The God Who Knows You

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My sweet mother-in-law always cooked a birthday dinner for me with all my favorite foods: white peas, creamed corn, sliced tomatoes, and chicken and dumplings. She also made me a coconut cake for my birthday. It was a labor of love. There was just one problem. I didn’t like coconut. What was I to do? Well, I ate it and thanked her, and told her how good it was. So she made it every year. And I ate it every year.

My late brother ordered a gift box of fruit for me every Christmas. Lots of apples, oranges, mangoes, peaches, and grapes. There was just one problem. I am allergic to fruit. But I never told him because he loved doing it and my husband enjoyed the bounty.

While my mother-in-law and brother were family, they didn’t know everything about me. And I didn’t want to spoil their happiness in doing something nice for me just to get what I preferred.  They loved me and that was enough. Besides, after a few years, it’s awkward to say, “Oh, by the way, I don’t like coconut.”

But there is One who knows me well. He knows what I like and what I can’t tolerate. David said, “O Lord, you have searched me and you know me” (Psalm 139:1). He knows every move and every thought (yikes!). He knows what I’m going to say before I say it. He is “familiar with all my ways” (v. 3). He even knows when I am feeling confident or am in the dark pit of despair (v. 8). He knows me because He created me and put all those likes and dislikes in me. He fashioned me to be allergic to fruit (but thankfully not chocolate!), to love to write and teach, and to give my heart to a little blond girl with a Joyful smile.

And not only does He know all this about me, He thinks about me with deep affection. David said, “How precious towards me are Your thoughts, O God! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand” (v. 17, 18). He thinks I am precious! And He thinks the same of you, Beloved. He knows you by name (Isaiah 43:1), and He knows you by heart. He will never forget a single detail about you. Not even what kind of cake you don’t like.

God is Here!

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“I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14)

When you look out at the night sky you are looking at the handiwork of God – sparkling stars scattered across black velvet –  dancing in honor of their Creator.  The deeper man looks into outer space, the more he sees God at work. The mountains towering from the earth are grander than any human-built skyscraper and stand as a strong, silent witness to the God who ordered them to rise. The rising and setting of the sun and the moon powerfully declare the God who said, “Let there be . . .” From the towering Sequoias to the delicate Johnny-Jump-Ups, all of nature testifies of its Creator. And so do you.

 When you look in the mirror you are looking at the most powerful testimony to the existence of the Creator. Every cell in our human bodies bears God’s signature. The intricate inner workings that are occurring in your body are amazing – and you aren’t doing anything to make them happen. They are following a prescribed pattern written by their Creator.  Did you know that there is a digestive enzyme in your body that is only needed when you introduce lactose – milk sugar – into your system. It is produced by one specific DNA protein which just quietly hangs around until it is called into duty. When you drink a glass of milk at breakfast, your body signals that little protein to take its place and start producing the enzyme that breaks down the lactose for digestion. When the work is done this little dude goes back into its dormant state until you have cheese on your sandwich at lunch and ice cream for dessert after supper. Isn’t that incredible?! I know I didn’t give a “scientific” explanation there, but the point is – there is far too much intricacy and complexity to the human body – and to all of creation – to think this all happened by accident! Every breath we take, the beat of our heart, our brain waves, and the DNA that makes our bodies work all declare His praises. How can we think we are anything less than the work of a wonderful Creator?

You, Beloved, are a walking, breathing, testifying witness to the existence and creative power of God – without saying a word.  He not only fashioned you with His own hands, but He also put His image in you so that the whole world knows – God is here!

Give God the Glory

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I’m preparing for my fall class by reading Romans over the summer. Actually, I’m writing it out. This is my favorite way to study the Scriptures because I have to pay careful attention to every single word.  This is when the Spirit sends me on those wonderful word studies and calls me to think carefully and deeply about what a verse says.

