The Image of God

Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong?

I grew up in Germany as a military brat—the youngest of four siblings. My siblings were all close in age and often did things together. I am five years younger than my closest sibling, so I often played alone.

I also have some very fond memories with my siblings from my childhood when we lived in Wiesbaden, Germany. I remember sledding down “suicide hill” on our wooden sled with us cheering each other one. I remember crossing the busy street outside my neighborhood with my brothers to walk to local shopping, bakeries, and candy shops. I remember the softball games in the big lot behind our complex, and so many other things we did and places we went.

Perhaps what makes those memories rich and vibrant still today is the atmosphere and attitudes we had toward each other. There was joy and cooperation. We treated each other kindly and showed respect for one another. We valued each other. And we are worth valuing!

With the cousins

Visiting the cousins. I’m the tag-along in the back.

Value is the key.

God values each of us. He created us each in His own image! He thought so highly of humanity that He formed us to directly and correctly represent Himself to all of creation. You are the very image of God! You were uniquely and perfectly made to perfectly reflect God.

God created humanity in God’s own image, in the divine image God created them, male and female God created them. Genesis 1:27 (CEB)

God created humanity to be in a collaborative relationship with His will and purposes. At the end of the first chapter of Genesis, God blessed humanity and commissioned us to fill the earth (be fruitful and multiply) and to extend God’s kingdom over the earth (subdue or master it). And once He had blessed us and established a plan to extend His glory over the face of the earth through us, He called it supremely good.

But something happened.

The crafty serpent, our enemy, the devil, sold Adam and Eve a half-truth. Of course, a half-truth is just as good as a lie. He told them that if they ate the fruit they would not die but would rather become like God knowing good from evil (Genesis 3:4-5). It’s true they wouldn’t die, and it’s true they would clearly see good and evil. But the big lie was that they would become like God. You see, they already were! They were like God—they were His image bearers. They were the very imago dei, tselem Elohim¸ image/reflection of God!

So, Adam and Eve sold our birthright to rule over creation with God for a taste of something else, for a taste of forbidden fruit. Like Esau, humanity’s freely given birthright was sold to fill a fleeting appetite—a taste of stew, a bite of fruit. And like Esau, Adam and Eve discovered that what was sold couldn’t just be taken back by the Father!

Our birthright had to be purchased at a higher price. So, God made a way for us to be reborn (John 3) and reclaim the birthright that was bought and returned to the family through the sacrifice of Jesus. God did that for you because, no matter what happened or what Adam and Eve did, He still values each one of us as supreme reflections of His very image.

We have the opportunity through Jesus and by the power of the Holy Spirit to be restored to that divine relationship that God created from the beginning of time for us. By Christ, we once again have the right to become princes and princesses, to be called the children of God, the Almighty, the Ruler of Creation (1 John 3:1).

Ours is a relational assignment. In other words, everything we are commanded to do is based on a present-tense relationship with God. The partnership is to demonstrate relationship. This is so very valuable to Him. To say that God needs us would be incorrect, of course. He is self-contained. He needs nothing. But He passionately desires to share His rule with those He made in His image, who worship Him by choice. –Bill Johnson, The Essential Guide to Healing

God is a Good Father

God is a Good Father. We trust Him through all of life’s circumstances because God is good. This gives us faith for the miraculous and hope that the best is yet to come.

O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him! Psalm 34:8 (NASB)

And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Romans 12:2 (NKJV)

The greatest pronouncement in history happened when the angels hailed Jesus’ birth to the shepherds. They proclaimed God’s ultimate intentions—peace on earth and goodwill toward all humanity (see Luke 2)! And this proclamation echoes through the ages. It shakes the earth and should shift the perspective we hold toward God Almighty, our Good Father and His purposes for us on this earth.

