God Doesn’t Make Watches

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“I’ll see you in heaven,” I said to my Mom as peace fell over her still face. It’s the same thought I had when I got the call several weeks ago that my brother had passed away. For the believer, to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord” (2 Cor. 5:8). Truly, I envy them. I long to be home – eternally home. But it occurred to me that I never have to tell Jesus, “I’ll see you in heaven.” Yes, I will “see” Him in the sense that I will, like my mother and brother, gaze into His face in heaven. But I am not separated from Him at all. Over and over in Scripture, He promised, “I am with you,” and I know that He is.

There was a theory espoused in the late 18th century called “the Watchmaker Analogy.” Just as watches are set in motion by watchmakers, after which they operate according to their pre-established mechanisms, God created the world, set the laws of nature in motion, and then sat back on His heavenly throne to watch it all unfold without His regular involvement unless there was a catastrophic need to intervene. (2020 would be a good time.) It allowed for theism – the belief in the existence of a Creator – and evolution – the natural process of selection – to coexist without firmly standing in one camp or the other.

That’s not the God of the Bible, nor is it the God of my life. The God I know is not sitting back with disinterest, He is actively engaged in the world and even in the minute details of my everyday life. He is passionate about His creation and especially about His children. Recently I cried to God over hard stuff in my life, and He assured me of His ever-watchful eye and His hand poised to act at the right moment.

This life is hard. It’s doubly hard when you think you’re alone. It is comforting to know that the God who promised His presence to Abraham and Moses and Joshua and David and the Apostles and Paul has also promised to be present and active in your life as well. Beloved, you don’t have to wait for heaven. God is with you now, today. He is El Hayyay – the God of your life.

Clean Hands and a Pure Heart

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“Who may ascend the hill of the Lord? Who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart” (Psalm 24:3-4).

In this day of coronavirus, one thing is for sure, we have learned how to wash our hands. We have posters telling our students – college students – how to wash their hands. Clean hands are one of the best ways to cut down on the spread of germs.  (I’m not getting into the mask/no mast debate, so don’t start, please.)  Besides, it’s just common good hygiene, with or without a pandemic. In case you missed the poster: wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with a liberal amount of soap, covering the front and back of your hands and between all your fingers.

In Psalm 24 David declared that the only one who can stand before the Lord Almighty is one who “has clean hands and a pure heart.” I don’t know about you, but it will take more than 20 seconds to get my hands clean enough to stand before God. The word “clean” implies innocence and “hand” specifies the palm, meaning one is innocent with nothing to hide.

Clean hands are the outward evidence of a pure heart. That’s the only way I can see the condition of your heart. If you can open your hand – essentially open up your life to inspection without fear of what will be revealed, you have a pure heart. Let me put it another way: can your spouse, your child, or your pastor have complete access to everything on your cellphone – including all the hidden stuff – without embarrassment or fear of what they will see?  If you cringed just now, you may need a heart check.

I’m not judging. I’m not sure I could be so open myself. That’s the human dilemma – because of Adam and Eve, we all have impure hearts. That’s the bad news.  But there’s also good news. Jesus can purify our hearts and give us hands that are clean enough to stand before God. He is our Savior with not just clean hands, but nail-scarred hands. Beloved, if you put your dirty hands in His holy hands not only will your hands be clean, but your heart will also be made pure. That exceeds even pandemic standards.

A God I Can’t Understand

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“God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’.” (Exodus 3:14).

As a seminary grad student, I have to study a lot of theology.  On the one hand, I love theology – I love “the study of God.” There is a subject that will never be boring or useless.  I am excited and awed by the person and work of the God of Creation, the Lord God Almighty, the Sovereign and Holy One of Heaven and Earth.  At the same time, I am not a big fan of theology in the academic sense because it often resorts to arguments over words and opinions. Plus, I’ve read some bizarre and down-right heretical stuff in the name of “theology.” Some of these “scholars” turn themselves inside-out trying to make God fit their suppositions. That’s a waste of time and paper in my book. He is God and we are not – it’s as simple and as complex as that. We can’t use finite reasoning to comprehend the infinite.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to, God will never behave according to human ideas. Hallelujah!  Otherwise, He would not be God. He would not be worthy of worship. He would not be able to help me. He would not be bigger than my problems – and my biggest problem is sin.  No, I need a God who exceeds my understanding. Yes, indeed, the Bible repeatedly calls us to “know God,” but it never says “figure Him out.” As if you and I ever could. There’s a good reason for that. If you ever did, it would literally blow your mind because He’s far too big and great and other to fit into that space between your ears.

