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Tuesday, July 18, 2023

The God Who Sees, Cares and Walks With Us

Reading the accounts of people’s journey of faith in what is called the Old Testament [The Jewish Bible] can be confusing. Life was very different 2, 3, or 4.000 years ago. If you’ve read the account of Abraham’s life, you’ve probably had moments where scratched your head and thought “What?” Abraham and his wife Sarah couldn’t get pregnant. Sarah suggested to Abraham that he sleep with her servant, who could give them a child. Abraham agreed to Sarah’s solution for a child. Hagar, Sarah’s servant, got pregnant and gave birth to Abraham’s son, Ishmael. “When Hagar knew she was pregnant, she began to treat her mistress, Sarai, with contempt. Then Sarai said to Abram, ‘This is all your fault! I put my servant into your arms, but now that she’s pregnant she treats me with contempt.’ … Then Sarai treated Hagar so harshly that she finally ran away.” Genesis 16:4-6 (NLT) God appeared to Hagar, spoke comfort, encouragement and promises to her. “Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’” Genesis 16:13 (NLT) “The One who sees.” God is not only the One who sees, He is also the One who understands, cares, and acts on people’s behalf. Jesus said His Father is aware of every sparrow falling from the sky and every hair that you lost last time you showered. “Our Father, who is in heaven,” sees everything! Nothing happens in secret or “behind his back.” He sees you! He sees what you are going through. He promises to walk with you through the water, the fire and the “valley of the shadow of death.” This week I reminded someone under hospice care of the poem “Foot Prints in the Sand.” The poem reveals a God who cares and a God who carries. No one knows the author of the poem popular in the 20th century. The idea of “foot prints in the sand” is found in print as far back as the 1700s. Here’s the poem. Let it remind you of the God who SEES, CARES AND WALKS WITH US. One night I dreamed a dream. As I was walking along the beach with my Lord. Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life. For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand, One belonging to me and one to my Lord. After, the last scene of my life flashed before me, I looked back at the footprints in the sand. I noticed that at many times along the path of my life, especially at the very lowest and saddest times, there was only one set of footprints. This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it. "Lord, you said once I decided to follow you, You'd walk with me all the way. But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life, there was only one set of footprints. I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me." He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you Never, ever, during your trials and testings. When you saw only one set of footprints, It was then that I carried you."

Monday, July 10, 2023

The Lovingkindness of God

The last couple of weeks I’ve been meditating on the “LOVINGKINDNESS” of the Lord. Dozens of times in the Scripture the word lovingkindness is used to describe God, His character, and nature. During the Temple reconstruction project led by Nehemiah, the scribe Ezra read the Law to the people. As they heard the words of the Law, they realized they had repeatedly rebelled against God. The people joined for a time of confession for the nation’s transgressions. The leaders of the Levite priests led the confession. “You alone are the Lord. You made the skies and the heavens and all the stars. You made the earth and the seas and everything in them. You preserve them all, and the angels of heaven worship you.” The Levites continued confessing their repeated rebellion against God. Eventually the Levites acknowledged the lovingkindness of the Lord. “You are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love. You did not abandon them…” Nehemiah 9:17 (NLT) God had every reason to abandon the rebellious and disobedient people, but because HE IS LOVINGKINDNESS, He could not and would not abandon them. Lovingkindness includes forgiveness, grace, mercy, slow anger, and rich unfailing Love. The Hebrew word “chesed” means giving oneself fully, with love and compassion. Faithfulness, unfailing love, mercy, or good favor are often used in newer translations of the Scriptures instead of lovingkindness. Lovingkindness, faithfulness, unfailing love, mercy, and good favor are not how God chooses to act. They describe who God is. You can trust God because HE IS lovingkindness, faithfulness, unfailing love, mercy, and good favor. God is different from us. We can choose to show lovingkindness or not. We often respond based on our emotions, moods, and attitude, and that response often falls far short of faithfulness, unfailing love, mercy, and good favor. God cannot think, feel, or act contrary to His character. Whenever something seems less than loving, kind or lovingkindness, it is because we can’t see what He sees. I encourage you to spend some time meditating on God’s faithfulness, unfailing love, mercy, and good favor. It’ll without a doubt strengthen you.

