Archive for the ‘Thoughts on God’ Category

And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. John 17:3

When I was a kid I loved collecting sports cards. I had binders full and remember looking up how much money they were worth and then trading them with friends. My favorite thing about the cards was that they had every player’s stats on the back. So I had most of their numbers memorized. However, even though I knew a bunch of stuff about them, did that mean that I actually knew them as people?

Obviously, the answer is no! It would’ve been a total lie if I claimed to know these players on a personal level just because I had a bunch of their stats memorized. However, I think a similar tendency is alive and well in the Church.

So many of us in the Church know a lot of information about God. We know stats. We have verses memorized. We read books. And the list goes on. But how many of us know God beyond knowledge about Him? I love Scripture and wholeheartedly believe it’s critical for Christians to have an intimate understanding of it. However, knowing about God is no substitute for actually knowing Him on a personal level.

In today’s verse, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, saying: “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” You see, eternal life isn’t simply going to a place called heaven when we die—it’s knowing the Father and Jesus Himself.

True life is found in a personal relationship with the true God. So, are you in a sports-card relationship with God? Do you know about Him? Or do you know Him personally?

If not, pray this prayer with me: God, I know things about you, but I don’t feel like I truly know You. And that’s what I want. I want to know You like Moses did and like the disciples knew Jesus. Holy Spirit, please introduce Yourself to my heart, soul, and mind in a way I’ve never experienced before, so I can lead others into an authentic, intimate relationship with You as well.

Don’t be noble, be needy

Posted: April 20, 2017 in Thoughts on God

Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” John 13:5-9

Jesus knelt down before the twelve bewildered men, took off his shirt, and tied it around his waist. Then he pulled out a servant’s basin and began washing the men’s feet. You see, they were about to eat supper when this happened. And in those days, they didn’t sit on chairs and at tables like most of us do. They reclined on cushions and propped themselves up on an elbow. This meant that messy, sandaled feet were rude and unhygienic. Because of their sandals, people’s feet would be caked with dirt or feces from animals. Usually, washing guests’ feet was a servant’s job. So you can imagine the disciples’ surprise when their Master knelt down to do the work. In fact, this wasn’t simply a surprise, it was actually embarrassing to them.

Think about it like this. Imagine you have a famous guest who’s arrived at your house to eat dinner. This is someone you respect, admire, and want to emulate. The kind of person who you’d give up pretty much anything to spend some time around. When they arrive at your house to eat, however, they ask to use your bathroom. You point them in the right direction. But you soon grow uncomfortable, because ten minutes go by before they finally come out! Unsure, you ask if everything is okay. They reply, “Oh yes, everything is wonderful. But I noticed your toilet was very dirty, so I cleaned it for you.”

Wouldn’t you be horrified and embarrassed? Obviously you didn’t invite them over for dinner to clean your toilet—you invited them over to honor and learn from them.

This is exactly what Peter felt when Jesus knelt to wash his feet. So when Peter told Jesus, “You shall never wash my feet,” it’s easy to understand why. In fact, it sounds noble and even socially proper.

However, Jesus’s reply should reframe all of our minds. He says to Peter, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Jesus shows us that we should be needy, not noble. None of us can come to Jesus believing we don’t need washed. We come to Jesus not because we are worthy, but because of our desperation.

Are you prideful and noble with Jesus, or humble and needy?

God’s amazing Holiness

Posted: April 18, 2017 in Thoughts on God

When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” Exodus 3:4-5

If we had been there thousands of years ago, tailing Moses among the foothills, we would have seen him moseying along, minding his own business. Then, out of the corner of his eye, he sees something he’s never seen before: a bush engulfed in flames, yet not burnt to a crisp.

Now, I’m no scientist, but this kind of thing doesn’t really happen. So naturally, Moses “turned aside to see” this mysterious fireball bush. Then something even more unsettling happens. The bush actually talks. It doesn’t say, “Hey Moses, lovely weather we’re having today! Have any campfires lately?” The first words from the bush aren’t a warm greeting. Instead, they’re a warning.

Have you ever noticed or thought about that before? Why on earth would God’s first order of business be to say, “Get back and go barefoot, Moses!”

Here’s the answer; and it’s all about that phrase “holy ground.” You see, God’s holiness is way more than a theological term for textbooks and smarty-pants preachers. It’s more than God’s moral righteousness and perfection, too. (Though they’re certainly part of it.)

God’s holiness is his “set apartness.” God is something completely different in nature than we are. While we bear his image, we do not intrinsically hold his qualities. In fact, his holiness is so potent it can actually kill—just ask a guy named Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:7).

Think about it like this. Fire consumes everything it touches except for other flames. When it’s hot enough, it melts stone and evaporates water. When flame meets flame, however, they intertwine and become one. When like meets like, things are okay. When like meets different, though, the stronger dominates the weaker.

This is how it works with God’s holiness, and the flames represent this reality. And why God gives Moses an urgent warning to stay back—because he was approaching a raging inferno of holiness his flesh simply couldn’t bear up against.

Moses immediately obeys, slips off his sandals, and hides his face, afraid to look at the Holy God blazing bright before him. Have you ever thought about God’s holiness in a real, tangible way?

Does that deepen your awe at what Jesus did for us, so that we could draw close to God’s holy throne with boldness?

The hardship of leadership

Posted: April 17, 2017 in Thoughts on God

Now the leaders of the people lived in Jerusalem. And the rest of the people cast lots to bring one out of ten to live in Jerusalem the holy city, while nine out of ten remained in the other towns. And the people blessed all the men who willingly offered to live in Jerusalem. (Nehemiah 11:1-2 ESV)

Being a true leader isn’t always glamorous. There are not always hundreds of people lining up, wanting to be just like you. This can be witnessed in the book of Nehemiah. We read that the leaders lived in Jerusalem and the rest drew lots.

