Musing on the limits of our own understanding of God

Tonight thoughts came to mind about Jesus being unable to perform Miracles in Nazareth, his “hometown.”  My thoughts focused on one possible reason as to why that was the case.  Why is it that a prophet is without honor in his own town?  It comes down to a simple matter.  They think they know him.  They saw him day to day.  They had an idea of who he was and readily dismissed that He could be anything “special” for they saw Him grow up.  They thought they knew him. They had an idea of who this Jesus was, a son of a carpenter, someone who helped them roof their house, or other things a carpenter does before he became known.  So part of the reason that Jesus was not able to perform miracles in Nazareth is that no one sought any?  They thought they knew Jesus. 

Now take that concept and apply it to our own lives and theology and understanding.  It is real easy to reach a point where we think we “know Jesus.”   There are choices and decisions and conversations engaged in because of the understandings and knowledge that we have and it is based on our own teaching and experience.  We fail to fully grasp that our own experience only pertains to a part of who Jesus is.  We fall to fully even accept that our knowledge is always at best “in part” this side of eternity.  Take whatever theological construct and presentation of who Jesus is and there will be much that is accurate but also much that is missing.  So do not settle for your own understanding.  Do not think you have it all “grasped” for in so doing you limit any further growth and settle for a caricature.  

Personally, I am one that can easily fall into the trap of thinking I understand it all. My freshman year in college my mindset was such, there was much I thought I knew.  For me it even, it is easy to communicate in a way of lacking love where my tone or words can come off as arrogant or condescending because it is emphasizing what I ‘think I know” and trying to prove it, rather than sharing simply openly what God has helped me to understand.  So giving a foothold to pride and limiting growth is one trap that can come from what we know. There is another trap as well. We can miss out on some blessing because it did not fit what we know.  Personally there have been moments when reading God’s Word where come across a verse or passage of scripture and respond “has that verse always been there, never noticed it before.”   God has a way of opening our eyes, ears, and hearts to things we have not noticed.  He has a way of deepening our understanding, but we need to not settle for what we think we know.  We need to be willing to test always what we think we know.

Now in saying all this, it is important to know that God has made certain things clear and there are things that are simple to say and write, but yet we fail to grasp the depth and shades of meaning.  Part of the gaining understanding is grasping the deeper levels of things we already know.  God is continually drawing us to deeper understanding of Him, if we continue to engage in fellowship with Him. So, please, do not settle for what you think you know.  Seek God and ask Him to reveal Himself to you in deeper ways.  As the Bible says, “Lean not on your own understanding.”

Now there is another amazing thing God has shown us in the word and given us evidence of.  It is possible to overcome what we think we know and set it aside. We can grow in knowledge and truth and learn who God is more deeply.  The biggest evidence of this is Jesus half-brother James.  He was able to set aside his own knowledge of Jesus as brother and accepted Jesus as redeemer and followed Him.  The result is James had a deeper and broader understanding Jesus and the Father used James to pen words that we acknowledge as God’s words today.  So do not settle for what you think you understand, always seek and ask God to broaden the depth and breadth of understanding, for we can always grow, all of our understanding is in part.  Each of us can do a simple act, ask God to expand our understanding.  Ask God to teach and reveal that which we hold that is partial or faulty.  We can ask God for further wisdom.  If we do so God gives us this promise,  James 1:5 (ESV)  If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.

Cultural Analysis: Timberwolve’s 2008 Draft and Trade

Well this post will be different then the other posts on this blog but I intend that most every post on this site will shed light and reflect on something related to human nature and sin and ultimately point to Jesus Christ the Messiah.  So what is there in the recent Timberwolves actions that can be examined in that light?  Well it shows the effects of a lack of cohesion and an abundance of pride.  It also points to the problems of a lack of accountability.  But first let’s review the facts.

            The Timberwolves are a team that rebuilding.  They are in essence starting over.  They received the third slot in the draft.  They selected a projected NBA superstar in OJ Mayo who reportedly wowed many Timberwolves officials. Fred Hoiberg and Randy Wittman both spoke as if they expected OJ Mayo to remain a Wolf. Fred Hoiberg in fact said “This means we’re keeping him.” (www.startribune.com/sports/wolves/21828189.html?location_refer=Homepage:highlightModules:6) Instead, in a deal after midnight, Kevin McHale traded OJ Mayo and some bad contracts for Kevin Love, Mike Miller and a couple of bit players to match contracts to the surprise of many.  However, given the history of Kevin McHale’s management of the Timberwolve’s is should be as no surprise.