I hit one of those the other day and I’ve been chewing on it ever since. Paul is explaining why God is justified in pouring out His wrath on sinful, rebellious men. Here’s the verse that caught my attention: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (1:21). There are several major points here, but we’re going to focus on two:

Men – all men – know about God. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made . . .” (v. 20) They know that Someone is the creative force behind everything that exists. Paul said that creation is intended to draw men to “seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him . . .” (Acts 17:27). Man is “without excuse” (v. 20b) when he denies the truth of God.

Then, here’s what caught my attention – the very minimum man owes God is glory and thanks. God is worthy of glory – which means declaring his splendor and brilliance and power with words of honor, praise, and excellence and assigning the highest status to Him. Not that He needs it. We do. We need to give Him glory to turn our minds and hearts to Him who alone is worthy. And we owe God our thanks as our Creator. We exist because He decided we should. That in itself should be enough to thank Him.

The wicked man refuses to give God even the least He deserves – glory and thanks. Oh but He is worthy of so much more and when we receive His Son as our Savior we give Him the rest – love, faith, trust, devotion, service – our very selves. Beloved, what about it? Are you giving God everything He deserves or just the bare minimum? Or are you refusing to give Him anything at all?

Of Septic Tanks and God

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My son says that I can take anything and find a spiritual application to it. I suppose that’s so but it’s because I see God in everything. He is the Creator and Sustainer of everything. Nothing exists that He did not create with His powerful word or fashion with His divine hand. If he could somehow cease to exist, which He will not, everything in heaven and earth would also cease to exist. So yeah, I see spiritual things in everything and every situation.  

There is this spot in my yard that is especially lush and green. You city people won’t understand, but the country folk know that this is where the septic tank sits.  The “contents” of the tank become fertilizer for the soil so that the grass and bushes in the immediate vicinity are “nurtured.” How can I find a spiritual application in a septic tank?  In God’s hands, the crappiest parts of our life often become the most fruitful for the Kingdom. Ask Joseph whose horrible brothers sold him into slavery. He was taken to Egypt where he was falsely accused of sexual assault and thrown in prison. There, he interpreted a dream for a fellow prisoner who promised to remember him to the Pharoah but promptly forgot. Until two years later when Pharoah had a dream and the ex-prisoner remembered Joseph and recommended him. Joseph not only told the Pharoah the meaning of his anxious dream but how to resolve the problem that the dream was prophecying. Impressed, Pharoah appointed him to the second-highest position in his kingdom and Joseph saved the lives of the Egyptians and became very wealthy in the process. He also saved the lives of his family – including the brothers who had betrayed him. And in doing so, he saved the lineage through which the Savior of all mankind would come.  Had Joseph not made it to Egypt to stand before the Pharoah – however harsh the circumstances – there would be no nation of Israel, no Jewish people, no Jesus, and no salvation for you and me.  Joseph told his brothers, “ You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20).

Beloved, if life feels like a septic tank right now be encouraged. God has a way of taking the crappiest things and bringing unexpected good out of them.

The Truth is . . .

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Has anyone ever lied to you?  Ever listened to a politician? Ever asked a toddler, “What have you got in your mouth?” I know people have lied to me. And if I’m truly honest, I’ve lied to people too – but not intentionally. Well, maybe sometimes intentionally. Like that time as a teenager when I . . . on second thought, I’d better not divulge that. Most of the time, the lies I told were when I said I would do something and failed to follow through. That usually comes when I over-promise. I have every intention of doing the thing, but for a variety of reasons, I just can’t pull it off. I’ve eaten a lot of humble pie in my life admitting I fell short of my promises.

Hebrews 6:18 tells us “it is impossible for God to lie.”  God is truth, and everything He says is true. You and I can take it to the proverbial bank. The Bible is God’s Word, thus, whatever the Bible says is the absolute truth.

When the Bible says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1), we can trust that is true.

In the Bible, God said, “I will be with you, I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Jos 1:5). That’s a true and trustworthy promise.

When the Bible says that God is your shield (Ps 7:10), your strength rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, stronghold, and salvation (Ps 18:1-2), you can be assured that you are safe in His arms.

