Is God What You Expect Him To Be?

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I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me, that people may know… I am the Lord, and there is no other. (Isaiah 45:4-6)

The context of this verse is the prophet Isaiah describing how Cyrus, the King of Persia who would rule 150 years later, was going to be used by God to direct the path of His chosen even though he was not a follower himself. It goes to show that God will use all things for the good of those who love him. Your Heavenly Father will use the faithless to be examples of a Godless life, and that sin and evil to convict us leading us back to the joy found in His goodness. God created all things and even those things that are found in the darkness of this world can point us back to the light of Jesus. Many things that we know are not of God are meant to straighten our walk, allow us opportunities to show God to that situation, and develop our spiritual maturity.

There are many times when believers put up emotional and spiritual barriers to keep the fragile joy they cling to intact. It’s that kind of believer that leaves the lost feeling rejected or unworthy. The things that are being blocked out are potentially tools from God to grow faith, compassion, and wisdom. The joy found in Christian isolation is not what God has in mind. That isolation stunts growth and reduces the reliability on God for that joy. Isolated joy is fragile and conditional, Heavenly joy is the light that should not be hidden when set upon a hill. Don’t build walls so high that we miss God or Godly opportunity in all things. Don’t let the ugliness of the world tarnish the opportunity be a reflection of the Holy Spirit.

Look and be amazed at all of the ways God shows you His glory and all of the unexpected ways He gives you and opportunity to grow. Don’t live in a box of expectation and try to place God in there with you. Remember that the Pharisee  had an image of the Savior and how He would act, then killed Him when He didn’t fit their expectation.

 

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28)

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[ they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

Did God Create Evil?

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In a word: Yes!

Have you ever heard the question of how could God allow evil to exist? The simple answer is that evil would not exist without God. A verse sprung this thought into existence, or should I say allowed a way to put a big concept into words. I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the Lord, who does all these things. (Isaiah 45:7) What this says to me is that evil would not exist without good, darkness would not exist without light, joy would not exist without sorrow. How would we recognize one without the other? Darkness is nothing without a reference. Darkness is simply the absence of a real thing, in this case light. Cold isn’t real on its own, it is again the absence of another thing, heat. God is the source of all good and created the light of our world. The absence of Godliness in this world is where we become aware of evil and darkness. The fact that God exists to bring us light, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control is the only way that the opposite can exist as the world turns from is creator. So yes, God did create evil by existing and offering His glory to His creation. He also created free will and allowed us to choose to walk in His light or turn from it and suffer in darkness. God is not evil and His hand does not create the harshness of this world. Those things exist when a hardened and sinful heart falls into pride and rejects the light. God seeks to hold your hand as you reflect His light into the darkness in the earth. He wants you to walk in His presence for all eternity in Heaven. Heaven also has a counterpart: Hell. Hell is simply the absence of all things that God offers. We can never say anyone is sent to Hell by the same concept. Hell belongs to those who reject God and His glory. That decision is simply honored and they are given that wish for eternity. Hell exists because people chose to have a life without God and in turn are allowed to live in that desire. If we remove God, we have Hell; which this world resembles more and more as it falls into selfishness and pride. Be the light, reflect God’s goodness, shine your light on the path that leads to Jesus, and know that turning from darkness leads you into the arms of Jesus Christ.

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control (Galatians 5:22-23)

If The Jesus Fits

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                I sat in church on Palm Sunday and I imagined the scene of Jesus on a colt, riding triumphantly into Jerusalem. I imagine the people yelling “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” I imagine seeing all of the people praising the Savior and also remembered that there were many plotting to arrest Him. There were many who did not believe He was the foretold Messiah. I couldn’t imagine how people who knew about His miracles, about all of the prophecies He fulfilled, and still could not accept Him. I see things have not changed even today.

                I wonder why people don’t believe in God. I can’t understand how they can think all of the things of this world are here by luck and chance. Then there are people that do believe in God, but look for any way to get to Him other than Jesus. I see all of these world religions that seek to please and earn their god(s) through deeds. They follow gods who show human emotions and react in accordance with those emotions. They cannot comprehend a god that is beyond their comprehension. They cannot worship a god that they cannot fit into a box they understand and can then manipulate.

                Christians follow a God who is too large to understand with a human mind, too almighty to react emotionally toward His people, too great to change with the times, and loving enough to seek His children through the sacrifice of His only son. These concepts are difficult to a heart that isn’t enlightened with the Holy Spirit. Just like the people who denied Christ as He entered into Jerusalem to give His life so that we might be reunited with the Father, people still deny Him for similar reasons.

