Archive for February, 2014

Living Deeply with God

“Living with God is relaxing, for there is no fear of being hurt. We feel safe to be imperfect.

“Even in the face of our flaws, God delights in us and thinks that we are special. He likes who we are and wants us to live that way. He wants us to be real with him and our self. He does not pressure us to be different. He provides space to be us.

“God has expectations, but he trusts in us enough to not tell us what they are.

“Yet, we know and follow his expectations, out of love and respect for him and his expectation that we will obey.

“We may say to our self, “I don’t get it. I don’t have to be good and strong to be liked, loved, and special here. I don’t get it, but I sure like it!” (Hebrews 10:14).

“We feel respected by him. He delights in us. He wants to hang out with us.

“There is no “evil eyeball” of judgment coming from him. The only looks we get are looks of love.

“His warm smile melts the cold fear in us down to our bones (1 John 4:18). Rejection is not even a possibility with him. He completely loves, respects, and accepts us (Isaiah 43:4).

“We have fun being around him. We are free to do what we want to do. I choose to do a lot of fishing and growing fruits and vegetables.

“There is a great deal of laughter being with him and our brothers and sisters in the faith. We share much love and joy with God and our family in the faith around mealtimes.

“At times, we may feel that we need a hug or an encouraging word. God, is our “very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1), and is always there to respond to our needs. He never pressures, or forces himself on us, but just waits for us to come to him.

“God always treats us gently and tenderly. “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:29). We feel protected and supported living with him.

“It is quiet and peaceful most of the time. There is plenty of space to discover who we really are, what we like to do, and what we are good at.

“At other times, the air is filled with warmth, laughter, and joy, especially when our brothers and sisters in the faith are there. At one point I said to myself, “Life is good in this place. I am sure glad I live here!” In response, God noted that heaven was like this, but much better.”

The above is what I imagined four years ago on a retreat using Scripture, my memory of living in my Grandma’s house as a child, and the help of the Holy Spirit. This is my picture of what it looks like to live with God in a deep way here on earth.

May I encourage you to ask God to help you use your imagination, the Scriptures, and your memory to imagine what the experience of living with God in a deep way looks like for you.


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I know the truth that God helps, guides, strengthens and upholds me all the time. I even memorized a verse that promises all of this help (Isaiah 41:10). But it dawned on me the other night as I faced a situation experiencing much fear that this truth was not helping me one bit.

I realized in a fresh way that God does not want me to just know the truth. He also wants me to trust it (Hebrews 11:6). But what happens if it isn’t true and I fall flat on my face?

God says for us not to be fooled. “Don’t think that listening to a sermon does you one bit of good unless you rely on the truth I tell you through the pastor” God says to us in James 1:22.

However, the problem is that we have a whole collection of idols we already rely on instead of God to meet our needs. Idols like our understanding, our achievements, people’s approval, and good circumstances.

Some of you may say, “But the Bible says that the truth shall set us free.” But God’s response is that we are only set free when we rely on the truth (1 Thessalonians 2:13).

Look at the mess that Israel made of their lives in the desert by simply knowing the truth but not relying on it. God said,  “Follow Me and I will give you the Promised Land” in Numbers 13. But they refused to rely on this truth and chose to lean on their own understanding- and the consequences were tragic. None of them experienced the Promised Land (Numbers 14:22-23).

We also lose God’s blessing when we refuse to rely on the truth that we know.

So, how do we rely on the truth?

It is often hard. God says “Pound on a fool all you like-you can’t pound out foolishness (Proverbs 27:22. MSG).” When we refuse to lean on the truth we are acting foolishly.

To trust the truth, we will have to endure the anxiety of giving up the familiar idols to gain the unknown help of God.

For example, God says he loves us. However, we have been trained to rely on peoples’ approval, meeting our standards, and achieving certain things to earn love. It is hard for us to reject this thinking in order to rely on the truth that God loves us period.

So, when we say, “The heck with it, I am going to depend on the fact that God loves me no matter what and not fear” we can become terrified because our old beliefs tell us otherwise.

But paraphrasing Luke 9:23, God says to us, “If you want to experience my love, you must quit relying on trying to earn my love, and learn to rely on my love as a gift as you depend on Me to make this truth real for you.”

Ask God to show you one truth that you know but are having trouble relying on it. Ask God to help you to believe that truth. “Lord I believe, help me in my unbelief” (Mark 9:24).


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Is Your Life Meaningful?

When I was twenty, I began the journey to find a meaningful life. The blueprint that I had been given for a meaningful life was to get a good education, get a good job, get married, have three kids, be involved in the community and then die.

But I thought that this was a meaningless life.

I thought that there had to be more. There had to be more than just perpetuating the specie.

But a meaningful life is hard to find. Or is it?

The wisest man who ever lived looked back on his life and declared it meaningless! He asked, “What does a man gain for all his labor at which he toils under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3, NIV).

He also declared that “The eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear filled with hearing” (Ecclesiastes 1:8).

So, what is a meaningful life? The dictionary defines a meaningful life as having significance, purpose and value. A meaningful life is not empty, pointless, or senseless. So, do you have a meaningful life?