         Kevin McHale has made similar deals twice before.  The first incident was the trade of Ray Allen for Stephan Marbury. It was hailed at the time as a good move and done for “chemistry” reasons.  It initially seemed a wise deal and Garnett, Gugliotta, and Marbury were seen as cornerstone players that would lead the Timberwolves to much greatness.  Well the chemistry wasn’t there and the trade is now seen as disaster and Kevin Garnett has won a championship with Ray Allen as a teammate. 

            The second trade was two years ago with the Brandon Roy and Randy Foye swap.  Right now on paper it look to be a huge mistake with a blossoming star player traded for a serviceable player.

            And now we have this trade.  NBA pundits have proclaimed OJ Mayo to have the potential of an NBA superstar.  The same has not been said for Kevin Love.  The primary description of Kevin Love as a basketball player is that he has a high basketball IQ and sees the game well.  It is said his high basketball IQ makes up for shortcomings such as his speed.  So why did Kevin McHale trade for this player.  Simple, it is because he sees himself in Kevin Love.  Kevin told Mr. McHale that he has patterned his game after Mr. McHale. 

            In reflecting upon these actions it comes down to a matter of pride. Mr. McHale it seems appears to think he knows better.  He had the authority to make the move and chose to over-ride his coach and his potential future replacement.  Clearly he has made such moves in past that cost the team dearly.  He is able to make such a move because he has no real accountability. The team owner, Glen Taylor simply will not fire Mr. McHale. He can do as he pleases.  It shows that there is no real cohesion in management.  Mr. McHale simply does what he wants, regardless of input from others. Mr. McHale even displayed a lack of communication. It strikes me as prideful, selfish, and arrogant.

           Granted, Mr. McHale may end up proving right in terms of the benefit of the team but his track record says differently.  It seems to me he traded a superstar for a three point shooter and a McHale wannabe.   Mr. McHale does what is right in his own eyes.

            In applying this to life, how often in make choices and decision do we simply do what we think is right in our own eyes.  How often do we ignore the advice of others?  How often do we do exactly what Mr. McHale has done with this trade? I would argue frequently. 

We all at some level try and build our own kingdoms and do what is right in our own eyes. We ignore what we don’t want to hear and do what we think is best.  We are all prideful and arrogant and selfish.  We all need Jesus Christ to break us free us from ourselves. We need to all accept Jesus as Messiah and take the gift of his payment for our own selfish choices.

One other aspect worth noting is that part of how the Timberwolves got into there situation is two fold: Trying to take a short-cut, and accommodation. 

The Timberwolves took a short cut in skirting league rules with the Joe Smith contract.  The attempt backfired and cost them multiple draft picks.  Joe Smith is not even a brilliant player. He is serviceable. He had a good relationship with Kevin Garnett however, and so Glen Taylor and Kevin McHale tried to take a short cut. 

We can learn from this that it doesn’t pay to take short cuts.  When we do, we do so at future risk. The bible is filled with the examples of people taking short cuts and doing great harm that last generations.

Then I want to add in the danger of accommodation.  Mr. McHale displays a firm belief in accommodating his star player requests.  Marbury, Joe Smith, and many other mistakes were all made to accommodate Kevin Garnett. Accommodation always comes at a cost and usually the cost ultimately leads to destruction.  We can think accommodation is peace or leads to peace. We can think it will lead to cohesion, but accommodation is but illusion.

What are your thoughts on this matter? I would appreciate any comments you have regarding my commentary. And examine yourself, where are you making choices based on your own prideful assessments Is there any way you are engaging in short-cuts?  Where and what  are you accommodating in your life? 

Answer to Big Brown at Belmont: Lesson in Humility

This past weekend the whole world was shocked as the amazing horse known as Big Brown failed to not only win the Belmont but came in dead last. Obviously pundits are at a loss for such a dismal and mysterious failure. Reasons speculated for the dismal failure range from his hoof injury curtailing training, the lack of steroids having an effect, or simple jockey error. However, each reason if looked into has come up lacking sufficient explanation.
For me the answer is straightforward, pride. The trainer Rick Dutrow JR. was on record prior to the race that the results were a “foregone conclusion.” He intimated that there was no way Big Brown could possibly lose. When I read such a proclamation prior to the race I actually prayed for a loss because the comment reeked of arrogance and pride. It is my firm belief that God directed the horse to not win as a lesson to us all on humility.
God created us with talents and gifts. Some are mightily gifted and on most occasions could easily defeat all comers. However, no matter what gifting, no matter what talent, no matter what superiority, anyone on any day can be defeated. Our talents and gifts are just that, talents and gifts. Victory today can turn into defeat tomorrow.
So next time you notice yourself full of pride over something you have done or accomplished, thank God for giving you the ability. Every good and perfect gift comes from above, and ultimately we are just stewards of the gifts and talents God has bestowed.