When the Bible says that God sees your trouble and grief and listens to your cries (Ps 101:14,17), you can rest your weary head on His shoulder and pour out your heart into His ears.

When the Bible says that God has good plans to give me a future and a hope (Jer29:13) and that He will fulfill His purpose for me (Ps 27:2), I need not fear the days ahead.

And most of all, when the Bible says God loves you, you can know without a shadow of a doubt that it is the truth, no matter what your feelings or the world may say. Beloved, the God who is the Creator of the universe loves you. And that’s no lie. It’s the truest thing you’ll ever hear.

Designer of Life

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

 The existence of God is the most hotly contested issue in the world today, followed closely by  the creation of the earth.  The next topic in our “Know and Believe” series is equally debated – and rejected – from the highest levels of science to the curriculum for grade-school students.  How did life – specifically human life – come to be?

The Bible tells us that God created man” (Genesis 1:27).  He spoke the universe and all other life into being, but He scooped up a handful of dust from the earth and fashioned a human being, then breathed His own life into him. Yet fewer than half of Americans believe that is true.  A 2012 Gallop poll found that only 46% of Americans believe that God created humans in their complete form.  32% believe God guided the evolutionary process to man’s finished state, and 15% dismiss any concept of God’s involvement in human existence at all.[1]  They find it easier to believe that an intelligent man morphed into being from a chain of evolutionary transformations than to believe that man was purposefully created by a master Designer.

The truth is, we have no empirical evidence of God as creator. But that’s not to say we can’t reach a reasonable conclusion with the support we do have.  Because the most compelling evidence of God’s creative power stares back at you from the mirror every morning.  YOU are a living, breathing testament of God’s existence and of His creative genius.  In his message to the Athenians, Paul said, “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth . . . He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else” (Acts 17:24, 25).  Again, the unbelievers reject this word and instead reason that life happened by accident, as parasitic bacteria randomly divided and morphed into molecules and cells and genes and organs and brains and legs and eyes and fingers.

Within every living being, whether plants or animals or humans, live molecules and cells and genes, each with its own properties and purposes.  They are working diligently according to their individual design—one small part of the whole.  From the connectedness of our organs, skin, bones, muscles, and brain to the delicate intricacy of our DNA, the human body shouts of a Creator.  The stunning dance of micro-organisms in your body sings of plan and purpose.  And if you need any further proof of God as the Designer of life, study the stages of procreation – of how a baby comes into being.  This is no random colliding of cells, this is Design at its finest!

God fashioned all of nature, to the deepest micro-cellular level, with incredible intricacy and detail, with beauty and function that could never happen by “accident.”  The deeper we go in studying the biological make up of life, the more we see God.  This is not without a purpose; Paul said to the Athenians, God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us (Acts 17: 27).  The great theologian F. B. Meyer says, “God . . . provides all we need to find and worship him.”[2]  God knows that man will deny Him and work to disprove Him, so the deeper man goes the more evidence he will find of a Designer.  Likewise, the farther out in space he goes, the more evidence he will find of the Creator.  It must be so frustrating to those who want to doubt God’s existence.

My friend, despite what the world says, you are no random accident of colliding parasites and micro-organisms.  God created you and signed His name deep within you, so that you will know without a doubt that you were fashioned by His hands.  He created you with intention and purpose—the greatest purpose of all—that you might know Him and love Him, because He knows and loves you.  God has made Himself evident in every cell of your body.  Know and believe this deep in your soul: you, beloved, are a wonder to behold.

Holy Father – my Creator – anytime I wonder if you exist all I have to do is look in the mirror and I am reminded that only a Master Craftsman could make such an intricate and delicate design.  You created me and designed me for a purpose and plan.  Thank you for the gift of life.  Amen.

[1] “In U.S., 46% Hold Creationist View of Human Origins” http://www.gallup.com/poll/155003/Hold-Creationist-View-Human-Origins.aspx

[2] F. B. Meyer; Bruce H. Wikinson, Calvin W. Edwards, Paula Kirk, Eds., “January 2 Devotional” Closer Walk New Testament: New International Version, (Atlanta, Walk Thru the Bible Ministries, Inc., 1990) 8.