The Conflict of Believing in a Good God

In his book, God is Good, Bill Johnson writes:

There’s no question that God can turn any situation around for His glory and for our benefit—this of course includes the most evil conditions known to humanity around the world. But that is the testimony of His greatness and His redemptive purpose. It does not represent His design. To attribute evil to Him tragically undermines our purpose on the earth, as it cripples our ability to re-present Jesus as the manifestation of God’s goodwill toward men. Our boldness to declare and demonstrate who He is in a given situation is seriously impaired if we’re not confident of what He is like.

Many people struggle with the concept of a Good God allowing evil to exist in the world. As if He designed it and allowed it as part of His plan for humanity and the earth. We take up arms in anger against Him for allowing bad stuff, or we roll over and accept all the bad stuff as “God’s will” for our lives. Wrong answer.

Bill Johnson also writes that any parent doing to their children the things we attribute to God would be arrested! And the idea that He would “allow it” instead of “causing it” is still the same. If parents intentionally allow bad things to happen to their children, they are just as responsible as if they did it!

So, how do we change this twisted perspective of God? How do we truly begin to see Him as our Good Father? To answer these questions, we really must examine what we believe about God and look for the truth the Bible reveals about His nature. And the fullest, truest nature of God is expressed through Jesus Christ.

Romans 12:1-2 helps us have a godly perspective to consider the questions from the last paragraph. It teaches that we have a new, transformed mind, and we can have a changed perspective about the world, God, and His goodness.

A Changed Perspective

To many, the Old Testament is a record of God’s wrath and judgement on a fallen creation and a sinful and depraved humanity. We look at the story of the flood and say, “See! He wiped out everybody on the earth with a huge flood because He was angry!” We look at the children of Israel and God’s commands to them to wipe out nations because of His judgement and we interpret that to mean God judges us harshly for our failure to be perfect. We read of Job’s suffering and find ways to attribute the suffering and pain he experienced at God’s authorization as a reflection of God’s will to allow suffering and pain in our lives.

But this perspective is incomplete. At a word, God could remove all of humanity from the earth just as He demonstrated was possible in the flood. But He doesn’t, and He won’t! Truly understanding this requires a changed perspective on our part. We have to look at the biblical record differently. We must step back and see the bigger picture of eternity and the merciful and loving gift God gave through the sacrifice of His only Son (John 3:16). As Bill Johnson writes in his book, God is Good, “…[I]t would be a mistake to ignore eternity, as eternity is the cornerstone of all logic and reason.” It is eternity that sets the tone and determines the measure of God’s goodness and our understanding of His nature.

The amazing thing is that God wants eternity to break into our lives now. His intention is for us to experience the fullness of His goodness daily—starting now. He doesn’t want, or even need us to wait for eternity to experience the scope of His goodness.

Psalms 27 captures the idea of experiencing God’s goodness today so beautifully! The psalmist writes about his complete trust in God, his value for God’s presence, his commitment to obedience, and the secret of his strength—his trust in God’s goodness.

Acting on a New Belief

So, the writer of Psalms 27 expects to see God’s goodness today—right now! Not in some vague eternal future. His idea of experiencing and living with and in God’s goodness starts in the present and continues every day thereafter.

What does that mean for us? We can’t just stop with a changed belief. We have to work it out in our lives starting in the present. This new belief doesn’t become a new reality until we begin to act on what we believe. Just as the fruit on a tree will positively identify what kind of tree you see, how we behave will reflect the changed state of our hearts and minds. Our behavior reflects our belief.

Our first challenge then is to see God differently—as a Good Father who gives good gifts. It is our experience of Him, our ability to count the blessings He gives to every person on earth, that helps us to shift our focus of God and begin to see Him differently.

Psalm 34:8 and James 1:16-18 reveal that every person on earth, whether they believe in God or not, experiences blessings from God. God is a refuge that brings happiness and He gives good gifts (like sunlight, rain, and the very air we breathe)!