The Goodness of God

We’ve been singing a song lately that is becoming one of my favorites. The song is “The Goodness of God.” Every time one of our worship leaders starts the song, tears want to well up in my eyes. I’m overwhelmed to the core as we sing the song and reminded of how good God has been. Theologian Wayne Grudem says in Systematic Theology, “The goodness of God means that God is the final standard of good, and that all that God is and does is worthy of approval.” Over and over the Scriptures declare God’s goodness. “The LORD is good and does what is right.” Psalms 25:8 (NLT) “You are good and do only good.” Psalms 119:68 (NLT) “Give thanks to the LORD … for the LORD is good.” Jeremiah 33:11 (NLT) “The LORD is good to everyone. He showers compassion on all his creation.” Psalms 145:9 (NLT) Grudem also says in Systematic Theology, “God’s mercy is his goodness toward those in distress, his grace is his goodness toward those who deserve only punishment, and his patience is his goodness toward those who continue to sin over a period of time.” One of the most loved passages from Psalms is found in David’s declaration in Psalm 23. David wrote, “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life.” Psalms 23:6 (NLT) Not only is God good, but He does good for His children. “We know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 (NLT) God is good! Let your spirit meditate on God’s goodness. The truth will transform you.


Persistence I can think of many examples of persistence. The child repeating the question “Why?” over and over. The teenager wanting the time of a curfew changed. Jim Russell’s dog Rowdy wanting someone to throw the frisbee for him to chase and catch. God’s persistence might not be a character trait that you’ve thought about, but God is persistent. I often think of God as being ruthlessly persistent. He never ceases in His quest for a relationship with His creation.I described his persistence as “jealousy.” Jesus’ brother James described God’s jealousy in his letter to the early believers. “Do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, ‘He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’”? James 4:5 (ESV) The New Century Version translates James’ word “Do you think the Scripture means nothing that says, ‘The Spirit that God made to live in us wants us for himself alone’”? James 4:5 (NCV) God is aggressively determined to gain people’s attention and devotion. The disciples were told by Jesus to prioritize the Kingdom of God, and in return, He would fulfil their needs. When people seek everything they need, they do not get what they need. When they center their life on God, they get what they need. God’s ruthless persistence is not self serving or pathological. He is ruthlessly persistence is for the well-being of His creation. I am thankful for God’s ruthless persistence. Like anyone else, I’d be in a ditch somewhere if God wasn’t ruthless and persistent towards me. Jesus describes His Father’s persistence, saying, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” John 10:27-29 (NLT)

Monday, June 19, 2023

The Character and Nature of God

Some people see the Bible as a “to do” book. Others see it as an “owner’s manual,” “playbook” or “road map.” There are countless ways to see the Bible. One of the primary purposes of God giving people the “Bible” is to reveal Himself to us. It is impossible for God to reveal everything to us. We would have to be like God to comprehend everything about God. There are a few things we can know about God. There is an unlimited number of things we cannot know about God. God proclaimed, “My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts, … And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT) We can only know about God is only what we can comprehend. He only revealed to us what we are capable of comprehending. Why reveal to us what we could never comprehend? That would make no sense. Bible teacher A. W. Tozer said: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” (The Knowledge of the Holy) C.S. Lewis saw things slightly different. “I read in a periodical the other day that the fundamental thing is how we think of God. … By God Himself, it is not! How God thinks of us is not only more important, but infinitely more important.” (“The Weight of Glory”) Joy Dawson is one of my all-time favorite Bible teachers. I can still see her and hear her voice as she used adjective after adjective to describe God’s infinite character and nature. “When we see Him face-to-face in all His awesome holiness and blazing glory, it will seem incredible to us that we ever had a casual thought in relation to Him.” Joy Dawson The character and nature of God is something that deeply interests and enthralls me. In the weeks ahead, I will describe some of God's revealed character traits. I hope your understanding of God’s character will grow and along with mine and we will leave behind every “casual thought in relation to Him.”

