All in the Mind (6)

24 02 2008

I’ve had an American couple staying with us this past week, a lovely couple, warm, expressive and outgoing. I’ve stayed with them a number of times in the past and got to know the people in their church, again nice people, warm expressive and outgoing (mostly). I have been with my friend a number of times when we encounter strangers. He embarrasses me with his warm friendly greetings of perfect strangers – we don’t do that in the UK
 
So there we are two human beings, enjoying friendship but in many ways utterly different in the ways we think – because yes, it is merely a matter of the way we think. He’s expressive and extrovert and I tend towards being quiet and introvert. That’s a personality thing but how much of that is nature and how much nurture is always debatable.
  
When it comes to our leadership styles in church, again we are quite different. He is highly organised and structured and I tend to be much more laid back and let it happen. When it comes to preaching he prefers preparation and order – and so do I, but then I am also quite happy to preach without preparation and notes if that’s what God calls for on occasion, while he would consider that a nightmare scenario. When it comes to his people in leadership, he tends towards control and great planning, while I tend towards leaving my people to express their gifting without me leaning over their shoulder. Yes, we are very different – as we all are. And our differences are also a joy.
   
Those who look in on the church from their positions of unbelief, seem to convey an idea that they expect uniformity, yet that is the last thing they find, if they really look. Differences are, for many people, unnerving. Uniformity is safe, yet the reality is that God has created incredible diversity in this world and we, the members of the human race are equally diverse, and the wonderful news is that the Lord loves each of us with our differences. Those differences of thinking sometimes lead us to differences of spiritual experience. For some of us, belief is a struggle. For others it seems as easy as breathing. Some of us struggle with any outward expression of our piety, but for others praying publicly or giving a testimony publicly seem as easy as walking.
   
I am incredibly grateful that the Bible shows us that God accepts us as we are, that we don’t have to conform to some particular style of thinking or behaviour before He loves us. When the Bible says “God is love” (1 John 4:8,16) it means that He is ALWAYS love; He cannot express Himself in any way other than love. Many people struggle with how this is when you read the Old Testament and some wrongly jump to the conclusion that there must be two Gods.
   
No, I suspect that the truth is part of the way we perceive God and the way God reveals Himself to us, is to do with where we are in life. He’s always exactly the same; the difference is in the way we perceive Him or how He reveals Himself. The challenge therefore, becomes how we view what we find in the Old Testament. I find the signs of God’s love very obvious there so often. At other times I have to pause and reflect on what is going on, but then I come to realise that His different responses are to do with our different responses to Him. Love is selfless, sacrificial, unrestrained good will. That is what God always expresses to each of us, as different as we are.  HOW He expresses Himself is something else – but I’ll leave that until the next time I write. For the moment, will you just accept that God wishes to express towards you this same selfless, sacrificial, unrestrained good will
     

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