Our second challenge is then to begin living the reality of this changed perspective. We must live like God is truly good. We live accepting and believing that His very nature is one of goodness, and that the enemy of all is the one who brings troubles and trials. We live acting on the fact that God gives good gifts and blessings to the whole world and particularly to His children. We live like Jesus lived—fully alive to the reality of the goodness and greatness of a loving and merciful Father!

Matthew 7:7-12 and Matthew 22:34-40 display a picture of God’s goodness reflected in our very lives. And it is capped off by an observation on how to live the reality of God’s goodness expressed in our lives. Because of God’s goodness, you can reflect Him into the lives of those around you today. Perhaps you can think of someone in your life who could use a touch of God’s goodness—think about that person and imagine where and how you can bless them with a gift of godly goodness today!

We Need Each Other

We can succeed only by concert. It is not, ‘Can any of us imagine better,’ but, ‘Can we all do better?’ Abraham Lincoln

Last week, Americans across this country celebrated Independence Day (4th of July). It is a great time to remember the rugged individualism that helped us grow and thrive as a country through each era of our history. But one fact often overlooked is that it wasn’t an individual that paid for our freedom from the tyranny of King George. Instead, it was individuals standing together that overcame armies and a mighty nation arrayed against us. You see, we need each other to reach our goals, to attain to that liberty so dearly bought by patriots’ blood.

Celebrate Together

In Acts 2, we see the seed bed of the early church of the first, second, and third centuries. They had an amazing encounter with the power of the Holy Spirit that rocked a city and multiplied their numbers. We see a people committed to unity and the mutual meeting of community and individual needs (both spiritual and physical). We also see the beginnings of a bedrock foundation where believers meet in public celebration and intimate small groups—they meet daily in the temple and their homes (Acts 2:46).

The Lord says: Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool. So where could you build a house for me, and where could my resting place be? Isaiah 66:1

God poses to all believers a question in Isaiah 66:1 that illuminates these key foundations of unity and meeting together. He asks where we can build a house for Him. The Master and Creator of the universe, who is crowned with galaxies, challenges mere humanity with an insurmountable question. Who are we to make His home?

You yourselves are being built like living stones into a spiritual temple. You are being made into a holy priesthood to offer up spiritual sacrifices that are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:5

The ever gracious Father answers His own question for us. He has made us, imperfect humanity, to be His habitation! We were intended to carry His presence on us, in us, and all around us. We fit together as living stones to make a glorious temple for His presence.

We see later in Acts 5:42 that the early church continued to meet daily in public celebration and intimate small groups. They made these practices habitual and never wavered in their commitment to these principles. They knew the truth that it is key that we come together to disciple and encourage one another through worship, prayer, the study of God’s Word, and ministry in the Holy Spirit. We know that this is still key today!

Connecting with God and Others

In Natural Church Development, Christian Schwarz conducted a study of 1000 churches in 32 countries. He reports that the multiplication of small groups was an important key principle in thriving churches that develop disciples. Small groups provide a place for us to connect with God and others on an intimate level. This is where we can learn and grow as disciples of Jesus and be equipped and empowered to change the world around us!

beach-14119

THIS IS OUR OPPORTUNITY TO REACH BEYOND THE EVERYDAY MUNDANE INTO THE EXPECTATION FOR THE MANIFESTATION OF GOD’S WONDROUS GRACE IN AMAZING AND LIFE CHANGING WAYS FOR OURSELVES AND OTHERS!
Small groups help us walk out the Great Commission in Matthew 28 through relational evangelism. As a habitation for God’s presence, a temple of living stones, we carry Him into every chance encounter and developing relationship in our lives. We really can go and make disciples!

Small groups help us pursue God in intimate community. We were made to journey together, and we are transformed from glory to glory as we seek God and His Kingdom together. As we form close bonds and sink down deep roots, we grow stronger, faster, and better together.

