Thursday, April 25, 2013

Knowing What is Not

Mom K was lying in bed when I arrived to visit yesterday. She didn't seem to know who I was, though was happy to have a visitor. I had brought my iPad so I could show her the photos of Asherel, Josh, and me transforming the methane pipes on the Greenway into giraffes. She was very interested in the pictures. While having some trouble forming complete thoughts, as the progression of pictures showed the pipes slowly becoming more recognizably giraffes, she said, "Wow. You did a lot of work."
"Can you tell what it is?" I asked.
"It's *not* a zebra..." she said.
I knew she couldn't quite find the word "giraffe" in her muddled memory, but at least she had chosen the correct continent of animals. I showed her many pictures, moving on to family pictures, and by the end of the visit, she knew me again, and promised to pray for her grandson Matt, graduating from law school in a couple of weeks.
"Did you like looking at the pictures?" I asked, standing to leave.
"Yes, I did," she said, her eyes slowly closing.

It's *not* a zebra. As I headed home, I thought of how strange Alzheimers is and its effects on the human brain. Interesting that she knew it was not a zebra, and could remember the word 'zebra', but not 'giraffe'.

Still, sometimes if you know what something is NOT, you have a chance at knowing what it IS. When I returned home, I had an extended Facebook discussion with someone who felt that Christians were such miserable sinners that surely they had no market on understanding God. If they were such failures, then one had to question the truth of their God. Here was a good example of learning what something is not, I thought. There is danger in defining God based on what His followers are not. His followers are not perfect, and will fail, and will disappoint. Guaranteed. But the standard God sets before us is NOT other Christians. It is God Himself. We are to be perfect as He is perfect. We will fail, but that is not because He has failed. In fact, it is because of what we are NOT, that we recognize and need a savior so badly. If we were perfect, we would not need God. I don't know about you, but I am often reminded of what I am NOT, and it points me all the more solidly to who God IS, and what I want to be.

And then I did a word search in the Bible of what God is not. God is not human that he should lie. He does not desire our eternal banishment. He does not despise a broken and contrite spirit. He is not the God of the dead but of the living. He did not reject His people. His kingdom is not of this world, nor a matter of talk but of power. He is not a God of disorder. His word is not chained. He is not unjust. He will not be ashamed to call us His people. He is not a Zebra, either, though I didn't find that in the Bible.

But there was one more NOT in the Bible that is a favorite NOT. When I do not know what to do, my eyes should rest upon God.

2 Chronicles 20:12 (NIV)
Our God, will you not judge them? For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.

Numbers 23:19 (NIV)
God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
2 Samuel 14:14 (NIV)
Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.
Psalm 51:17 (NIV)
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
Matthew 22:31-32 (NIV)
But about the resurrection of the dead---have you not read what God said to you, [32] ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’ ? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”
Romans 11:2 (NIV)
God did not reject his people, whom he foreknew. Don’t you know what Scripture says in the passage about Elijah---how he appealed to God against Israel:
Romans 14:17-18 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, [18] because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.
1 Corinthians 4:20-21 (NIV)
For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power. [21] What do you prefer? Shall I come to you with a rod of discipline, or shall I come in love and with a gentle spirit?
1 Corinthians 14:33 (NIV)
For God is not a God of disorder but of peace---as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
2 Timothy 2:8-10 (NIV)
Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel, [9] for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. [10] Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.
Hebrews 6:10 (NIV)
God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.
Hebrews 11:16 (NIV)
Instead, they were longing for a better country---a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.
Psalm 5:4-5,11 (NIV)
For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness; with you, evil people are not welcome. [5] The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong; [11] But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.

-save a dog-