God Thoughts (4)

“Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;  who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin…”  Exodus 34.6-7

There are believers who think of God in a schizophrenic way.  The God they know from the New Testament is kind of cool, but the God of the Old Testament is someone you mostly want to avoid!  What does that say about Him?  Has He evolved over the thousands of years we read about from Genesis to Malachi?  Did He grow up over the millennia?

When we think that way we are creating God in man’s image.  In case you didn’t realize it, that’s backwards!  It is man who is predictably undependable, not God.  God’s character is the unattainable standard against which all thoughts, words, deeds and lives are measured.  This is an important aspect of His glory.

When Moses asked to have a glimpse of God, to see God’s glory, He told Moses up front that he wasn’t man enough to handle seeing the full Monty of God!  This came to be understood as a sure prescription for death!  Was Moses suicidal or did he just want to know better the one he was dealing with in the person of God?

When God decided to arrange for Moses to have a peek at Him, what Moses experienced is a compassionate, gracious, patient, unfailingly loving, unflinchingly trustworthy, accepting, forgiving God!

That sounds to me a lot like the God of the New Testament.  Here’s why: “Jesus Christ (God) is the same yesterday (the Old Testament) and today (the New Testament) and forever.” (Hebrews 13.8)

Since God doesn’t change we must change our thoughts about Him.  That’s one big reason why Jesus came to live and die on earth.

God Thoughts (3)

“…whom I have created for My glory.”  Isaiah 43.7

I’m thinking I’d like to dwell on this idea a bit longer.

Here’s why: As image bearers of God we have a vital function, an enormous privilege really, that nothing else in the created order can pull off in the same way we humans can.  I think it means that in some way we must “look” more like God or must “be” more like Him than anything else in creation.

Because the core of our being is spirit, you and I have the innate potential both to experience and to manifest God-likeness.  In doing this we are most fulfilled personally and we fulfill our created purpose.  In this one simple scenario we bless God and are blessed by Him and His glory flows on earth.  Life need not be more complicated than this.

Why then is life often anything but simple?  One of us, Adam, thinking he had hit upon a shortcut to glory, introduced the world to sin.  Since early creation this adversary has worked to mobilize multitudes into disappointment and death.  Our God-imaging ability was hijacked to serve sin.  Without understanding sin’s adversarial bent against God and His glory, we will never understand the loss of human glory nor the perplexities of life on earth.

The Gospel is the good news that God sent Jesus, also one of us, to defeat sin and to break its tyranny over humanity.  Now, in Christ, the privilege of revealing God’s glory is restored to us.  Through His resurrection life in us we can be that God glorying creation and life can become simple again.

For to me, to live is Christ…”  Philippians 1.21

God Thoughts (2)

“…I have created for My glory.”  Isaiah 43.7

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard or read Isaiah 43.6-7, the passage I quoted last time.  Although I don’t remember when I first came across the idea that God put us here for His glory, I do remember thinking that the quote above was about me or us trying to do things that made God happy or made Him look good, and that this must somehow be the point of the Christian life.

Today I shudder to think I could have been so wrong!  I now realize that the way I thought about God then is what drove my misunderstanding of how to live the Christian life.  It just illustrates how important it is to let God show us His true self, the very thing He has willed to do all along.

You see when God creates something or someone, that creation by nature is an expression of God’s glory.  As a painting reveals the skill and the mind of the painter, God’s creations reveal much about Him. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  (Psalm 19.1)  God puts His glory in His creations thus enabling them to glory God.

So when we consider “space” – the heavens, the sky – and are overwhelmed with the magnificence or glory of it, take it one step further and consider the One who created it.  How utterly Magnificent is the One who created something as magnificent as space!

Now remember that in Isaiah 43.6-7 God is talking about us, His sons and daughters created by Him and bearing His image.  He has made us to be glorious creations which gives us the power to glorify Him.  Only creations made glorious by God’s creative work can glorify Him.  We, you and I, can do this because God put that into us.

The simplicity of this is brilliant and deeply liberating when we come to realize that we don’t have to try to figure out what we can do to make God happy or make Him look good.  Like the heavens and the sky, we make Him look good as we learn to be just what He created us to be, the glorious high point of His magnificent creation.

What do you think?

God Thoughts

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.”  AW Tozer

Eventually, at some point in our walk with God, we must ask Him “why”?

This is not the “why” of disappointment with God or of moral failure on our parts or of persecution or suffering.  Any child can react to life’s realities and feel entitled to seek an answer for his discomfort or disappointment or debility.

This “why” is deeper and comes from the core of our being.  It is the existential “why” of wanting to know the reason, the purpose or the place our lives are meant to fill.  Yes, this is the “why am I here” question.

Sometimes we all want a diagram showing the way things really are with everything drawn out to scale and labeled and with a big “You Are Here” arrow that points to a spot on the diagram that shows our location and our connection to all the other pieces.