Small groups are a safe place to give and receive ministry. It is in these safe relationships that we have the freedom to fail, the freedom to succeed, and the freedom to become more like Jesus. Proverbs 27:17 says that we sharpen each other. It is in this safe place that we develop character qualities like humility, service, forgiveness, and mercy. Even Abraham Lincoln recognized the truth that together we are better.

Acts 2:44 says that the believers were united. Small groups foster an environment of unity, affirmation, and encouragement. It is a more intimate setting where we can build close relationships, encourage one another, and be encouraged. Small groups provide opportunities for deeper relationship with God and others.

Small groups also open the doors for mentoring relationships. As we grow closer together in our pursuit of God, we can find others who have wisdom and experience to share with us and others we can share with. This is not the kind of “get ahead” mentoring that we find in most workplaces. It is a mentoring that challenges us, holds us accountable, and grows us into more Christ-likeness.

It is through small groups that we receive ministry to meet our physical needs and our “heart” needs. We minister to each other as we support and love like Jesus did. As we find healing for our bodies, minds, and spirits, we become empowered to “step out” in our calling and giftings. We learn to move with the Holy Spirit in concert with God!

As we meet in both public meetings and small groups, we grow toward the fullness for which God intended each of His children—princes and princesses, co-rulers with Jesus, world changers, and water walkers! Step out together on a journey into destiny!

Why be normal? To walk on water, you must risk. It’s better to be a wet water walker than a dry boat sitter. Dr. Bob Sawvelle

View this article as a Sunday message given at Passion Church here.

Defining the Real You

Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations. – Jeremiah 1:5

Everyone struggles to define who they are—at home, at school, with their family, with friends, and in life. People regularly answer questions like, “What’s your name?”, “What do you do for school/work?”, and “What’s your favorite (fill in the blank)?” You are constantly challenged to define yourself for the world and to others. It should be no surprise then that many people often struggle to answer those questions and define who they are even to themselves.

Defining You

Defining “Self” Like Everyone Else

Psychology teaches that the concept we have of “self” is comprised of the view you have of yourself, how much you value yourself, and what you wish you were really like. [1] These concepts of self can be influenced by many internal and external factors. As you interact with the world and other people (who are also trying to define themselves), you begin to form a view of who you are and how you fit in this world. Depending on the input you receive, your view of self can be shaped positively or negatively.

The Challenge of Defining “Self”

Defining “self” is one of the greatest challenges facing today’s generation. With the flood of negative external input from social media, news, school, peers, and others, it’s not hard to see why. Having a strong inner voice that speaks positively about your appearance, behavior, worth, and purpose in life is a real struggle for many people.

According to the Huffington Post, suicide rates among teens aged 15-19 has increased significantly from 2007-2015 (girls rates doubled, and boys rates rose 30 percent). [2]

All this external input is the world trying to shape and define your identity. However, the truest definition of an artist’s work doesn’t come from the art critic or the art consumer, it comes directly from the artist! That is what the last lesson was all about—you are God’s masterpiece (Ephesians 2:10)! He is the artist who defines you!

WHO ARE YOU… REALLY? THERE IS ONLY ONE PLACE YOU CAN LOOK TO FIND THE TRUE ANSWER TO WHO YOU ARE AND WHO YOU WERE MADE TO BE.

God Defines the Real You

One of the best examples of how God defines the “real you” can be found in the story of Gideon from the Old Testament. In Judges 6, a messenger visits Gideon. He speaks and calls Gideon a mighty warrior. And Gideon argued with him!

As you struggle through life trying to define who you are to the world and to yourself, you can rely on How the Master Artist views you. Jeremiah 1:5 says that He knew you before you were formed in your mother’s womb. He, above all others, has the right and privilege of revealing your true identity—you are a son or daughter, you are amazing and unique, and you are a mighty warrior!

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Gideon wasn’t a mighty warrior when he was identified as one by God’s messenger. His identity was revealed to him and called out of him. He had to learn how to walk and live in that true identity revealed to him by the messenger.