Maybe it’s time to accept that we’re not meant to define the indefinable. Let’s recognize the frailty and limits of our human understanding verses His Being. Instead, let’s just worship Him for who He is. Let’s stand in awe and wonder before Him. Let’s let God be God.

What if . . .?

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“Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘Do not eat from it’ . . .” (Gen. 3:17).

I am working and studying a lot in Genesis 3 for school. This is the account of the sin of Adam and Eve and the fall of mankind. It’s the hinge-point of the entire human race. I’ve asked a lot of “What if . . . ? questions of these Scriptures.

What if Eve ran from the serpent?

What if Adam, as her head and protector, pulled her away?

What if they rehearsed God’s words over the serpent’s lies?

What if they refused to eat the fruit?

What if they called on the Lord to deal with the evil intruder?

So much would be different in the world. There would be no evil, no hate, no sin, no destruction, no disasters, no condemnation, no judgment, and no death. There would be peace. There would truth. There would be paradise and freedom. There would be everlasting life.

I turn those questions on myself. What if I ran away from sin?  What if I drowned out the temptations of the enemy with God’s Word? What if I refused to take the bait? What if I called on the Lord to deal with my tempter? So much would be different in my life.

And then I remember Jesus. He took all my sin on the cross. He bore my punishment and shame. He saved me from the power of sin and death. He assured me of eternal life when He rose from the grave.  Genesis  3 is not the end of the story for humanity, just as my sins and failures are not the end of my story. They are the dark backdrop for the brilliant light of God’s redeeming work. Oh, I wish Adam and Eve and not fallen into sin. I wish they had not caused me and you to have to deal with evil and temptation and sin. Wishing won’t change the reality. But Jesus can. Beloved, your story doesn’t have to end with sin and death.  It can be a story of peace and Joy and life. Jesus is the hope you need. What if you trust Him today?

Do you Know God, or Just Know About Him?

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Did you know that you can believe in God without believing Him? You can acknowledge His authority and sovereignty and still not submit to Him. You can know God and not know Him at all. James said “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (Jas 2:19). The demons, who are fallen angels (Matt. 25:41, Rev. 12:9), know very well who God is.  They knew who Jesus was (Matt 8:28-30 They do not lack knowledge. They lack love.

Knowing God is not the same as knowing about God. One is knowing God with your head.  The other is knowing God with your heart. Knowing God by heart is rooted in love and is visible to others. Paul said “If I have can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing” (1 Cor. 13:2 – emphasis added).

I graduated from seminary with a 3.95 GPA (one lousy B!). I am currently in graduate school at the Bible college where I work and hold a 4.0 GPA. But I was recently told, that for all my A’s in seminary, I am not a godly example for those closest to me. I hope that is not true. That means that all I’ve learned is only “head-deep” and has never made it to my heart. Jeremiah said, “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom . . . but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows Me . . .” (Jer. 9:23-24). The words used here are insightful. Understanding God is gained by “proper learning and observation.” Knowing God comes through intimacy.  In other words, the more we know God – not just know about God – the more we will love God. The more we love God, the more we will love others.

I never want to be puffed up with knowledge. My heart’s desire is to build up others with love (1 Cor. 8:1). I don’t always get that right. But I’m trying. Beloved, do you know God? With your head or your heart? If you don’t know Him with your heart, how will you ever love Him? How will you ever love anyone?

I am a Christian, and I am Depressed

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“How long, O Lord must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart?” (Psalm 13:2).

I’ve had a lot going on in my life lately. Some painful things – emotionally and physically. Some hard things. Some heavy things. Some unfair things. My mind is both dulled and racing. And the devil snarls in my ear, “Where is your peace, Oh Bible teacher?” “Where are your joy and contentment?”

