“My heart has heard you say, ‘Come and talk with me.’ And my heart responds, ‘Lord, I am coming’ (Psalm 27:8, NLT).
Is God distant and aloof? Some think so, or at least tell themselves he is so they can justify keeping their distance. Just like the Israelites who told Moses not to let God come too close to them, many, including Christians, are a bit uncomfortable with a God who knows all about them and might start meddling in their affairs.
God does want to be involved in our lives but not because he wants to control us or keep us from having fun. He wants to be in relationship with us, just as Father, Son and Spirit are in relationship. It’s about knowing each other intimately, sharing the joyful moments as well as the sad and growing in love and grace. God is a friend who has given us a standing invitation—whose door is always open, who always has a fresh pot of coffee (or tea in my case) and some nice chocolate and is ready to sit down and chat.
“Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life” (John 8:12, NLT).
I don’t see very well in the dark. I’ve stubbed my toes many times trying to find my way around an unfamiliar room. Once while holding a cup of tea I ran into a wall! I thought I knew where the doorway was so I turned out the light and miscalculated. This darkness can be overcome simply by turning on a light, but the real and dangerous darkness is on the inside—the darkness in the human heart.
Jesus called himself the Light of the world. He is the only one who can shine the light on the inside, expose evil and get rid of it. His light isn’t like a candle or single light bulb that only lights up part of a room, rather he is the light, bright and alive with his goodness and grace. He’s like the morning sun—as it rises it makes everything sparkle and seem new. His light leads to life. Jesus, our Light, is life.
“Instead, let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23, NLT).
At my small, church-run college, we heard a lot about attitude. Attitude would make all the difference in whether the college experience was enjoyable or miserable. As a freshman, I took that advice to heart and frequently reminded myself to watch my attitude, especially when confronted with new situations. As you might imagine, I didn’t always succeed.
Many attitudes (manner, disposition, tendency or orientation) are learned as children and they become habits of thinking. Unless something or someone draws our attention to these habits, we might not even be aware of them. Of course God the Holy Spirit knows our hearts and if we are tune with him, will not only make us aware of them, but will gently renew our thoughts and attitudes. God renews and refreshes our minds because he loves us. He wants us to see life, ourselves and others from his perspective, to be renewed and joyful. It really does make all the difference.
“May you be filled with joy, always thanking the Father. He has enabled you to share in the inheritance that belongs to his people, who live in the light” (Colossians 1:11b-12, NLT).
I recently watched a movie about a family fighting over the estate of their deceased grandfather. The heirs were the stereotypical selfish children who cared nothing for him while he was alive. They only showed up at the funeral and reading of the will to get what they thought they were entitled to at his death. They received nothing of course, while the grandson who truly loved him received the fortune.
In Christ, we are sons and daughters too and therefore heirs of the vast fortune of eternal life with Father, Son and Spirit. As it’s not a fortune in the usual sense, we don’t have to worry we won’t get our share and we certainly don’t have to fight over it. We don’t have to earn it, even though many believe it’s not enough simply to be a child of a rich and generous Father. But it is that simple—we are his children, he loves us and he wants to share everything with us, no strings attached. The really beautiful thing is everyone is included in his will. He’s that rich and generous!
“For we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and your love for all of God’s people, which come from your confident hope of what God has reserved for you in heaven” (Colossians 1:4-5a, NLT).
Have you ever arrived at your hotel only to find something happened and your reservation was gone or canceled? This could be a small inconvenience or it could completely mess up your plans, especially if the hotel happens to be full.
Many Christians worry their “reservation” for a place in heaven will be canceled if they do something really bad or don’t obey God well enough. But really, is there anything God can’t forgive? In fact, he has already forgiven everyone for everything. Remember what Jesus said on the cross: “It is finished.” All we have to do is acknowledge and accept his forgiveness, which continues to be there as much and as often as we need it. By his grace, he teaches us how and helps us live a godly life, and he never gives up on us. God has reserved a wonderful future for us in heaven and we don’t have to worry it won’t be there when we arrive.