He had to learn how to listen to God’s voice. He had to learn how to reject and overcome fear. He had to learn to trust God and walk in God’s ways. It was a challenge and a struggle, but as he followed God, he became the person God told him he already was. God sees the you that you truly are and are truly meant to become.

The Challenge to Become You

As you “do life” this week, take time to listen for God’s voice. By what name does He call you? What traits is He identifying that are inside of you? Begin to trust that He knows what He is talking about and take a step. Don’t argue like Gideon. Don’t keep looking for a sign like Gideon. Instead, step out of the boat like Peter did in Matthew 14:22-33. You might sink like Peter if you take your eyes off Jesus. But, then again, you might just find yourself walking on water.

Take Time to Reflect

Take some time and reflect on the following questions. Use them as a conversation catalyst with God—He really does want to know who you are. Use these questions to help you engage in conversation with friends. These can help you go deeper into relationships with God and others!

  1. How well do your friends know the real you? How do they know what they know about you?
  2. How well does God know the real you? How does He know what He knows about you?
  3. How do you want your friends to identify you? What words do you want them to use to describe you?
  4. How do you want to identify yourself? What words do you want to use to describe yourself?
  5. How does God identify you? Ask your teacher, youth leader, or pastor to help you discover how God identifies you.

 

[1] McLeod, S. A. (2008). Self concept. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology.org/self-concept.html

[2] https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/suicide-rates-teen-girls_us_59848b64e4b0cb15b1be13f4

The Father is the Destination

In this way the Lord used to speak to Moses face-to-face, like two people talking to each other. Then Moses would come back to the camp. But his young assistant Joshua, Nun’s son, wouldn’t leave the tent. – Exodus 33:11

I grew up in a Christian home. I was surrounded by music, stories, and events that focused on God. I asked God to forgive me and be my savior and Lord when I was 5. So, my first encounter with God was very plain, it was child-like, it was simple. It carried no deep theological understanding or radical spiritual transformation—it was natural and easy.

Even at that young age I wanted to get into His presence. I remember praying for God’s forgiveness and for Him to take charge of my life (be my savior and Lord) every night. I didn’t realize that I just wanted to get on His lap and stay there. I didn’t know how to articulate that, and my parents didn’t know how to explain it to me. They just knew that I only had to be saved once, but, without understanding it then, I knew I needed to be saved—I needed to snuggle on Daddy’s lap—every day, all the time. I needed His presence then, and I need His presence every day now.

When you encounter God, you enter His very presence. The Bible teaches that you must seek His face first (relationship and encounter), not His hand (the things He does in our lives and the world). When you seek His face though, you see the working of His hand, and your faith grows! It is this place of encounter with God that you learn to see, hear, and feel His presence.

Seek His Face

Just as there is a place for encounter, and a response to God’s calling into encounter, God’s tangible presence is also there in your encounters with Him. He is calling you to be with Him, to hang out with Him, and to know who He is and what He is like.

Exodus 33:12-23 – Moses Pleads with God

The Israelites had just been caught worshiping the golden calf while Moses was on the mountain talking with God. Moses was frustrated and concerned that God would forsake them for breaking the promise already, so he pleads with God to give them a second chance. God agrees out of His infinite mercy and grants Moses a request.

So, Moses asks for something audaciously—at least for a human asking the Almighty God. He asks to see God’s face, to behold His glorious presence. God reveals Himself to Moses because he asked first for God—God above and before any other consideration. He spent so much time in God’s presence that the Israelites asked him to cover his face because it glowed as it reflected God’s glory. He sought God’s presence regularly and experienced the power of God’s hand at work in his life and in the fledgling nation of Israel.

2017-06-21-hand

YOU EXPERIENCE THE POWER OF GOD’S HAND WHEN YOU SEEK HIS FACE—YOU ENCOUNTER HIS VERY PRESENCE.

