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.

Softened Heart of Conviction

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Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher (Master), this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test (tempt) him, that they might have some charge to bring against (accuse) him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him (He) who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, (being convicted by their own conscience) they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” John 8:2-11

                The stirring behind this post started when my pastor mentioned these verses in church and then grew to many things as I saw how many lessons Jesus had for us in one interaction. Read the passage above. I have added the King James wording in parenthesis into the ESV translation. The use of multiple translations adds so much depth and character to these moments.

                I see the concept of conviction brought up and the way Jesus not only handles the situation but also the example our Savior gives us. He shows how we are to face our society, which is strikingly similar to this situation. We live in a world that is more concerned with finger pointing than solutions. We are surrounded by people that build up their own position by taring down the position of their neighbor. Conviction is a tricky concept. Self-conviction is exponentially more powerful and heart changing than conviction from others. Self-conviction also includes the work of the Holy Spirit on a heart that has wandered from God’s path. People get so caught up in driving a point deeper, trying to hurt the person doing wrong or build a higher personal position from the mis-step, that the concept of reconciliation and healing have no place to develop. People get so caught up in personal vindication and gain from the pain and wrong doing of others that relationships suffer. Not only the relationship between the people involved but their relationships with everyone else who sees the situation.

                If you read carefully, we see men using the sin of a woman to try and “test (tempt)” Jesus into walking into their planned “accusation.” The men did not care about what she had done as much as they wanted to build up their positions held in Old Testament Law. Their position/ power was held in people’s reliance on the Law. They are attacking the connection to God through His Son, founded on love, forgiveness, sacrifice, and kindness. Also see Fruits of the Spirit. Sit for a moment and recognize the motive here. They even call Jesus “teacher (master)” to give him a platform that they can kick out from under Him.

                Of course, Jesus shows us exactly what the heart of God looks like. He allows the conviction in the woman’s heart to grow as her accusers attack Him. He then offers to allow the men to escalate the situation and expose their motive. If you look at the KJV version of verse 8 you will see “(He)”, let that soak in. “Let him (He) who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Think about who has the authority to cast the stone, the only stone. Capital ‘h’ – He – “who is without sin” = Jesus himself.

                Now that we see that Jesus is the only one who has the authority to cast the stone of conviction, and we see the conviction of the scribes and Pharisees drives them away empty handed in terms of bringing accusation against Jesus; we look for the lesson Jesus has for His followers. A single conviction softens a heart, a repeated conviction hardens that same heart. He could have scolded her with metaphorical stones. He could have explained her sin to her. There was no need. Her conviction was the heart softening kind. The kind of conviction that, when exposed to love and forgiveness, adds one more ray of light to this dark world.

            How many parents take a child who admits fault and scolds them again to prove a point or establish superiority? They falsely believe that their position is held by the ability to point out, correct and punish. They wonder why the child drifts from them and hardens their heart toward them. Why hearts drift from God when attacked by self-righteous Christians. Once convicted, the heart of any person is left vulnerable to any heart that will accept and love it in its brokenness. That’s what our Savior does, and that is what we are called to do; as Christians and parents. Conviction is not yours to provide as a Christian, that’s the Holy Spirit. Conviction is not yours to amplify as a parent. Your place is to love that brokenness and don’t use that instant to define them, even for a moment. A smile and a hug given to a convicted heart wins hearts for Jesus. It wins the hearts of our children. This concept will not fit into the dynamic of this fallen world, but we are not called to conform. We are called to shine in the darkness, to reflect the light of God. To magnify and learn from the light we see in Jesus.

He Loved Them

 

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One of my favorite bible verses is John 13:1. I read it one time and it was different from many of the other times I read it. It was that translation that drew me to it. The verse means one thing taken alone and another when taken in context. Both ways are powerful so let’s take a look at both.

when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end (he now showed them the full extent of his love) John 13:1

       In context after the verse, we see Jesus wash the feet of his disciples showing that even the Son of God was a servant and showed humility as an example of how we are to live. If this world were to set pride aside and love each other with a servant’s heart, we would live in a much better place. A place that is one step closer to Heaven and the presence of God. This verse, in context, showed that Christ wanted his disciples to understand a very important lesson about his followers having a servant attitude and heart.

       The verse that first caught my attention and stirred my spirit had the words shown in prenthesis above. Instead of focusing on what comes after, my heart reach toward the beginning of the verse. Jesus knew that his time to go to the Father had come. It was time for him to be betrayed and crucified. Knowing that time had come, he was now going to show the full extent of his love to his diciples by dying for them even though they were not ready to fully understand his sacrifice. Imagine the love it takes to go to the cross when his disciples, and many people today, still don’t understand or accept his sacrifice. Imagine as a parent you sacrificing your well being and happiness to a child who may never understand or acknowledge your sacrifice. Although that is supposed to be our job as parents, the selfishness of this world draws parents away from the love our Father showed us by allowing His son to die for us.

       Neither understanding of God’s living word is incorrect. The lessons Jesus came to teach us are so numerous that his words live forever and grow in the hearts of his followers through the help of the Holy Spirit, the helper that Jesus promised us as he joined the Father in Heaven.

       Read this verse and see that Jesus loved his disciples to the end of his life and he continues to love us until the end of time. Don’t miss his perfect life and sacrifice for your sin, and don’t miss the servent’s heart we are called to have as we follow Jesus.

Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends – John 15:13

       Sometimes laying down your life means putting the well being of other before yours. Laying down your life could be death it could also be humility. Both require sacrifice, the laying down of your own self-interest and ambition.

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)