Tag Archives: God

The Firsts: II Thessalonians 1 – Simple Addition

11 And so we keep on praying for you, that our God will make you the kind of children he wants to have—will make you as good as you wish you could be!—rewarding your faith with his power.

11 …we pray for you all the time—pray that our God will make you fit for what he’s called you to be, pray that he’ll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something.

11 With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.

God + Prayer = You
– as good as you wish you could be 
– fit for what he’s called you to be 
– made worthy of his calling
– with faith rewarded with his power
– with good ideas and acts of faith filled with his own energy
– with every desire for goodness and deeds prompted by faith brought to fruition

ג Gimel – Soul

Psalm 119:17-24
ג17 Be good to your servant while I live,
that I may obey your word.
18 Open my eyes that I may see
wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
do not hide your commands from me.
20 My soul is consumed with longing
for your laws at all times.
21 You rebuke the arrogant, who are accursed,
those who stray from your commands.
22 Remove from me their scorn and contempt,
for I keep your statutes.
23 Though rulers sit together and slander me,
your servant will meditate on your decrees.
24 Your statutes are my delight;
they are my counselors.

Gimel says the specific purpose of these verses is their relationship to the soul: “the spiritual part of humans as distinct from the physical part.”

I’m learning from the psalmist. Our physical part is pleading with God to open a connection to our soul and be at work there; “be good to your servant, open my eyes, I am a stranger, do not hide your commands from me.” The soul is distinctly God’s domain – connection established!

Our first inclination is to assure God that our spiritual part “is consumed with longing” to know his laws at all times. Then we admit it comforts us to know God will rebuke the souls of those who stray, and protect us from their “scorn and contempt”…but no matter what, we’ll stay strong. Sounds humanly familiar doesn’t it?

The last verse of this section is the only possible way the spiritual and physical can unite to become a righteous soul that really does long for God’s law at all times. “Your servant will meditate on your decrees. Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors.”

A Matter of Hearts

Galatians 4:4 But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. 6 Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

I’m lucky enough to have had good experience with a father’s love. It’s not quite the straightforward story you’d imagine though.
An excerpt from my post on 2/3/16
I was baptized when I was about 12. There was some huddled whispering among relatives at that time that was mysterious to me. Some of the mystery became clear shortly after my baptism when I learned the only Dad I’d ever known wasn’t my birth father at all but the process for adoption had been put in motion.

I really can’t add the word “step-” to this father because he was as real a Dad as one’s heart could hope for. It was his role in my life that formed my image of how a father’s caring and love worked in daily life. In case that sounds too syrupy, he was not a perfect man, by any means, but he knew about being a gentle and caring Dad. The truth is I’ll have to wait for some eternal future date to discover whether there is reality to my hope about his status with God.

But I am absolutely sure of this: that caring, humanly imperfect man played a part in helping me understand that adoption was A Matter of Hearts; his, mine and ours.   The heart of that adoption made room, much later, for a new reality that “God [could send] the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

From John Piper February 10, 2007
The deepest and strongest foundation of adoption is located not in the act of humans adopting humans, but in God adopting humans. And this act is not part of his ordinary providence in the world; it is at the heart of the gospel.

Abba, Father…Thanks for both of your hearts.

Divine Reading

It was just a few years ago that I first heard of Lectio Divina (Latin for “Divine Reading”). It’s not a theological analysis of biblical passages but choosing to read and ponder your personal relationship with God through his Living Word.

Genesis 2:15 “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”

God took a risk when He gave Adam the possibility of choosing not to obey rather than physically preventing him from eating. Think about the trust involved in giving that freedom to Adam…and to us!  That’s prime Divine Reading [and pondering].

For God to be willing to risk letting his creation make a wrong choice seems like the ultimate submission on his part. The omnipotent God staking His reputation on “our” choices because “He first loved…” is pretty amazing when you think of it.  He did have a plan but sometimes I just wish he’d done it the other way.

Lord, give me this day the courage to make you proud.