God Works in Community During Encounter

God’s presence is many faceted—He is a triune God, three-in-one. And that is what makes experiencing His presence so unique. There are many ways to experience His presence. He is the Almighty Father, Comforter, Counselor, Friend, and Brother (to name a few)—experiencing any one of those aspects, let alone all of them, can be an overwhelming experience. Regardless of these many facets, God always works in community with Himself and with you for your good.

Matthew 3:11-17 – Baptism of Jesus

John knew that God’s presence was coming in a new way on earth. He baptized as a symbol, a precursor, for what God wanted to do through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. He preached the imminent appearance of God’s Kingdom on earth that would be carried and made real through Jesus’ collaborative ministry (He did what he saw the father doing by the power of the Holy Spirit).

In the baptism of Jesus, you can see a demonstration of God’s manifest presence. Jesus, God in the flesh, was anointed by the Holy Spirit descending in the form of a dove while the Father spoke a blessing of love and joy over Jesus. All three persons of the godhead were present and active to launch the manifestation of God’s Kingdom on earth.

1 Peter 1:2-5 & 2 Corinthians 13:13 –  A New Birth, a Living Hope

God the Father, through the work of the Holy Spirit and the sacrifice of Jesus, brings you into relationship with Him. He collaborates with you to make you into something new. An encounter with Him is life changing and results in a bond of fellowship between you all.

When you encounter God, it is an opportunity for you to be remade. His loving presence can be experienced through fear and trembling, extravagant joy and laughter, quiet introspection, weeping, and many other means. It will not leave you unimpacted, but for it to truly bring change you must choose to participate. Allow yourself to experience what He reveals and be remade into a new creation with an intimate fellowship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

JESUS IS THE WAY. THE FATHER IS THE DESTINATION. (JOHN 14:6)

Choose Your Destination

You choose. You participate. You are the seeker. Just like Moses, seek God’s face—ask audaciously for His presence. Be like I was as a child, and climb in Daddy’s lap every day, no matter what it takes. Seek His presence above any other consideration. Just be—be in His presence!

Choosing to Meet God

In this way the Lord used to speak to Moses face-to-face, like two people talking to each other. Then Moses would come back to the camp. But his young assistant Joshua, Nun’s son, wouldn’t leave the tent. – Exodus 33:11

Every day we make dozens of choices. We choose what to eat, what to wear, how to get from here to there, and much more. Often those choices seem trivial and involve very little thought. Most are not even intentional but are impulsive and reactionary. But some of the choices we make affect our entire life—they shape and change our future. Of course, some of the biggest choices—the choices that impact our future the most—involve relationships.

I was never great at choosing friends. Mostly that’s because I grew up as a military brat. Every few years it was a new town and a new school. Friendships were temporary and never seemed to stand any test of time or travel. When I made friends, it just seemed to happen with very little of choosing involved.

But God is different. He wants a relationship with you and me! Building this relationship takes time and effort. Encountering God isn’t a chance occurrence or random event. Just as He seeks you out, you must seek Him as well.

God Chooses to Meet with You

God often arranges places for you to meet with Him. He chooses a place with impact for your life. He draws you off the normal paths of life to encounter Him in a powerful way. He calls you to stand on holy ground—He calls you to meet Him face to face.

Moses’ normal routine in Exodus chapter 3 was to graze his flock of sheep at the edge of the desert on God’s holy mountain (Mount Horeb). God sent a messenger of fire to catch Moses’ attention. He called to Moses and spoke from the midst of the flame, and Moses answered. When Moses responded and entered God’s presence, the place was declared holy. This was just the beginning of encounter.

fire-836635_1920

Saul’s normal routine in Acts chapter 9 was hunting down believers in Jesus. He had special authority and orders from the priests in the temple and zealously pursued them. He was on his way to Damascus one day and God sent a light from heaven that surrounded him. Jesus spoke from the midst of the light, and Saul answered. Saul fell to the ground in fear and trembling at the majesty of God—he was in God’s presence, he was on holy ground. This too was just the beginning of encounter.

