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Posts Tagged ‘J I Packer’

A year ago I would have described myself as a private person. I would have laughed if you suggested that I would soon have breast cancer and be blogging about it.

And yet this blog is not so much about me as about you. Sharing my journey with you gives us a chance to get to know each other better – and that is important to me.

Chapter 3 of J.I Packer’s book Knowing God adds a lot to my understanding of what relationships are like, and especially what a relationship with God can be like. It is headed Knowing and Being Known.

He gives a really useful description of what knowing God involves:

‘Knowing’ God is of necessity going to be more complex than ‘knowing’ another person. Just as knowing my neighbour is a more complex business than ‘knowing’ a house, or a book. . . The more complex the object, the more complex is the knowing of it. . . the position is further complicated by the fact that people keep secrets, and do not show everybody all that is in their hearts.’ (p. 36-37)

And so the quality and extent of our knowledge of other people depends more on them than on us – how much they want to be known.

Packer asks us to imagine what it might be like to be introduced to someone we considered to be ‘above us’ – whether in rank, or intellect, or personal qualities. The more conscious we are of our own inferiority, the more we will feel that our role is simply to respond respectfully and let them take the initiative in all interactions. He continues:

‘But if instead he starts at once to take us into his confidence, and tells us frankly what is in his mind on matters of common concern, and if he goes on to invite us to join him in particular undertakings he has planned, and asks us to make ourselves permanently available for this kind of collaboration whenever he needs us, then we shall feel enormously privileged’  (p.38)

This, as far as it goes, gives an illustration of what it means to ‘know’ God. God honours us by taking the initiative to make himself known to us.

To make it easy for us the bible gives us four pictures that help us understand how we can expect to relate to God

as a son to a father; a wife to a husband; a subject to his king and a sheep to its shepherd.

I find this really helpful. In the most recent part of my journey I have been like a bleating sheep who needed to be looked after and led. At other times a different metaphor would be more relevant.

The wonderful thing is that, according to biblical values, each pictures tells of a God who loves and cares for us.

Thank you so much for joining me on this on-line conversation. Whether you comment or not I value your presence. My journey through cancer is moving forward all the time. I can see us in the months ahead looking back at the highs and lows, remembering the pictures, the stories, the music, the pain and the joy behind them all.  We have so much more to talk about and to explore – and I look forward to doing that together 🙂


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How many of us would dare to say we know God?

Knowing about God is not the same as knowing him. And for many of us a little personal knowledge of God would be worth so more than a great deal of knowledge about him.

Today we place a lot of importance on having a personal relationship with God. And yet how many of us truly know enough about him to have any depth of authentic relationship. We risk creating a god in our own image and attributing human characteristics to him – distant, uncaring, unpredictable, lacking in power. At the end of this journey we may find ourselves disillusioned.

So how much can we expect to know God and have a relationship with him?

Reflecting on my mortality has brought these questions right to the forefront of my thinking. And there on my bookshelf was a copy of J.I.Packer’s classic book Knowing God, published in 1973, waiting for me to have time to read it.

The book is a compilation of articles that were originally published in a magazine. The readers were christian travellers on a journey of faith. The articles are a guide-book to help them understand the landscape and know how to find their way through it. I love a book that includes ‘how to’ – that is just what I need!

Chapter 2 lists 4 characteristics of the people who know their God using Daniel as an example. This is challenging stuff – see how you score . . .

  • Those who know God have great energy for God

Daniel and his friends lived in a turbulent secular time. He was challenged to compromise his faith or stand up for it against great opposition. He and his three friends had energy and endurance to stand firm in their faith, knowing it would be a long, tough battle.

  • Those who know God have great thoughts for God

When Daniel prayed, this is how he addressed God: “ Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his.  He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him.” How we pray tells us a lot about how well we know God.

  • Those who know God have great boldness for God

Daniel was faced with a choice – compromise your faith or accept the consequences. He counted the cost, measured the risk, stood firm in his faith and accepted the consequences.

  • Those who know God have great contentment in God

How anxious would you be if your were thrown into a fiery furnace, or a lion’s den. That must be the ultimate test of our relationship with God. Is it realistic to expect to “not worry about your life”? Daniel and his friends responded to the threat by saying “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If the God we serve is able to deliver us, then he will deliver us from the blazing furnace and from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”

Now here is a question – On a scale of one to ten how would you honestly measure yourself against these characteristics?

J. I. Packer suggests that if you want to know God there are two steps as a foundation:

Step 1 – Recognise how much we lack knowledge of God. He suggests we measure ourselves by how much we pray and what goes on in our hearts.

Step 2 – Seek God. “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart”

So what needs to happen to move us from where we are to where we want to be?

I am on this journey and I would love to share it with you. Please join me – share with me who God is and how you know him.




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