Creation: Fact or Fiction?

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).

It’s the simplest truth, taught to the littlest children: God created the whole world. It is the opening statement of the Holy Bible and is foundational to our understanding of who God is, and in turn who we are.  I would like to encourage you to read the first chapter of Genesis before you read any further in this devotional.

Where did the universe come from?  Modern science spins a tale of colliding gasses that somehow formed into a diverse group of planets, stars and galaxies.  Yet out of all those celestial places only one has the exact mix of Carbon, Hydrogen, Nitrogen, Oxygen, Phosphorus, and Sulfur to sustain life.  Only one is the precise distance from the sun to keep the inhabitants from freezing or burning to death.  Only one produces plant life that can feed both humans and animals.   Can we seriously believe that this delicate balance was achieved by accident?  Faith tells us that God fashioned the earth purposefully for His living creations.  

The Bible says that God created out nothing.  There were no prior elements that He scooped up into His hand and rolled into a ball.  He spoke into the nothingness and the response was immediate obedience.  “Be” . . . light, water, dry ground, plant life, sun, moon and stars, and living creatures.  And they were.

The Genesis account also says that these creative events occurred over six “days.”  A lot of debate centers on those days.  Were they really 24-hour days like we know today?  Were they thousands, even millions of our years long?  Were there long “gaps” between the days?  I’ll not get into the “young-earth/old-earth” debates, because that is not my intent.  The Bible is not written as a science manual; it is written for faith.  And the first act of faith is believing that God exists; the second is believing that the Word that He has given us is true.  The creation verses say that “there was evening and there was morning” – and calls that a “day.”  The Hebrew terminology agrees with that understanding.

Does it really matter though?  Yes it really does, but not for the sake of scientific argument.

I personally believe that this indicates a 24-hour day, but my conviction is based not so much on the descriptive text but on the One who inspired the text.  If I side with the scientific versions – even from a “Christian” perspective – I have said that the very first truths of the Holy Word of God are questionable.  That leaves everything else from Genesis 2 to Revelation 22 open to debate and alteration for the sake of human agreement.  I have heard “Christians” say that Noah’s Ark, Jonah and the Whale, and many other biblical accounts are just myths.  How easy it becomes then to question to truth of the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles and even His resurrection. Even in the church.  Think I’m stretching too far here?  Go sit through a lecture at a liberal-leaning seminary.  It’s a wonder students are still believers when the graduate.

Mankind has had one of three responses to the biblical account of creation:

Some receive it as truth and accept God as Creator.

Some receive it as a possible truth and add God to their harem of higher powers.

Some outright reject it and deny the power, and often the existence of God.

Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science admitted that it is “[extremely difficult] or rather [impossible to] conceive this immense and wonderful universe, including man” without being convicted of the existence of God.  Yet he abandoned that “strong conclusion” and devised the evolutionary theory that the world has received as an alternative to the truth.  (Taken from a video lecture by Dr. David DeWitt).  All that he could see around him convinced him of the existence of God, but his arrogance led him to reject God.  His theory has lead millions of human souls away from God and has become entangled in the church’s teaching of creation.

If the Bible is truly the Word of God, then all of it is true and must be received and believed without compromise.  “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).  Faith starts right here, at the beginning.  Know what you believe and believe what you know – but be certain what you know and believe is the truth.

Father God, Creator and Sustainer of all that is, forgive us for looking to men to explain Your miraculous works.  You created by your word and You wrote it down for us to believe – not to pick apart and debate.  Create in us hearts that believe You above all else.  Amen.

Who God Made Me to Be

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“In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

“Lord, I wish You had given me a beautiful voice. I would love to sing like her.”  “God why do I have to be so short?”  “If only I had so-and-so’s creative talents, I could make so many pretty things.”

