…But God…

I believe that two of the greatest words in the Bible are these:  But God.

“But God” is a powerful hint at who God is and what He desires for us.

Look at Ephesians 2:4-6—But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…

These verses, indeed the whole passage of Ephesians 2, offer a wealth of theology for the believer in Christ.  The passage begins by outlining our station before Christ.  We are called ‘dead in our trespasses and sins’ and ‘walking according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.’  It also says we lived in the ‘lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and mind…even as the rest.’  This passage paints a bleak picture of man before coming to a saving knowledge of Christ.

Ah, but then those precious words…But God…

But God…being rich in mercy…

         (this means He spares us what we deserve and has compassion on us.)

But God…because of His great love with which He loved us…

         (this means He sees us through the eyes of His love.)

But God…even when we were dead in our transgressions

(this means we were moving away from Him, dead to Him, unable to even          stand in His presence)

But God…made us alive together with Christ!

You see, “But God” is an indication of when God stepped in, usually on our behalf, to change the course of events for us to be in a relationship with Him.

Think of all the instances in the Bible:

But God…provided a way for Noah to be saved from the flood.

But God…provided a son for Abraham in order to fulfill His covenant.

But God…parted the Red Sea for the Israelites to escape the wrath of Pharoah.

But God…gave His chosen people chance after chance to follow Him.

But God…fulfilled hundreds of prophecies with the birth of Jesus.

But God…”is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to                                                repentance (2 Peter 3:9)

But God…spared us what we deserved and made a way for us to have an eternal                                     relationship with Him.

So how about in your own life, do you have any “But God” moments?  If you are a believer in Him, I am sure you do.  You see, God loves to intervene on our behalf.  He loves to because He loves us.  He loves you.  God’s desire is to be the one and only thing we count on.  Ultimately He is the only thing we can count on because He is constant and unchanging.  

So the next time you are reading His living Word, look for all the “But God’s.”

Then be thankful for what He has done for you.

 

 

Will God Really Provide For My Needs?

This week the third point in the sermon was to, “pray that God would provide for your needs.”  I would imagine that this point hit home with many of you this week as it did for me.  For many people, myself included, the year 2009 was an incredibly trying year in many regards.  I spent most of my time this past year with not enough work, not enough money, struggling to make ends meet and barely getting by.  However, in the midst of the “barely getting by,” I found God consistently meeting my needs.  Written on an index card above the place that I hang my car keys is Proverbs 30:8—Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.  I would see this statement everyday before I walked out the door in survival mode for the days and weeks ahead.  Many times I prayed that Scripture asking God to provide for my needs.

The interesting thing here is that tough times–like the ones we find ourselves in now– have a way of clarifying what our needs really are.  And our Father in Heaven who knows us better than we know ourselves sometimes reminds us of those needs by stripping away the things we hold dear.  He places us directly at the intersection of poverty and riches and there we find our daily bread.  It is something to ponder that when we find ourselves at our lowest point, all we have left to do is cry out to Jesus.

Unfortunately for most of us, we don’t want to be patient and wait for Him to work; we simply need peace right now!  Just last Friday we received an answer to a prayer that we had been praying since the middle of last year.  This was an amazing exercise in diligence and trust for me.  Somehow through it all we knew that whatever the answer to this prayer, whether it is the one we hoped for or the one that we dreaded, God’s amazing peace carried us through. 

So asking God to provide for our needs doesn’t always mean that you will get exactly what you think you need.  In fact, more often than not we get something totally different as God brings us back to our true needs.  And through the struggle and the difficulty we grow in a closer and more intimate relationship with Him as He takes away all the things that we lean on that actually hinder our Christian walk.  Last year, I learned exactly what I could do without, but the one thing we cannot do without is a vital connection to God.         

Consistently turn to Him to meet your needs.  Continually align your priorities with those God deems important. I recently heard this statement in a sermon: “God cannot pour his riches into hands already full.” It has helped to remind me to be willing to let go of some things that tie me down and reach for the One that lifts me up.

Father, in these difficult days when so many are just trying to survive, remind us that you hold the world in your hands.  Help us to remember that you watch over us all the days of our lives and that some of the things we cling to the most are the most unnecessary in the Kingdom to come.  Give us what we need to get through this day and help us to see you as our Provider and our source of strength.

 

God Knows Me?

You probably won’t be surprised to note that according to a July 2008 Gallup poll, 78% of Americans believe in God.  Other less stringent polls put that number closer to 90%.  If one believes in something then chances are they know something about that thing.  So it is safe to say that 78% of Americans probably would say they know God or at least know something about God.

But what if I told you that God knows you?

What would you say to that?  Read that statement again. 

God. Knows. You.

In Galatians 4:9, Paul writes, “So now that you know God (or should I say, now that God knows you)…” Read the 139th Psalm.  The fact that God knows us permeates this passage.  Most of us, though, haven’t taken comfort of the fact that God knows us.  Rather, it scares us to death.  You mean God knows about what I am watching on TV or looking at on the Internet?  God knows the way I talk to my wife and kids behind closed doors?  God knows that I am only faking it on Sunday mornings for all my church friends?  Yes, He does know all that, but that is a discussion of a whole other nature and I think we misunderstand what these verses are really referring to.  God has been misconstrued as this spiteful old man waiting to take us out when we slip up.  Sure there is sin to deal with and consequences of that sin, but nothing could be further from the truth. 