Chant Rant

We have come through a long, and well-developed, period of esteem building that hasn’t had the effect we’d hoped. It’s a good thing to be capable, to be strong, to be skilled but there’s a falseness to how we’ve promoted that. We’ve outstripped God himself with our motivational chants and as a result we have, and are, a people who do not recognize that we have settled for better when we could have had best. I’m convinced this is our biggest sin; not the things we do or say. I’m also convinced this keeps people away from the life-giving Jesus.
We have settled for words we hoped would build self-esteem and character but they have spiraled out of control inwardly until all that is left is the conflict of our own inner realities and our programmed ideas of how we SHOULD respond to life. It’s no wonder we are stressed. Inside we know our inadequacies and outside we forge onward based on these personal and cultural mantras we need to rethink:
Have it your way
You can do it
Take care of yourself
Accept yourself
You deserve it
Love yourself
Love is never having to say you’re sorry
It’s the real thing
Be true to yourself
Believe in yourself
Feel good about yourself
I’m OK, you’re OK

From the day we’re born finding “the real me” is the task we set out on. Our messages over the years are many but they are not always correct or valuable. Sometimes they seem completely misleading. We are bombarded with basic tools for a reality of success, achievement and pride in our efforts. Those are good and worthy values but they are also part of our struggles.
The messages themselves are a part of the problem but so is our response to them. We need to become aware these motivational message have a downside; leading people to make self-sufficiency their god (with a little “g.”) But there is the big “God” to be considered. He is Sovereign. He is in charge. If we believe that, our quest becomes our opportunity to find ways to transform those messages of success, achievement and pride of accomplishment so they impact hearers in a world-changing way.
Our language of encouragement needs to be transformed from stress producing to stress reducing. No more motivating chants like “you can do it” when they haven’t a clue how, or “have it your way” when it’s obvious they don’t know what that way is. This is culture language that has left us bereft because our inner truth and “fake it ’til you make it” just leave us with a load of stress. We faked it and we didn’t make it; we couldn’t do it. Now what? When did “not getting my way” become failure? When did “need” become weakness? That seems like the biggest hurdle between searchers and Jesus’ promise of abundant life.


Genesis 28
16 When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.” 17 He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” 18 Early the next morning Jacob took the stone he had placed under his head and set it up as a pillar and  poured oil on top of it. 19 He called that place Bethel, though the city used to be called Luz.  20 Then Jacob made a vow, saying, “If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household, then the Lord will be my God 22 and this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.”

Of Interest:
Two things today:  “gate of heaven” and “then the Lord will be my God.”

My Thoughts:
Before this moment Jacob has been an “environmental” believer. He’s lived in a family with a history of God.  He’s probably spent his life listening to, and participating in, family rituals of faith.  That’s been his environment, his custom, but not necessarily his choice. He must have had some historical awareness of this area being the gateway to Heaven…maybe Eden fits in there too… but now it seems to come as a surprise to him that he hadn’t been aware of it before.  God has been present but not “in” him until this awakening.  He has been “not Godless but not Godly” either.  He is just like us.

After he awakes it’s a whole new ballgame.  Finally there is an inner understanding, not just a casual awareness.  “How awesome is this place!”  This is Jacob’s moment of redemption.  Now it is more than the faith of Abraham or Isaac, it’s his own personal faith.  Look at his response now – the If/THEN statement.

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear 21 so that I return safely to my father’s household…then The Lord will be my God…”

A brand new awareness of God… awesome yes…but still needing the reassurance of the “IF” just like us!

Sure Thing

Genesis 19
The angels questioned Lot. “Do you have any other relatives here in the city?” they asked. “Get them out of this place—your sons-in-law, sons, daughters, or anyone else. For we are about to destroy this city completely. The outcry against this place is so great it has reached the Lord, and he has sent us to destroy it…” When Lot still hesitated, the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city, for the Lord was merciful.

Of Interest:
“…the angels seized his hand and the hands of his wife and two daughters and rushed them to safety outside the city….”

My Thoughts:
This brings to my mind, “once saved, always saved.”  Right now Lot seems like the most stupid of men doesn’t he?  Does he hesitate because of the need to act immediately without time to reason and prepare OR is he questioning if the message is really from God?  Either of those options lead to the same conclusion.  Lot is unsure of who he’s to follow. Not Godless (maybe) but not Godly either!

However God is not unsure about Lot.  It’s hard to fathom why, but God has committed himself to Lot and He will not hesitate to act to save him, and his family. And therein lies the seed of forever.  We think we have chosen God, but remember I John 4:19?  We love because he first loved us.  We think we have committed ourselves fully but our choice is limited by the truth we now have.   God says “So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have.” 2 Peter 1:12

Here’s the Good News.  God ‘s heart is not limited by the truth you now have. He has all truth.  When your heart spoke those words of your personal commitment, God chose to accept the Christ in you and your words, without reservation, totally and completely…forever.  His intention is for YOUR forever, even if he has to “seize” your hand and drag you to safety. It’s a sure thing.