Monday, June 5, 2023

Love God and Love Your Neighbor

One day, a teacher of the religious law challenged Jesus, which was the “most important,” commandment. Jesus answered the teacher, “‘You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” Matthew 22:37-38 (NLT) He expanded on the topic, saying, “Equally significant is the commandment to ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:39 (NLT) Jesus tied the two commandments together. The two he made of equal importance. Loving God and loving your neighbor became the “Prime Directive” for every follower of Jesus. A disciple of Jesus isn’t truly loving God with all their heart, soul, and mind if they don’t love their neighbor. A person can love their neighbor without loving God, but they can’t love God without loving their neighbor. In Leviticus 19:18 (NLT), God commanded the Israelites to “love your neighbor as yourself.” JESUS QUOTED THIS MORE THAN ANY OTHER OLD TESTAMENT SCRIPTURE. From the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” comes the Golden Rule “Treat others the way you want to be treated.” Matthew 7:12. Jesus referenced “love your neighbor” so often that his brother James refers to it as the “royal Law.” People often ask, “What’s God’s will for my life?” Another way to state the question is, “What’s my purpose in life?” The specifics of those questions are different for every disciple. But the general answer could not be clearer. Love God and Love your neighbor. That’s God’s will. That’s God’s purpose. Jesus’ mother Mary told the first few disciples who were with them at the wedding in Cana where Jesus turned water into wine, “Do whatever He tells you.” John 2:5 (NLT) Do whatever He tells you. What has He told his disciple to do? Love your neighbor as yourself. Let’s do it.  

Tuesday, May 30, 2023

Sticks and Stones...

My recent examination of James' letter for Sunday teaching, along with some conversations and a blog I follow, has led me to review the importance of my word choice. The way I speak sows either life or death. As a child, I learned the adage, “Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me.” Though widely quoted since 1857, the second half of the line is false. Words can definitely harm people. I could quote dozens of verses from every portion of the Bible about the power of how we speak and the words we use. I’ll just quote one passage from Jesus’ brother James. “It only takes a spark, remember, to set off a forest fire. A careless or wrongly placed word out of your mouth can do that. By our speech we can ruin the world, turn harmony to chaos, throw mud on a reputation, send the whole world up in smoke and go up in smoke with it, smoke right from the pit of hell.” James 3:5 (MSG) I’ve been guilty of careless and wrongly placed words. My words have damaged people’s worlds, “turned harmony to chaos” and muddied reputations. I’m not proud of some things I’ve said. I know they’ve hurt others and I will have to give an account for destructive words. The words we use are so important that Jesus said: “I tell you this, you must give an account on judgment day for every idle word you speak. The words you say will either acquit you or condemn you.” Matthew 12:36-37 (NLT) Did you catch that? We “must give an account” for every idle, careless, useless word we speak and what we say will either leave us innocent or guilty. Those verses, and many others, fosters the fear of God in me. I wonder how “accounting” will work. Will my words be played back for me to review and defend? Will other people listen to the review of my words in a giant tribunal? I’d like to know how the “give an account” works. Maybe I don’t. If I knew what the defense of my words was going to look like, I might never talk again out of sheer panic. I periodically pray King David’s prayer: “LORD, help me control my tongue; help me be careful about what I say.” Psalms 141:3 (NCV) Memorize his prayer for those precarious moments when your mouth is about to get you in trouble.