                The people that rejected Jesus during His life expected a warrior king who would defeat their enemies through battle. They could not comprehend a king that would defeat human depravity and sinfulness through the ways of God in Heaven. They wanted a king that fit into their human minded box, that did exactly what they expected, and matched their brokenness. People expected a strong king and rejected a powerful king. No person who isn’t full of the Holy Spirit can understand overcoming strength with weakness, pride with humility, anger with kindness, heartlessness with compassion and hatred with love. In the same way, people today reject Jesus because it requires selflessness, faith, humility, and other ideas that don’t allow them to serve their own purposes. They want to have a manipulatable God that allows them to do what they want with Him in their personal box. They settle for what’s good and miss what is best. This concept falls in line with entitled and easily offended culture we live in.

                Live a life that reaches out to the lost as an example of the God we follow. Let your life reflect the light of Christ and show the power that our King has over this dark world. Show them the power of a God that cannot be put into a box, the love of a God that is unconditional, and the heart of a God that would come to earth and die to pay for our salvation. Imitate our King as the world around is rejects the one that thankfully is beyond comprehension of this world’s darkness.

The One That Turns Back

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       Today I attended a sermon where the pastor referenced Luke 17:11-19 and looked at the gratitude of the 1 of 10 lepers who turned back and fell at the feet of Jesus, praising God. While this is a great example of thankfulness and gratitude, it speaks to a much larger concept in my spirit.

       When this verse was read aloud I felt a stirring that pointed to something more. I see 10 lepers sent to the priests and were healed along the way. The customs of the Hebrews were focused on the priest as their link to God as the priests explained the laws of the Old Testament. Then when they are all healed, the Samaritan or “the foreigner” as Jesus says, turns back and falls at the feet of Christ. Jesus inquires where the others are. Some people may see one grateful man and nine that are not as grateful. I on the other hand, see nine Hebrew men caught up in the customs of the law and one outsider who sees Christ as the source and returns to Him in gratitude. He recognized Jesus as the ‘great High Priest’ of the book of Hebrews. Many Christians get caught up in religion, in man’s attempt to reach and/or please God. What I see in this short excerpt from Luke is God reaching down to His people through His Son and our Savior Jesus; and Jesus recognizing that the one who returned to give thanks to God at the feet of the Messiah was the one who’s faith made him well.

       Don’t look to religion, look to Christ Himself. Find your healing at the foot of the cross in personal relationship with your Savior. Your faith makes you well.

Since then we have a high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:14-16)

Walk of Faith

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                I was listening to a lecture from a professor of theological studies and he made a point that resonated with me. It’s always amusing when a side note gets your attention. He was talking about the faithful characters in the Bible and how even in their failures God was pleased with their faithfulness. He reminded the audience that salvation comes through faith, not through success or results. We can thank Jeremiah for that example. Poor guy professed God for a lifetime and was repaid with rejection and failure, if you measure through results. The professors example was of two Christ following people who disagreed about the meaning of a piece of scripture. He explained that their faith in what the derived from the scripture was pleasing to God. This is a good example of the failure of Christian legalism in growing spiritual maturity and a stronger relationship with Jesus.

                I thought of an analogy that made me smile so I wanted to share. God gives us direction through His Word and even an example in His Son, but we fail continuously. Many people get discouraged, but that should not be the case. Imagine as a parent you tell your child to get dressed. They run off and come back mismatched, different shoes and buttons done out of order. Are you angry at the lack of perfection or happy that they followed your direction the best they could? It’s probably a proud moment that they put so much effort into following your instruction and trying to make you happy. I feel God has a similar mindset for His children at times. He doesn’t give exact direction for all situations but allows you to honor Him in your actions and decisions. Then just like the parent of the mismatched child, He is more than willing to help add correctness and completeness to your faithfulness. Your Heavenly Father will rebutton the shirt and find the other shoe. Follow His Word and stay in communication with Him. God never asks for perfection, He only ask for your heart.

               David made many mistakes and the Lord still blessed Him and allowed his line to bring about the Savior of the world. He was a man after God’s own heart even though he was far from perfect. We can also look at Joseph who was amazing in his faith because he was guided by a God honoring heart as opposed to directions from God. He trusted in God and honored him with his actions and the Lord prospered him and his family. A follower’s walk in faith is more loved by God than a perfection we can never achieve.

                God has already given victory and completeness to His children through their faith. He sent Jesus to make a way for us to reach Him. We should never count on our ability to do everything right. We should be thankful that the grace and mercy of God are ours as His children through our faith in His Son.

