God Thoughts (6)

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”     Numbers 23:19

There is such a temptation to make God in our image.  That way He becomes someone we can more easily relate to and try to manipulate.

What? You’ve never tried to manipulate God by promising Him something to get something you want from Him?  “God if you’ll just get me out of this mess I promise I’ll….” (fill in the blank).  We know how to weasel what we want from humans, this doesn’t work with God.

Your relationship with God is unlike any other relationship you will ever have because He needs nothing from you.  There is nothing we can offer to Him to change His mood or to make Him more gracious or forgiving.  He is what He is, to coin a phrase.

This why religion (doing or not doing something to make God happy with us) is an exhausting futility.  God initiates the relationship with us because of who He is not because of what we do.  God reveals Himself to us because He is good, not because we are good.

Once we accept this reality life takes on a freedom and a joy we can never sustain in any other way.  Let’s take religion out of our relationship with God and rest in His grace.

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

“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.

Life as a Good Tree

“So they will be called oaks of righteousness…” Isaiah 61.3

I am struck by how often trees are used to teach us simple, profound truths.

Recently Andrew Murray blessed me with another tree-truth from “The Master’s Indwelling” by suggesting that every oak tree, from the young sapling to the ancient and mighty, is standing in the grave of an acorn. And it requires the acorn to die to being an acorn for the oak tree to have life. The acorn is buried and dies, and from its grave the new life form, the oak, emerges.

When Jesus announced the beginning of His ministry on earth He read from the scroll of Isaiah the passage we find in Isaiah 61. He confidently proclaimed that Isaiah’s prophetic words were about to be fulfilled in Him. God was preparing to raise up “oaks of righteousness.”

But there was a problem – the earth was (and is) full of bad trees. When Jesus said, “…make the tree good and its fruit good…for the tree is known by its fruit.” (Matthew 12.33), He offers an obvious but implausible solution.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” (John 12:24) In this excerpt from the book of John Jesus explained to those who would hear that the death-yields-life principle provides not only the source of a new life form but also serves as the multiplier effect for its abundance, the good fruit.  From the grave of the grain of wheat emerges a plant with many new grains, and new life is multiplied through that death.

How can you make a bad tree good? Better, how does God produce oaks of righteousness from bad trees? He plants a righteous Acorn and out of the grave of the righteous Acorn, Jesus, rise the oaks of righteousness! The nature of the acorn determines the nature of the new oak. The death and resurrection of righteous Christ becomes the new paradigm for the propagation of the new life form, the Oaks of Righteousness, the children of God, the Church.

Paul helps us better understand how God brings this about. “One man died for everyone. That puts everyone in the same boat. He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life…” (2 Corinthians 5.14- 15, MSG)

Let’s finish that verse, Isaiah 61.3: “So they will be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord that He might be glorified.” While we are the beneficiaries of the grace and righteousness God imbues to us through Christ,this whole exercise is not ultimately about us.

Only Father can make a bad tree into a good tree. As Isaiah tells us these oaks of righteousness are “the planting of the Lord.” Having been planted in Christ we each stand in the grave of the Quintessential Acorn, Jesus Christ. We are glorious new creations who, in our unfolding glory, emanate the glory of the Father and His Son. We are blessed to become oaks of righteousness, but it is God’s glory that is multiplied and manifested in each and every one of His oaks as we bear much fruit.

For some crazy reason I still recall from my school days Joyce Kilmer’s poem, “Trees.” Did you have to learn that one? If I may exercise a bit of poetic license, I’ll close with this:

Words are spun by hacks like me
But God alone transforms the Tree.