Monday, May 22, 2023


I remember as a teenager watching, with my family, The Flip Wilson Show, the number two rated show on TV during its four-year run. If you’re over 50, you probably remember the show. One sketch I remember is “The Devil made me do it.” It was a sketch about temptation and the work of the Devil tempting people. You might remember that just after Jesus’ baptism, he went into the wilderness for 40 days where he fasted and prayed. During his time in the wilderness, the devil appeared to him and tempted him in three different ways. Jesus resisted each temptation and eventually the devil left him alone until a more favorable time. Luke 4:13 The devil tempted Jesus, but most of us don’t need the devil to tempt us. Our own desires lead us into temptation without the devil’s help. Jesus’ brother James described the work of our desires, saying, “Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.” James 1:14 (NLT) James continued, “These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.” James 1:15 (NLT) When Jesus taught the disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation,” or “don’t let us yield to temptation …,” he was teaching them to pray against desires that would drag them towards sin. (Matthew 6:13 ESV and NLT ESV) Temptation always works in cooperation with self-deception. When we are wrestling with temptation, we deceive ourselves by saying things like: “No one will ever know” or “Just this once” or “I’m not hurting anyone” or “I deserve this” or countless other self-deceiving justifications. Temptation won’t work on us unless it can find an inroad of self-deception. Pastor and author Tim Keller comments on self-deception saying, “Self-deception is not the worst thing that we do, but it is the reason we do the worst things.” Self-deception and its partner in crime, temptation, are why we need to pursue our relationship with Jesus constantly. Jesus is “The Truth.” When we’re connected to Jesus, self-deception loses its power. Jesus, “The Truth”, reveals every area of self-deception in our lives and teaches us to resist evil desires.

Monday, May 15, 2023

Teach Us to Pray

After over 40 years of praying, I’m still amazed at the mysteries and paradoxes surrounding prayer. Jesus prayed regularly. His disciples were so used to him praying that they asked him to teach them to pray. He often taught the disciples and crowds about prayer. “When you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private.” Matthew 6:6 NLT “When you pray, don’t babble on and on.” Matthew 6:7 NLT “Your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!” Matthew 6:8 NLT “Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:7-8 NLT “Your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” Matthew 7:11 NLT We’re told to pray in a private place, yet Jesus and the disciples prayed with others around them. We’re told don’t “babble on and on,” and we’re told to “keep on asking.” We’re invited into a prayer relationship with “Our Father who is in Heaven” even though He knows what we need before we ask. There are things God does because we pray. There are things God doesn’t do because we don’t pray. When I pray, a transformation takes place within me. As we increase our prayers, God will bring about more action in us, in others, and in the world. Lord, teach us to pray!

Monday, May 8, 2023

I Did the Crime - He Did the Time

The Apostle Paul announced: “Everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23 (NLT) Everyone includes you. Everyone includes me. We all fall short. We’ve not only fallen “short of God’s glorious standard,” our sin has hurt others. Some of our sins have hurt others in small ways and some sin has wounded people deeply. The sin of others has hurt us in small ways and other sin in unforgettable ways. The answer to falling “short of God’s glorious standard” is mercy. I’m thankful that God’s mercy toward me is “afresh every morning.” Lamentations 3:23 (NLT) (I find it interesting that the solution for Romans 3:23 is Lamentations 3:23) Mercy, by us towards others, is not deserved. If it were deserved, it wouldn’t be mercy. God gives mercy because of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus’ death paid the price for me “short of God’s glorious standard.” The old song says: “He paid a debt He did not owe; I owe a debt I could not pay.” I could also say “I did the crime, but He did the time.” Because of God’s mercy toward us, He commands us to have mercy on others. Jesus said: “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” Matthew 5:7 (NIV) Mercy, by us towards others, is not deserved. If the person deserved mercy, it wouldn’t be mercy. Jesus’ brother James understood Jesus’ teaching about mercy. He wrote: “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” James 2:13 (NLT) Who in your life do you need to forgive? Who do you need to quit “making them pay” for their wrong? What if God withheld mercy from you?” Are you able to rely on God’s mercy because you’ve been merciful to others? If you don’t figure out mercy, there will be “no mercy” for you. Jesus, help us grow in mercy towards others. Amen.