You may say, “Sure, I have a meaningful life earning lots of money and enjoying the rewards of my work.” But do you? God says, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul” (Matthew 16:26, NIV).

You may say, “I have a meaningful life because I am a Christian and I will be going to heaven someday.” But do you? God says, “Each man’s work will become evident,…because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will be test the quality of each person’s work” (1 Corinthians 3:13). God is saying to us that only what we do in his will, in his power, and for his purposes will be rewarded in heaven.

I am often astonished at how little we settle for in life. My goodness, we only go around once- we have only one chance to get it right.

We are born with this sentence on our life; ”It is appointed for men to die once, and after this comes the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). Sounds kind of scary. What have we done to reverse this sentence?

King Solomon was the wise man that declared that his life had been largely meaningless. He concluded toward the end of his life that a meaningful life was to “fear God and keep his commandments, because this applies to every person. Because God will bring every act to judgment” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).

God wants us to have a meaningful life. “I came that they may have life and may have it abundantly” (John 10:10). He wants to lift us out of our frustrating and stressful grind to experience how important we are and how much he loves us (Isaiah 43:4). He wants to lift us “out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

So, do you want a meaningful life?

Then, ask him to come into you life and be your Lord and Savior (John 1:12). If you do not know what this means, ask someone who does.

If you are already a Christian, do you want to live a meaningful life?

Then, may you gradually relinquish control of your life to God “who sees all [our] ways and numbers all [our] steps” (Job 31:4).

Don’t blow it. Live a meaningful life!

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Seeing God in All Things

My wife and I were talking yesterday about some blessings in our lives this week. I had graduated from cardiac rehab and she had recovered from a cold. Then, my wife asked me if I could see God’s hand in our blessings.

My first thought was, “What did God have to do with these blessings?” Then, I realized that he had everything to do with my recovery from major heart surgery and her quick recovery from a cold.

We often have a hard time seeing God in all things unless we think about it. We have been trained to do life without God- and that’s the way we like it a lot of the time.

But how often is God in our lives and we do not know it? How often do I say grace over my breakfast and wonder how God had anything to do with the food before me? And yet he has had everything to do with it. “It is [I] who is giving you power to make wealth” (Deuteronomy 8:18).

God is all around us. “Where can I go from the Spirit? Where can I flee from [Your] presence?” (Psalm 139:7). He is everywhere and yet we often do not see the evidence that he is there. “Surely, the Lord is in this place and I did not know it” (Genesis 28:16).

Is it important to see God in all things?


Many of us want to “practice the presence of God” more in our lives. Then, we need to grow in seeing God in all things. How can we do that unless we can see and hear God in the variety of ways he reveals himself throughout the day?

He reveals himself in a flowering peach tree, in our recovery from being sick, and in the love from family and friends. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17).

We need to see God in all things when we face our challenges. Ten spies saw the challenges. Caleb and Joshua saw God as they exhorted Israel to enter the Promised Land (Numbers 13).

A third reason why it is important to see God in all things is to feel safe. “Do not fear for I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10). “[I will cause] all things to work together for good” (Romans 8:28).

And finally, for some reason when we see God in all things, we are not as likely to become corrupt. ‘“The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt” (Psalm 14:1).

Knowing that God is there helps us to remember that he “will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:14).


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Do You Understand?

I spent 26 years trying to understand my world and how to live in it. I didn’t have much else to depend upon except my understanding. I did not have a relationship with God.

Even though I now have a relationship with God, I still have the habit of depending on my understanding.

So, it was natural for me to look to God four years ago to give me understanding of my future–to give me a five year plan after I graduated from seminary.

However, God refused to give me that understanding and instead challenged me to follow him step by step into my future. What? Not depend on my understanding? What? Live by reliance on God and his leading?

Why would God do such a thing to me? Why would he deny me understanding of my future?

Understanding is defined as comprehending, knowing, realizing, grasping and being aware of.

So, what is wrong with giving us understanding?


We should seek understanding from God. He commands it. “Acquire understanding!” (Proverbs 4:5). We are foolish if we don’t. “So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).

Understanding God and his will helps us in many ways. We make wiser decisions, we understand that he will never reject us here or in heaven, we understand that we are very important and can do nothing to increase or decrease it, and we see God working in bad times as well as good times.

However, God often chooses to not give us understanding, at least not right away. It is like he says to us, “Wait for [Me]; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for [Me] (Psalm 27:14).

That wait may never result in our understanding why. Job never understood why God brought all the pain and suffering on him–but he grew in understanding of God’s greatness and his own smallness (Job 38-40).

God often chooses not to reveal things to us. “The secret things belong to the Lord” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Why? Who knows?

Perhaps, he is saying to us, “Trust in [Me] with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge [Me], and [I] will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

He may want us to be more like Job who said, “Though He slay me, I will put my hope in Him” (Job 13:15).

We have to come to grips with the fact that God is infinite, and we are not.

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts”’ (Isaiah 55:8-9).

But the good news is that we don’t have to completely understand our world and how to live in it to be safe. Instead, we have a Good Shepherd who completely understands everything and will shower our lives with his love and goodness (Psalm 23:6).

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