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In the movie Sneakers (think 1992), a band of "criminals-gone-good" is coerced by secretive government agents into stealing a "black box." Going to great lengths, they do indeed retrieve this box, only to discover what it actually is. This box can break any cryptography ever invented. With this device, previously incomprehensible gibberish comes to striking clarity. The world is suddenly accessible with the ease of merely connecting the right wire. The group was thrown into awe at the sheer power they had before them.

It reminds me of a similar awe I experienced when stumbling upon the clarifying power of my own "black box." A man incessantly eaten up by anxieties and cloudiness found an interpreter suited for the most complex cryptography imaginable. The Holy Spirit illuminated Genesis 1 to me.

Let's be honest: counseling is cryptic. When someone comes to you with a flood that mixes flesh with Spirit, lies with truth, manipulation with honesty, helplessness with pride -- where do you go? How do you proceed? What exactly do they need? And how exactly are you supposed to help if you even knew? Peoples' stories tend to take us for a ride, and we can lose our bearings.

Take a moment and read Genesis 1:26-31. I see God telling us in nine different ways that we are to make Him known.

  1. Let us make man in our image
  2. after our likeness
  3. let them have dominion [because God has dominion]
  4. God created man in his own image
  5. in the image of God he created him
  6. male and female he created them [united trinity]
  7. Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth [God fruitfully multiplies]
  8. subdue it
  9. have dominion

Every last item in this list roots itself directly in who God is. He rules powerfully, generously, and wisely. He overflows, multiplies, and spreads. From this, by statement and by command, God leaves us no doubt about our one reason for existing. We exist to make God known. This is it: the reason for it all. Even creation itself exists to show God off (Psalm 19). God needs to be seen.

I can't describe the rest, clarity, and even creativity that this gives me in counseling. Joe comes to me with an incomprehensible flood that leaves my head spinning -- until I remember my reason for existing, until I remember the reason for existence itself. Joe needs to see God. I need to show God off. Everything else roots itself in this.

Suddenly, a complex, impersonal world of competing theories on behavior, motivation, and change falls away. A black box takes its place. My source of counsel is now rooted in one simple, personal question: Who is God? Because of the Holy Spirit, I have ready access to the answer (1 Cor. 2), so I never need to fret. From this wellspring flows the rest and clarity I desperately long for. God must be seen for who He is, and through Jesus, He has renewed my ability to show Him off.

Posted by Matt Norman with


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It came up in redemption groups recently that “behold” is a bit archaic. So, if I could swap it out with just one other word, that word would have to be “fantasize.” For many, that word is tainted to connote something sexual. But it simply means to daydream. It means to play a little movie in your head and to melt over it. It’s something we do nearly incessantly. Pay attention to your thoughts and think about what “movies” commonly occupy your own mind. I wonder if any other activity we do better exposes the direction of our worship than fantasizing.

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.
My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.
(Psalm 63:1-5)

Near death with thirst and then finding water. Fainting with weariness and then resting. Searching desperately and then finding at last. Dying of hunger and then feasting on rich food. King David is not informing you of facts to gain your nod of assent. He’s inviting you to join him: to drink, to rest, to find, and to taste! Fantasizing involves our thoughts, our hearts, our drool, and our physical posture. True beholding cannot merely be inward thought. It is imagination, engaging emotions, and tangible expression either aloud or written.

I firmly believe that a moment-to-moment practice of fantasizing over God is foundational for wise counsel. We do it so instinctively about everything else, and yet it seems unnatural with God. But scripture is filled with stories, pictures, movies, and gut-level analogies like food and water. It’s all a call to join: to taste and engage. As we considered last week, your worldly fantasies can give you ideas of how to fantasize about God.

This discipline is filled with delight. It’s like God “commanding” Israel to rest and feast. Seriously, did that really have to be a command? It turns out that it did because Israel disobeyed resting and feasting quite often. Well, God commands us to rest and feast as well, often in fact. Will we forsake cheap entertainment and sinful preoccupations in order to rest and feast?

In daily life, we suffocate sin as we proactively engage fantasies over God’s nature, promises, and actions. Doing this often in everyday life is where we’ll find sinful desires losing their influence and Godward desires raging outward. It’s God’s power at work in the gospel we behold. Without this, those you counsel probably won’t get very far.

Posted by Matt Norman with

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