Nehemiah is the account of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. During the restoration, enemies threatened to attack it as the wall and gates were rebuilt; it wasn’t necessarily the safest place. That is one reason the average Joe didn’t immediately sign up to live there. Jerusalem living also meant leaving a previous place of residence, which had one’s farm and livelihood.

At this point, Jerusalem was not yet finished, and business would have been slow. The leaders made a sacrifice. Someone had to live there and start the process of creating a once again bustling city. Could this be what leadership is often about? Not asking people to take a risk for you, but rather taking one for them? Jesus even said that He came to serve and not to be served (Matthew 20:28). That is what leading is. We learn how to do this in the purest of forms through Jesus and His substitutionary death on the cross. He calls us to lay down our lives for others, because He has laid down his for us (John 15:13).

Have you been a leader lately?

Easter poem from Matthew 27:45-53:

As Jesus hangs suspended, intersecting time and space,
Mankind’s greatest need encounters God’s amazing grace.
Sin, in its totality, meets Christ the sinless One;
The gates of Hell meet Heaven’s best; God’s greatest work is done.

Suddenly, the world is dark. God hides the morning light
For three long hours; all is still as darkness alters sight.
Our Savior is abandoned by the God who’s always there.
Jesus knows the absence of the One who’s everywhere.

In that supernatural darkness, hear the Son of God’s sad cry
As His heavy heart is breaking, Jesus calls, “My Father, Why?
Why have You forsaken Me? Why have You left Me here?”
In the silence of sin’s darkness, Heaven answers loud and clear.

Then the earth begins to quake. Creation feels the strain,
In the presence of Mighty God, its composure to maintain.
The One who makes electrons spin is dying on a cross.
“It is finished!” hear Him cry. Earth knows its greatest loss.

God reminds us of His power. This is all in His control.
Our good behavior’s not enough; He’s eyes are on the soul.
In His sight, no self-righteous life will ever be approved
And so the bedrock splits; earth’s foundations have been moved.

While two priests are burning incense, at the moment God has planned,
The Temple veil is shredded by the Father’s unseen hand.
In one amazing moment, God removes the “Keep Out!” sign
Which has for many years kept sinful man from the Divine.

The veil of separation-due-to-guilt no longer stands.
The key to entrance into life is placed into your hands.
The price of entry’s fully paid by the One who is THE Way,
The Only Path to the Only God pleads, “Come to Me, today.”

Many graves are opened; many people who have died
Are now walking through the city. Truth will not be denied.
The Voice that called out Lazarus from death has set them free.
The signs are indisputable. “Look what He’s done FOR ME!”

Guest devotion by Giselle Russell. Giselle, after years of classroom teaching, now serves as children’s specialist in a public library and volunteers as a pre-K Sunday School teacher at her church

Seeking hope this Easter

Posted: April 12, 2017 in Thoughts on God

“Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.” (Luke 24:10-12 ESV)

What does it look like when you’re called to follow God, but life is still hard? This may be the theme of your day, your week, your month, or even your year. Life is painful and life is trying; however, when we understand the hope of the cross, we see that there is more to life than the things we’re feeling now.

In the days leading up to Easter, the disciples may have been unsure of what was coming, but they were sure of who they were following. They knew that Jesus was to fulfill all the things that He had told them, and so they held on to that, even to the point of His death on the cross. Christ was denied three times by one of His own. He was given over to His accusers, He was beaten and mocked, and He was hung on a cross to prove to the world that He is who He says He is. At that time, that truth didn’t ring through, because all we saw was the cross.

Sometimes, we see our sin and our human nature and don’t understand how a God who created everything we see, and everything we know, can love us still; we surely can’t understand how Jesus would willingly volunteer to take our place. However, that’s the beauty of that cross. That Jesus went, He died, and He promised that moment would not be the end. When we look at all that is revealed in scripture, we know that it cannot be the end.

Beloved, when we feel hopeless, we must remember the monumental truth from three days later – Jesus rose and is living. He never fails, He is always constant, and He is forever powerful. We are chosen because of the great love that God has for us; and that love will sustain us through our darkest days.

In your struggle, remember that God loves you. He knows your innermost failings and He sees through all of it; cling today to the hope that you have in Jesus.

For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45 ESV)

Most relationships are based upon the notion of “give and take”. For example, Jeff holds value to Pete, because Jeff knows everything there is to know about electronics. So, when Pete calls Jeff to ask him about which home theater system to buy, he also feels guilty about only calling to get information from him, so he asks him to coffee as an afterthought. While this isn’t necessarily bad, it can exemplify the shallowness of many of our friendships.

Let’s take it a step further: Do you have that friend who always wants something from you, but never gives back anything in return? Maybe you’re their “go-to” when they have yet another problem or need a favor? Most likely you can picture that person now. It’s always something, and it’s always about them; you are their faithful product and they your constant customer.

But what if there was someone who gave everything for you without expecting anything in return? Someone who didn’t take advantage of you but loved you? Jesus has done just that. He came into this world fully knowing that there was nothing He could get from us that He couldn’t get better from Himself, but He still gave His life “as a ransom for many”. Jesus didn’t come to this earth in order to exploit us, but to serve us.

Approach Jesus in gratitude knowing that He isn’t like our fallen friends. He never came to take, but to give this Easter.