“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle. He will bring justice to all who have been wronged” (Isaiah 42:3, NLT).
Most of us know from personal experience the meaning of the old saying, “adding insult to injury,” either from people or life in general. It seems troubles come in multiples and sometimes we find our friends are like Job’s—not really friends and not helpful. But this is when we need love and comfort the most.
This prophetic verse about Jesus tells us how he feels toward people who are hurting and vulnerable. Because of what he experienced, he is truly touched by our pain. When we are betrayed, he feels it. Bringing justice to all who have been wronged—making everything right—is something Jesus will do not only in the future, but what he does now for all those who turn to him with their needs. His heart is always for us, especially when we’re flickering like a used up candle.
“Put on your new nature, created to be like God—truly righteous and holy” (Ephesians 4:24, NLT).
What comes to mind when you read this verse? That you could never be righteous and holy like God? Or that you sure know a few people whom you wish were like this; or maybe you think you already are? When I was deep in legalism, I actually thought I was pretty close. I was obeying all the laws, at least I told myself I was. When you’re a legalist, you think you can make yourself righteous and holy.
We are told several times in the Bible to be holy, but we can’t manufacture it or become holy on our own, under our own power. Holiness, that mysterious “otherliness” of God, the part of his nature that, along with love, defines who he is, eludes us unless he makes us new creatures in Christ. The only righteousness and holiness we can have comes from who he is and as we yield our wills to his, in a lifelong process of growth and maturation. The beautiful thing is he made us in his image and wants to share his holiness with us.
“I have sworn an oath to David, and in my holiness I cannot lie” (Psalm 89:35, NLT).
Often when we think of the holiness of God, we feel intimidated. His state of holiness makes him completely separate from our lowly mortal existence. His “other-ness,” purity and perfection put him far out of our reach. In the Old Testament, he truly was unapproachable. Just the thought of God speaking to them or getting too close was enough to strike terror in the hearts of the Israelites. Only a few were ever allowed near him.
Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary says: “Originating in God’s nature, holiness is a unique quality of His character.” It is who he is. While God’s holiness remains just as much a mystery to us today, through Jesus, he is no longer unapproachable. Jesus opened the way for us to not only come into his presence, but to live in his presence even as he lives in us. Rather than terrifying us and keeping us away, God’s holiness, still a source of awe, is now a comfort to his children, like the glow from a welcoming porch light.
“Keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you” (Matthew 7:7, NLT).
We normally think of this verse in terms of what God will give us if we keep asking, things like a job, a mate, a new car. But what if this verse goes a little deeper? Perhaps God is telling us something different from what we always think when we read it.
The whole Bible is filled with moments when God reveals more of himself to mankind. He wants us to know him better, to know who he really is, especially as he has revealed himself in Jesus. He wants us to keep finding out, to learn and discover more about him every day. Even though God is a bit of a mystery to us who think mostly in three-dimensional terms (with a nod to my favorite Borg queen), all we need to do is ask, seek, knock. He loves to reveal himself and loves when the light bulb goes on over our heads.
“Therefore, accept each other just as Christ has accepted you so that God will be given glory” (Romans 15:7, NLT).
Everyone wants to be accepted, whether in their own family, by friends or peers, even gang members. The need is so great some will go to extreme lengths for acceptance, perhaps not even realizing why they do certain things. Sometimes no matter what we do, we get rejected. It often starts when we’re little children and continues, unfortunately, into old age. Even though we know it’s going to happen, it always hurts.
Jesus experienced the ultimate rejection, and is intimately familiar with how it feels. Through humanity’s rejection of him all the way to death, he made the way for us to be accepted all the way to eternal life. In Christ, we are accepted no matter what. He never rejects us, especially when we’re down and hurting, and asks us to extend the same acceptance to others—to believers, who are our brothers and sisters, and to every single human being, who is made in the likeness of God and for whom Jesus died. Everyone is included in the love and acceptance of Christ.