The Bible offers us this:

Bring My sons from afar And My daughters from the ends of the earth, Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made.”  Isaiah 43:6-7

God says we were created for His glory.  If this is so, then we are here for a purpose much bigger than ourselves.  When we begin to get our minds around this idea as the very best answer to the deeper “why” question, all the other lesser “whys” are answered as well.

I hope you’ll walk with me through this process of renewing and redeeming our God thoughts so we can experience more fully God’s will for our lives.

This Bears Repeating

Oswald Chambers just had a way of nailing it. So today’s post pays honor to his insight. From My Utmost for His Highest, June 23:

He is . . . a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief —Isaiah 53:3

We are not “acquainted with grief” in the same way our Lord was acquainted with it. We endure it and live through it, but we do not become intimate with it. At the beginning of our lives we do not bring ourselves to the point of dealing with the reality of sin. We look at life through the eyes of reason and say that if a person will control his instincts, and educate himself, he can produce a life that will slowly evolve into the life of God. But as we continue on through life, we find the presence of something which we have not yet taken into account, namely, sin— and it upsets all of our thinking and our plans. Sin has made the foundation of our thinking unpredictable, uncontrollable, and irrational.
We have to recognize that sin is a fact of life, not just a shortcoming. Sin is blatant mutiny against God, and either sin or God must die in my life. The New Testament brings us right down to this one issue— if sin rules in me, God’s life in me will be killed; if God rules in me, sin in me will be killed. There is nothing more fundamental than that. The culmination of sin was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, and what was true in the history of God on earth will also be true in your history and in mine— that is, sin will kill the life of God in us. We must mentally bring ourselves to terms with this fact of sin. It is the only explanation why Jesus Christ came to earth, and it is the explanation of the grief and sorrow of life.

Into Christ Jesus

Why do we make such a big deal about the water?

Some dear new friends of ours were baptized in the Tennessee River today, a young couple both newly enthralled by God’s grace. It was a beautiful day. More like early fall than early June. They invited friends with kids and asked our pastor to do the ceremony. We gathered near a place where they could step just off the shore into hip deep water. I had glimpses of the Jordan River as I remember it from our study time there. I could picture them standing there. I enjoy baptisms and this one was extra special.

When Paul tells us so clearly that the action God completed in the wake of our faith is to place us into Christ Jesus (Romans 6.3), why do we quibble over whether sprinkling, effusion or immersion is more appropriate as a symbolic way of affirming our new relationship with Him? How wet we get has nothing to do with the nature of our new lives does it?

Surely it is about what it means to be in Christ rather than how much water was required to perform the ritual of baptism. The baptism that counts is the one accomplished by God when He puts us into Christ Jesus the living water. All the benefits of reconciliation and justification and being alive come from our position in Him. And in Him it’s not merely our heads or even our bodies that receive the washing of baptism. In the Living Water our entire beings are shocked awake permanently never to be the same again.

Oh I have my preference about the mode of water baptism. Yet even immersion fails to fully capture the radical nature of what it means to be thrust into the Living God. All the modes are good as far as the purpose they serve. But the point is what they represent, the real thing. The real thing is the new creation (Galatians 6.15).

That’s why I love baptisms.

Wasting Away

I had one of those “wasting away” (2 Corinthians 4.16, ESL) experiences today.

I’m trying to gather things I’ll need for the July Poland mission together ahead of time. (See sidebar.) While trying to choose some socks at Stein-Mart I noticed that the printing on the labels all of sudden resembled the view through a kaleidoscope rather than simple English type. I know what that means for me now that I’ve been through it numerous times – migraine!

It’s crazy really. For years my wife, Sandra, suffered with migraines that knocked her flat for a day or two. We asked both God and the Docs for help for so long and then – sort of all of a sudden as well – it was solved for her. But some time later I began to experience that kaleidoscope-vision-experience and the headache that follows it. My experience isn’t nearly as serious as Sandra’s was, but still it is a hassle and it has been strangely more frequent lately. It stands out for me as stark evidence of the wasting away reality none of us can avoid.

From the moment of conception our biological clock starts ticking down those seconds from the personal allotment we each have to draw (Psalm 139.16). Time is such an unfriendly escort along the earth journey. Each heartbeat, while it sustains us, also takes something from us. And aging is such an affront to our sensibilities we become vulnerable to the same demons that haunted Ponce De Leon, or worse (Botox?).

Why is it so? Simply because we weren’t made for this. We are like fish out of water or butterflies in a petrified garden, dying to taste the saltwater and the nectar of life. Life is what we were made for and this environmental deprivation we must live with for now only heightens our awareness that things are not right in this world. We groan or whine at that awareness or we draw hope from it.

Even now as the pain begins to seep deeply into the core of my brain where it will reside and percolate for the next 36+ hours, I coach myself to stand firm in the hope, that anchor in the storm. I tell myself that it’s all about wasting away. The more this vessel wears away, the closer I get to full experiential disclosure of abundant life.

Thank you, wasting away. You are making room for more of eternity!