I haven’t tried to hide the fact that I struggle with depression. I have for most of my life. I’m not ashamed of it, it is part of my chemical makeup – and probably a lot of conditioning from trauma over the years. Sometimes it is overwhelming. And the enemy adds fuel to the fire. “You are a FRAUD!”

Why in the world am I telling you this? Because I know others struggle in the same way. Maybe you. I want you to know that you are not in this by yourself. Satan loves to turn our eyes to ourselves so that we think we’re alone in our depression. Isolation is a huge part of this disease, so I want you to have the assurance that you’re not the only one. There are a lot of us out here.

I am also telling you this because I want you to know where I find my hope and comfort and – yes peace in seasons like this. Stop right now and read Psalm 13. I’ll wait right here for you. This is a lament of David. Saul is king and he had determined to kill David out of jealousy because he is the hero of the Goliath story and because the Lord has anointed him as the next king of Israel. David has been running like a hunted animal for a long time. He is bone and heart weary. He is exhausted and depressed. Still, he holds on to one sure thing: “But I trust in your unfailing love . . .” That’s my hope and comfort and peace and Joy – the never-failing, never-ending, never-diminishing, always consistent love of God. When satan calls me a fraud, God calls me Beloved. And that’s why I call you Beloved too. Because despite depression and anxiety and darkness, the love of God never fails. Never. Rest your broken, weary heart in this: God loves you.

Did God Really Say . . .?

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“Did God really say . . .” (Gen. 3:1)

Why do I have so much trouble driving the speed limit? The speed limit is 70 MPH – so I go 75 or 80. It’s 55 on my way to work, so I set my cruise for 62. Oh, don’t you judge me – you’re doing it too. Some of you are flying past me like we’re on a NASCAR racetrack. What makes us want to try the boundaries?

I recently wrote a paper on Genesis 3:1-7, the account of the fall of humanity. You know the story, perfectly innocent couple in a perfect garden home enjoying wondrous fruits – until a sneaky, lying snake approaches the woman. “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?” The woman responded, albeit not entirely truthful and he comes back with, “You will not surely die . . .” (Gen. 3:4). There is an interesting play in the serpent’s words in verses 1 and 4. The word “really” (‘ap) is an adverb that essentially asks the question: “Is it even so that God hath said?”[1] Combined with the serpent’s rejection of the consequences of eating the fruit, it appears that in verse 1 the serpent was not asking Eve, “Did God truly speak these words?” but rather, “Do you think God meant what he said?” That’s why I push the speed limit – I don’t think they are serious about it. One can almost see the serpent wave his hand with a “Pshaw – You will not surely die!” The serpent was casting doubt in Eve’s mind about God’s truthfulness. Does He really mean it? Will He do what He claimed He would do?

That is one of the enemy’s favorite tools – causing us to doubt God’s integrity – whether it is questioning God’s willingness to punish sin or His willingness to save us, protect us, provide for us, and deliver us. And it has infiltrated the church. “No, God won’t punish this wicked desire of yours, He is all love, love, love!” Paul said we must become wise about the devil’s schemes. Beloved, In case you ever wondered – you can absolutely, 100 % trust what God says – about punishment and blessings. The devil is a liar.

[1]. “Lexicon :: Strong’s H637 – ‘aph,” Blue Letter Bible, Accessed September 19, 2020, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=H637&t=NIV


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I love the way my granddaughter follows me around the house. I love to hear her behind me, those little feet slap, slap, slapping on the wood floor. My heart desires to be a person worthy of being followed. And I don’t mean social media “followers.” I mean followed in the same way Paul meant it when he told the church in Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). I want to be a model of Christ for others, therefore I need to always be conscious of who is watching me. I know all too well that I’m not always going to get it right, but I’m trying.

It is good to have Christ-like examples you can follow. Godly women, and a few men, have played a huge part in shaping who I am as a woman, a disciple, and a witness just by the way they lived their lives. They weren’t perfect, but they have been a wonderful grace gift on my Christian path. I want to be the same for my granddaughter.