All About Image

Genesis 16
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “The Lord has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.” And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)
Of Interest:
The three main characters.
My Thoughts:
Only three people; Abram, the righteous one, Sarai the barren wife and Hagar the Egyptian servant.  It’s not hard to understand the humanity of these three people.   That great cartoon philosopher, Pogo, said it all, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”  Abram, Sarai and Hagar prove that everything old is new again. Without an interactive relationship with God and our faith we are like them; our own worst enemy.  No wonder the modern day solution often is use any means, any person, any activity as long as it produces the result we want and think is right.
I wonder if our biggest sin is not really so much the “bad” stuff we do as the fact that while we’re not Godless, we’re not Godly either.  We are carelessly busy portraying the one whose image we represent in our world as ineffective and of no practical use in real life.  Could anything be worse than that? Thank God for Grace and time to grow.   Thank God he’s given us Jesus, his Spirit and these Old Testament “saints” that are the mirrors we are meant to see ourselves in.  Thank God for his Word and it’s promise that offers us the chance of a real image makeover.

Best and Wisest

Genesis 13
Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord or the beautiful land of Egypt. (This was before the Lord destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.) Lot chose for himself the whole Jordan Valley to the east of them. He went there with his flocks and servants and parted company with his uncle Abram. So Abram settled in the land of Canaan, and Lot moved his tents to a place near Sodom and settled among the cities of the plain. But the people of this area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.

Of Interest:
Lot took a long look at the fertile plains of the Jordan Valley in the direction of Zoar. The whole area was well watered everywhere, like the garden of the Lord.

My Thoughts:
Lot must have heard throughout his life the oral history that spoke of the perfection and beauty of the land God had promised, and there it was. Did he remember those stories as he saw the Jordan Valley laid out before him? This new place that seemed be exactly what God had promised, so beautiful and good…except for one tiny little snag…the people of the area were extremely wicked and constantly sinned against the Lord.  Lot may have reasoned; “good land, good oral history, good faith, and…God promised…how bad could it be,” right?

I have been in that position of making choices in my life with that same kind of reasoning. Lot was caught in the very same tension of decision making as we are today.  For the most part we assume “worst and clearly stupid” have been eliminated from our decision-making process because we now belong to God.  We forget we are still vulnerable to being blindsided by our self-confident “how bad could it be?” mindset. We forget that while “how bad could it be” may look better than “worst and clearly stupid” it still looks pretty poor compared to best and wisest.


Right or Angry?

Genesis 4
When it was time for the harvest, Cain presented some of his crops as a gift to the Lord. Abel also brought a gift—the best portions of the firstborn lambs from his flock. The Lord accepted Abel and his gift, but he did not accept Cain and his gift. This made Cain very angry, and he looked dejected.  “Why are you so angry?” the Lord asked Cain. “Why do you look so dejected? You will be accepted if you do what is right. But if you refuse to do what is right, then watch out! Sin is crouching at the door, eager to control you. But you must subdue it and be its master.”

Of Interest:
• Think about this phrase: “Why are you so angry?”

My Thoughts:
We recognize and point to Cain as the first murderer but can’t quite comprehend why he was so angry.  It’s like one finger of our hand pointing at Cain when there are three pointing back at us.  Anger is an emotional word that is more easily denied in ourselves. We want to attribute to that emotion the higher level of violence of Cain’s sin.  But how about these words: irritated; testy; grumpy, frustrated or even jealous?  There’s the rub.  How often does your emotional thermometer go THOSE places in a day?

How about when the cars turning left in front of you poke along and you get caught at the next red light; or there’s all those things spouses do that cause a surge, maybe only mental, of one of those emotions? It’s just so much easier to be shocked by Cain’s action than to think about, and name, the moments in our life and faith that we’ve been “irritated; testy; grumpy, frustrated or even jealous” because WE just didn’t want to do what’s right.  Ouch! Every one of those moments in every day needs this reminder…”We will be victims of sin if we do not subdue it.”  There’s an enormous difference between being “not Godless, but not Godly either.”  It’s the difference between knowing faith facts and applying them.  That difference makes all the difference in a life of faith.