GOD WILL ALWAYS CHOSE TO ENCOUNTER YOU NO MATTER WHO YOU ARE OR WHAT YOU ARE DOING IN LIFE. YOU MATTER TO HIM!

You Choose to Meet with God

You also have a choice when encountering God. Will you choose to step into the encounter? How will you respond to the encounter? These questions will help you understand that your relationship with God is participatory. It doesn’t just happen to you. While you are meeting God, He is meeting you.

After Moses encountered God at the burning bush, his life was changed forever. God raised him up to be a leader of an entire nation. It also helped Moses realize that he needed to continually meet with God—to re-encounter God regularly.

In Exodus chapter 33, Moses made a practice of setting aside a specific place to meet with God regularly. He pitched a tent. Everyone saw God’s presence at the tent when Moses met with God. It was such a holy, powerful place of encounter, that Moses’ aide Joshua didn’t want to leave—he stayed in God’s presence as long as possible.

In Acts chapter 9 you can see that even Saul was transformed by his encounter with the risen Jesus! After a three day fast, his sight was restored—scales literally fell from His eyes. He changed his whole purpose in life. He stopped persecuting those who were following Jesus, and he started to speak in support of Jesus. He boldly declared what he once thought blasphemous, that Jesus was the Son of God.

Saul spoke with such conviction that he baffled the Jewish leaders in Damascus. He grew stronger and stronger as he shared his encounter with Jesus so that others could learn to encounter Him themselves. He became so radical, so on fire from his encounter, that the Jews even hatched a plot to murder him. Saul eventually changed his name to Paul, and he wound up writing the majority of the New Testament.

What will you choose? Will you choose to make a place to regularly encounter God? Will you choose to change and seek regular encounters with God?

AN ENCOUNTER WITH GOD DESERVES A RESPONSE. WHAT WILL YOURS BE?

He Has Built a Monument

 

In some form or another I’ve been a part of the military for 40 years. I was born in a military hospital and raised in a military family on military bases all over the world. When I started my own family, I joined the military and served as a member of the U.S. Air Force for 20 years.

I guess you could say, I’ve been around.

I had the unique privilege of traveling the world and experiencing many different cultures. I got to see amazing things—monuments and memorials from Europe to the Korean peninsula. There were statues in the squares of European cities, castles on the hills, great cathedrals and ruined abbeys. I also saw standing stones, monuments and temples in Far East. I even got to see the original Gutenberg printing press in a museum in Germany.A Gutenberg Press Continue reading

Seek First

But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. – Matthew 6:33

Most of my life I have been content with the “normal” American life. I graduated high school and went to college. I met an amazing woman, and we started a life together. We raised three wonderful kids. I eventually finished college (while working full time), and I made a decent living at a challenging job. We always had enough.

The world around us has always been constantly bombarding us with advertisements selling the newest gadgets, the fancier cars, the newer house. Society pushes us to crave more. More money, more status, more stuff. I was constantly asking myself if we really had enough, or if we could get more.

I was vaguely dissatisfied with life.

I spent so many years weighing every pay raise and opportunity. We spent money on clothes that wore out, nice dinners that were consumed, and cars or gadgets that wore out or broke down. The stuff never erased the discontent. It only led to cravings for more of that stuff. Continue reading

My Soul Longs for You

Just like a deer that craves streams of water,
my whole being craves you, God.
My whole being thirsts for God, for the living God.
When will I come and see God’s face?
– Psalm 42:1

a-deer-drinks

Hunger and thirst for the Living God have been occupying my thoughts the last several weeks. It is a hunger that is driving and relentless. It is a dissatisfaction with anything less than a filling of the overflowing goodness of a great Father.

Are You Hungry?