These verses refer to the amazing fact that the Maker of all things created, the One who placed all the stars in the sky and formed everything we know, has a personal interest in you.  He wants to love you the way you have never been loved.  He wants to share with you all of the riches and fullness of Himself.  He knows you, intimately, personally and passionately.  This is what it means to be known by God.  It means that you are so important to Him that He thinks about you constantly.  Psalm 139 verse 17 states, “How precious are your thoughts about me, O God.  They cannot be numbered!”  What thoughts consume you?  What do you think about all the time?  God thinks about you even more than you think about that. 

Maybe an analogy will help.  When I think of God, I think of the most awesome, amazing, supreme being that there is.  He is all-powerful, all knowing, and totally self-existent.  He doesn’t need me at all.  If I try to think of a comparison here on earth all I can come up with is an earthly king or president.  I know who the President of the United States is.  He knows that I am one of the 308,003,000 people that make up this country.  But he doesn’t know me.  He doesn’t know that I like old cars, gumbo, The Princess Bride, blue jeans and hiking boots.  He doesn’t know that I married the only girl I’ve ever kissed, honeymooned in Vancouver, broken my arm and played trumpet in middle school.  He doesn’t know that I love to write, wrestle with my kids and make great French toast.  He doesn’t know I want a log cabin in the woods someday and a place on the beach.  God knows all of that about me, and so much more.  God knows things about me that I don’t even know.  He knows the number of days I will live on this earth.  He knows His purpose for me.  He knows who will read the words I write and the impact they will have on you.  He knows my heart, my soul, my needs, my desires, my weaknesses and my future.  God knows me. 

Somehow, I take great comfort in that.  Do you know the difference between Christianity and every other major worldview?  In Christianity, I am known by God.  God is a living and vital entity.  Every other religion worships or reveres someone who is dead.  That relationship is a one-way street.  I could find lots of great dead men to worship, but they wouldn’t know me.  They would be nothing more than a picture or a statue.  God knows me.

By having a God who knows me, I can walk confidently in this world.  I can rest assured that I have purpose.  I have significance.  I am known and loved by the One who is Love.  Psalm 139:16 says, “You saw me before I was born.  Every day of my life was recorded in your book.  Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.”  God has left nothing to chance.  He knows you and He loves you.

God. Knows. You.

 

Do You Have The “Jesus Spirit?”

So the other day I was riding with my daughter and son in my truck.  I have a little truck so we were all riding together with my daughter in the middle and my son beside her.  We pulled into a fast food restaurant to grab some breakfast on the way to where we were going.  After I ordered I pulled around to the second window as instructed.  When the window opened and the total was announced, I handed my cash to the lady inside.  There she promptly handed me my change and then I heard my daughters voice in my right ear.  “She doesn’t have the Jesus Spirit, Dad.”  I turned to look at her and said, “What?”  My daughter says, “That lady in there doesn’t have the Jesus Spirit.”  Insightful, clever guy that I am, I had an idea of what she was referring to, but I asked, “How can you tell?”

Gracie replied, “You can just see by the look on her face, she doesn’t have Jesus in her life.”

Wow.  Out of the mouths of babes.

We pulled away with a fresh order of French toast sticks, sticky syrup and chocolate milk in hand, and my mind started working. 

You see sometimes it takes the untainted and unjaded vision of a child to notice the obvious.  Now I’ve never worked at a fast food drive through window, so I have no idea what this ladies story was.  But I do know that she looked like she wasn’t particularly excited with her station in life.  

We all know people that walk around with an expression that is a cross between sucking on a lemon and smelling a really foul odor.  You know the ones I am talking about.  People they write country songs about.  If you asked they would tell you everything that is wrong with their life, their truck, their dog, their job, etc.  (No offense country musicians and listeners, I like country music, really, I do.)  Maybe they are like Eeyore, the sad donkey from Winnie the Pooh.  His catch phrase is “Oh bother.”  He shuffles about with his head down, moving as if carrying a tremendous burden and with a general acceptance that nothing good will ever come his way and that’s just the way it is.  I believe you could say that people like this just don’t have the Jesus Spirit. 

So my question to you is this:  “Do you have the Jesus Spirit?” I ask that question of myself too, although I ask myself do I show Jesus to others with my spirit?

I will be the first to admit that this world is a tough place.  This past year in particular has been tremendously trying for a lot of people.  The economy is down; unemployment is up, a new type of potentially deadly flu epidemic lurks, sweeping changes in government, just to name a few.  However, should any of that cause us to not radiate Christ from within? 

No matter what happens on the outside of me,

I still have Jesus living inside of me. 

No matter what this world throws at me,

I still have a future that is secure. 

No matter what gets taken away from me,

I know that I am storing up treasures in heaven

that cannot be wrestled from the grasp

of the One who holds them there for me.

So why should my face show anything else?  If I am called to be different, to be salt and light to this world, then my face and demeanor better show it.  Like I said before, your life should demand an explanation.  Your face tells a story for all to read.  It is an open book every single day.  Whether you mean to or not you reflect what is inside of you by the way you look and carry yourself. 

So I ask you again, “Do you have the Jesus Spirit written on your face?

If not, think about what you have been given by Him and put it there!