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 on. I remember crossing the busy street outside my neighborhood with my brothers to walk to local shopping, bakeries, and candy stores. 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¸ or 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 and 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!

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

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.

Home for Christmas

There are many who struggle through the holidays. It can be a very hard time as we deal with the twists and turns life throws our way. Whether it is a missing or lost loved one, financial hardship, or some other tragedy, the struggle is very real for some. But there is hope.

I’ll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents under the tree

Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love light beams
I’ll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams

It has been said that once you leave, you can never “go home” again. Sure, that means that things are never quite as good as you remember them and that we can never relive the past. But there is more to home than nostalgia or the “good ole days.”

There is something in each of us that wants to celebrate. We want to give gifts, gather together, and share good food. We yearn for time away from our cares and worries spent together with those we love.

You see, home is more than a feeling or a memory. It is the people we share life with. Home is reaching beyond our current circumstances to encourage and bless each other.

christmas-wallpaper

Some make festive and light during this season with thoughts of Santa, jolly elves, shiny-nosed reindeer, Christmas trees, presents, and lights. We make movies and sing songs about the fanciful and fantastical magic of the season when everything is covered in a blanket of pure white snow.

Others celebrate the season with Jesus. It is a time to remember his birth. He came as the ultimate gift for all mankind. We write plays, carols, and have special church services with candlelight and festive singing.


One story weighs heavily on my mind and heart this Christmas, and it is about family.

It is the story, the journey, of a missing son. He is lost and trapped in the lies of the world. The lie that success comes from money and selfish pursuits. Do anything to make yourself happy. Eat, drink, make merry with things that please the senses.

He wanders the world with all its ills and woes. He struggles under the failures and burdens of a hard life reaped from poor choices. His pursuit of pleasure has left him destitute, homeless, friendless, hungry, and desperate.

But then he remembers his father’s house. In that house, he was always loved, sheltered, clothed, and fed. Even with his poor choices, he hungers for a taste of what he once had, and hopes that he may be welcomed back, even as a lowly servant, just to experience that warmth once more.

Here is where the story gets real interesting. Here is where we see that you can be home for Christmas.

The young man’s father is constantly and eagerly waiting for his return. When he sees his son from afar, he runs to him. With a big hug, he welcomes his son home. He wraps him in a warm coat and makes a gift of his own ring as a symbol that he belongs. On the way to the house, he orders a feast, a return celebration like they have never seen before.

The son had come home! 

The father was eagerly waiting for him. And when he returned, the father lavishly poured out his love. That is the story of the prodigal son from Luke 15—a true Christmas story.

You can be home for Christmas…