There are many things we can hunger after in this world—power, prestige, position, possessions. However, this is a question we must regularly ask ourselves to dig deeper into an encounter with God! It is in deeper encounters with God that we begin to discover and understand who we are as sons and daughters of the Father. When we begin to know who we are in Him, we are then able to begin moving in the power and authority of the Holy Spirit. This all springs from a place of hunger in our lives.

Hunger for God Changes You!

I met my wife over 20 years ago while we were both attending Grand Canyon University in Phoenix, Arizona. It was an incredible experience. Catherine and I met and married in nine months. We were engaged after dating for two months. Neither of which I would ever recommend to anyone else. It’s just that God was doing something amazing, and He was with us.

I wanted to be with her all the time. I wanted to sit in Denny’s drinking milkshakes and talking all night long. I couldn’t stand being apart from her.

The summer during our engagement I got a job in Seattle, Washington as a summer youth pastor. It was a short term, missionary-like position. It was tough being apart from Catherine. I called her on the phone every day, and we’d talk as long as possible.

I wound up finishing the job early and couldn’t wait to race back to her. I drove 22 hours straight from Seattle to Phoenix just to be with her again. Was that smart? No! But it was driven by an intense desire to see her, to hear her, to hold her. My “hunger” for her presence changed me.

Passion drives choices in our lives. It fuels our decisions and can direct the course of our lives. There is a connection between hunger for God and a changed life. Just like my desire for my wife changed the course of my life, a desire for an intimate relationship with God will change you.

A passionate pursuit of God leads you closer to Him and farther from the world. If you aren’t getting farther from the world, you aren’t getting closer to God. You can tell where your “hunger” is because that is where you place your time, energy, and money. Are you hungry for what the world has to tell you, or are you hungry to hear from God? Jesus is a passionate lover of our souls, and he wants to spend time with us!

Set me as a seal over your heart,
as a seal upon your arm,
for love is as strong as death,
passionate love unrelenting as the grave.
Its darts are darts of fire—
divine flame!
Rushing waters can’t quench love;
rivers can’t wash it away.
– Song of Solomon 8:6-7

For more of my thoughts on this topic, see the message I shared at Passion Church in the video below.

Are You Hungry? | J. ANDERSON from Passion Church on Vimeo.

Eyes Wide Open

Open your eyes, look within. Are you satisfied with the life you’re living? – Bob Marley

Rarely have I ever gone into any situation fully aware of what to expect. As a matter of fact, I never have. Nope, not once. I’m also fairly sure that I’m not alone in this experience.

New situations are just that – new. They are often vague, unexpected, and unknown. Sometimes they can be daunting and uncomfortable. But they can also bring adventure.

My bride and I recently celebrated our 22nd anniversary. Little did I know what God had in store for us. As I knelt in that shallow pool at the base of the waterfall on the Glen Eyrie property in Colorado Springs to propose to Catherine, there was no way I could see what God had planned or where the future would take us. I only knew that she was made for me, and I was made for her.

He has blessed us with a vibrant, deep love for each other. We have three amazing, intelligent, creative children. We’ve experienced trials and victories. I never could have seen it all! But, I never would have chosen a different adventure.

Yes, the unknown and new things can bring adventure. It all depends on your perspective.

If you enter the new with fear and trepidation, you will live fearfully. If you let the uncertainty of the situation overwhelm you, then you will be uncertain and hesitant in the life you live. If you charge blindly ahead in desperation to reach the other side, you might just find an unexpected cliff.

Open your eyes. Encounter the new with adventure in your heart. See it as an opportunity, and embrace the thrill of the unknown. Live with an expectant attitude. It is this expectant hope that will carry you through the trials and into victory.

You see, when your hope is in the One who gives hope, you experience His peace eternal. When you trust the miracle maker and drink deeply of the depths of Him, you find the richness of life and see the miraculous in everything. When you fix your gaze on Him, you can walk on the waters.

What perspective will you take toward what this new year holds for you?