Beloved, I want to offer you some challenges today. First, find someone who follows Christ, whose life is patterned after His, and get close to them. Learn from them. Listen to them. Pick up their holy habits. A word of caution: Don’t expect them to be perfect; learning to give others grace is an important part of the Christian life.  Second, be a person who follows Christ so closely that others can follow you. Live your faith out loud where others can see it and can see Jesus in you. Do your best to be conscious of who may be watching you. And third, grow up in your walk. There comes a point where we have to stop following people who follow Christ, as good and godly as we think they are, and follow Christ for ourselves. People will always falter, Jesus never will.

I pray that I can be a godly example for my granddaughter to follow. I pray that I can be a good example for others as they witness my life, even the slips and failures. I want to be the kind of believer that people, especially younger women can say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).

Be Perfect

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“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

I’m trying. But I’ll never pull it off. I’ll never be perfect. I am too human, too flawed, too me. That was made sharply and painfully apparent to me this weekend. My heart is still. I’ll never reach that impossible measure. I might as well give up. Why would Jesus demand such a thing of me? He knows I can’t do it.

Because He is not telling me to be without fault, He is telling me to be complete. The word “perfect” in Greek is teleios, and it means to bring to an end, to finish, to be mature. (Honestly, I’m not even sure I can pull off mature.) Jesus used that word when He told the rich man to sell all he had and give it to the poor and follow Him (Matt. 19:21). Paul used it to say that we must put childishness behind us and be mature (1 Cor 14:20). James said that perfection comes from patience (sigh) (Jas 1:4). And John said that God’s love is perfect – complete and full.

Here in Matthew 5, it comes in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount – after the Beatitudes and do not murder or commit adultery. It comes in the passage where Jesus said “Love your enemies” Oh.

He said “Do not resist an evil person . . . turn the other cheek . . . go the extra mile . . . give with no conditions. (vs. 38-42). He said, “Pray for those who persecute you, who despitefully use you.” (vs. 43-48). Be kind and gracious to those who stand against you. That, He said is what sons (and daughters) of the Father do. That is what perfect people do. That is what the Father has done for me and for you.

There are two times that Jesus used a word – teleo – that shares the same root meaning as teleios – both of these words come from the base meaning of “an end result or goal.” Twice Jesus said, “It is finished” – at the cross when work of salvation was completed (John 19:30) , and in Revelation 21:6 when the work of creation was completed. Finished. Done. Perfect.

I do want to perfect. Jesus said that comes in loving those who are against me, just as He did on the cross. I can’t do that on my own. Thankfully, I don’t have to. Neither do you Beloved.

What the Church has Forgotten

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Something has been sticking in my craw lately. Something Jesus said. “Sin no more.” It’s found twice in John 5:14 and 8:11. What’s bugging me is not that Jesus said it – everything the Lord said is right and true and should be written on our hearts.  The problem I’m having is how the church is using it. Let me explain.

In John 5:1-15 Jesus healed a thirty-eight-year invalid at the pool of Bethesda. Jesus told the man “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk” (v. 8). And so the man is healed. John said “Later, Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, ‘See you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you” (v. 14).

In John 8:1-11 Jesus is confronted by a group of religious leaders who bring before Him a woman caught in the act of adultery (BTW – where was the man???). Jesus rejected the religious folks and sided with the woman because no one is without sin (I hope that’s not a surprise to you). After all of her accusers walked away he told her “Go now and leave your life of sin” (v. 11).

Without fail, every time I hear these stories taught, preached, or written about, they invariably press the “sin no more” point. Is that really what the Scriptures are teaching us in these accounts? What about the miracle-working power of Jesus? What about grace?  What about forgiveness? What about the extraordinary, wonderful, breathtaking, holy love on display? What would Jesus want us to take away from these passages? Surely not just the divine imperative to “leave your life of sin.” We forget that these are real people who encountered the real Son of God in the flesh. Yes, their lives were likely changed (we know nothing more than their encounters with the Lord) but the catalyst for change was the amazing grace and healing power of God through Jesus Christ.

What is the message of the church? It seems to most often be: “Don’t sin!” Is that what brings people to Christ? Let me ask it a different way. What drew you to Jesus Beloved? Fear and chastisement or grace and compassion and forgiveness and love? “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37).