Grace gives us what we don’t deserve, Mercy doesn’t give us what we do.

Forgiveness

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There are attributes in many believers that seem unnatural to the people around them. Some people have a joy that shines out of them, some the patience that lasts forever. While all seem unnatural in this dark world, they are beautiful when they show their light to the darkness. One of the blessings given to me is my ability to forgive. I took an introspective moment to consider how to explain something so unnatural to those around me. I would like to credit the Holy Spirit. The part of me that thought of vengeance or vindication has become so quiet, its whisper has disappeared.

         Like many of the gifts the Spirit gives to believers, the beauty of them can’t be fully described to people who don’t walk in them. We all know that the Word of God calls us to forgive. For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15) This passage means so much more to a forgiving heart. I see Jesus giving an instruction for us to do unto others as our Father has done for us in providing His Son. Even more, I see an amazing Father teaching His children to do something that is good for them even though it isn’t pleasant by nature. Like a parent telling a child to bathe regularly; the child can’t appreciate the lessons in hygiene given to them until they are older and matured. Similarly we begin to appreciate the Word of God as our faith grows and our spirit matures.

               When we refuse to forgive those who offend or harm us we change who we are. We affect the way we see others in terms of trust and kindness. The hurt we hold onto in being unforgiving causes damage and inevitably reveals itself in a way we don’t recognize, in a completely unrelated situation. I think of people who hurt others as fallen and sinful, which applies to us all. In that way we are all consistently falling short of the Glory of God. The nature of people is like gravity. We are always sinful just as gravity always pulls. When we fall do we lash out against gravity or accept what it is?

         Lacking forgiveness is like refusing to accept the nature of sin and man. Refusing to work within God’s design just makes us uncomfortable as the world continues to dwell in darkness. Forgiveness is a light to a world content with its fallenness. Show this world forgiveness with a humility that humbles a hardened heart.

         Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, (Luke 17:3) We are told here to pay attention to ourselves. That makes sense seeing that forgiveness is for our well-being over the well-being of the offender. I feel that forgiveness given, even when there has been no repentance, calms the heart of the offended and warms the heart of our Father. Christ was crucified so that we would have the choice to be forgiven. He died for those who have shown no repentance so that the option of salvation is theirs. Forgive unconditionally, break the cycle of pride so that the love of Christ can be felt through you.

But with you there is forgiveness, so that we can, with reverence, serve you. (Psalm 130:4)

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. (Psalm 32:1)

Walk on Water or Struggle to Swim

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We all know people whose fire for The Lord doesn’t burn as hot as it once did. The bright light that was such an inspiration, such a beacon for Christ, struggles to even be visible. Maybe you are that person. You remember the joy of walking so closely to your Savior and now find the world smothering your passion.

                As I sat in a bible study the Lord laid an image on my heart that was so clear it filled my mind and sparked my imagination. Living a worldly life is comparable to drowning. When we try to find our peace, joy, or purpose in earthly things we end up empty and alone. The lack of fulfillment causes us to struggle harder and to seek greater extremes to find the joy we remember. We can recall what we found in Christ but struggle to find the foothold we want to stop struggling against drowning in our sinfulness, pride, self-focus, and earthly desire. I imagine the panic and hopelessness of drowning and the inability to overcome the desperation, unable to remember what solid ground felt like. It’s kicking and fighting to stay afloat as hope sinks below the surface. We look up from under the water trying to remember what fresh air in our lungs felt like. It was this kind of feeling that caused the image the Spirit gave me to flourish in my struggling heart.

                We struggle but our Savior walks on water and commands the seas to be calm. When Peter focused on Jesus he was able to walk on water too. It’s in a Christ focused existence that we can walk on top of the turbulent seas of worldliness, and that Christ can command those waves to be calm or show us how to let the water roll off our back as He leads us by example. When we take the right hand of God and allow Him to lead again, the water we once allowed to cover us becomes a mist, noticeable but harmless.

                We are called to seek first the kingdom of God, focused on Christ, walking on the water with Him. We can be sure that even when we fall away and lose our focus on Him, His focus never leaves us. His hand is always outstretched and waiting for us to take it again. The world and all of the temporary things in it will quit on us and leave us alone and empty. We have a promise that our eternal God will never leave nor forsake us. Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you. (Hebrews 13:5 quoting Deuteronomy 31:6)

I found the picture above, it’s the closest one to the personal picture the Spirit gave me. I hope it helps make these words more real and reignites the hope in your heart that will fuel your fire.

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33)