
 
            Today’s Psalm expresses the bigness of God.  “You are clothed with splendor and majesty, covering yourself with light as with a garment, stretching out the heavens like a tent.”  God is big – bigger than anything and everything.  He is Sovereign over all his creation, and does what he wills to do.  He sees all and watches over his people.
 
            Sometimes we get lost in our situations, problems, and screw-ups and view them as larger than life.  We can become so overwhelmed and burdened with our inabilities, weaknesses, and lack of handling things well, that we lose sight of the reality that God is bigger than it all.  Instead of being afraid, I can allow sound theology to purge the anxiety and trouble from my mind and heart.  Using this psalm to pray and praise God is a foundational way of beginning to put into perspective the issues and problems of our lives.
 

 

            God Almighty, you are big and strong.  My problems are really small as I glimpse your sheer immensity.  O LORD my God, you are very great!  Bless the LORD, O my soul.  Praise the LORD.  Hallelujah, Amen.