I know you’ve said something similar and so have I.  We look at others who sing or play or create or have some other seeming advantage over us and wonder why we are the way we are.  Too short. Too tall.  Shy.  A little rough around the edges.  I want to be someone else – someone better.  But I’m just plain ole’ me.

I thought that way once too.  I’m rather loud and, as a former boss once said, “she doesn’t suffer from a lack of self-expression.” I was a chatterbox when I was a little girl and that never changed.  I was often told, “You need to talk less and listen more.”  But no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t change.   Oh how I longed to be like those quiet, dignified ladies who always spoke with an “inside” voice.  They didn’t burst out with laughter.  They listened patiently to others.  They didn’t always have to express their thoughts and opinions.  They were everything I was not.

A while back I had the opportunity to attend a nationally-known Christian women’s conference.  I wasn’t planning to go.  It had been a very difficult year for my family and I just didn’t have the money for such a luxury, but my dear friends pitched in and provided for my ticket, hotel and meals, plus a little spending money too.  It was an unexpected blessing.  We had snagged seats on the floor in the very front row, nothing between us and the stage but a few feet of open space.  I sat near the end of the row and had a bird’s eye view of the platform where the other speakers sat waiting their turn and listening to the person on stage.  I had a blast.  The speakers were both profoundly spiritual and hysterically funny.  I listened and I laughed.  No, I howled.  I roared with laughter.  I nearly fell in the floor a few times with my sides splitting.  I so needed this event; it fed my spirit and released a lot of tension.

Before the final speaker we all took a break (picture 14,000 women running to the bathrooms!).  I stood in the line beside a new friend I’d seen at church, but never took the time to get to know.  We shared the hotel room with two other women that weekend and we just clicked.  As we waited I told her, “I’m so glad to get to spend this time with you.  I’ve always admired your quiet, gentle spirit and I hope some of it has rubbed off on me.” She turned to me with a puzzled look and said, “I’ve always admired your bold, fun spirit, and I was hoping the same thing for me.”  We laughed and hugged, finished our business and went back to our seats.

As I was putting my purse back under my seat, I felt a hand touch my back. I stood up and turned to face the president and emcee of the conference.  She told me, “I just wanted you to know how much the speakers have enjoyed watching you having such a good time this weekend.  It really blesses them to see you respond to what they are saying.”  I thanked her and shared with her that this weekend had been a gift from my friends and she said, “Clearly God had a reason for you to be here, if nothing else to be a blessing to our team of speakers.”

I sat down in stunned silence – one of the few times I’ve ever been that quiet.  As I thought about what she said and the conversation with my friend during the break, I heard that “still, small voice” speak to my heart.  “Child, don’t you realize – your mouth and personality are not a character flaw. It’s how I made you. I gave you that big mouth because I intend to use it.  You’re going to be my voice in the world.”

Precious friend, it’s time to stop looking at who you aren’t and focus on who God created you to be.  Maybe you don’t have a soaring soprano voice, but no one can build a better stage than you.  Your gift is important in the Kingdom of God.   Perhaps you stumble and stammer as a public speaker, but you are able to build one-on-one relationships that lead to changed lives.  I have a friend who is quite short and is able to relate well with children because she can literally get down on their level.  If you wish you could create something beautiful but you keep hot-gluing your fingers together, don’t fret.  God has created you for a special purpose that is unique and specific.  Paul says that you are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for [you] to do” (Ephesians 2:10).  It’s an important work and something only you can fulfill.

You are exactly who you are because God created you with a unique plan and a specific purpose in mind –be thankful that you are one-of-a-kind and let your light shine for the Lord.

Holy Father, I’ll never forget Your words to me that day.  I am who I am because You made me this way, to do Your good work.  My voice, my hands, my feet, my smile, my gifts and talents – it’s all Yours.  Use me Lord.  Amen.

(If you want to learn more about your unique spirit gifts, I recommend https://gifts.churchgrowth.org/analysis/index.php as a good spiritual gifts inventory resource.)