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Hazy Copies

“They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain.'” Hebrews 8:5

Image result for copy of a copyA copy is never identical to the original. But it is clearer and more accurate than subsequent copies. Meaning, if someone were to make a photocopy, then make a photocopy from that copy and so on, each copy becomes hazier and less accurate than the first.

It’s the same way with our understanding of and patterning after God. We are called to be like Christ [1 John 3:2]. If we are in Christ, our hearts are being built into a living tabernacle, acceptable to God [1 Peter 2:5]. We ourselves are to be a copy of the original.

God made us in His image at the Creation. Christ makes us anew and the Holy Spirit reforms the Father’s image in us, but only if we pattern ourselves after Him.

God is good. While our goodness can never save us, in Christ by faith we do the good works God intended us to do from the Creation [Ephesians 2:10]. Without God, how would even know what good is?

Many, however, accept hand-me-down faith. They attend church from childhood and become a copy of the people in the church. Maybe the pastor is a great man of God. Maybe the choir leader has a great heart for worshiping God. Maybe our teachers genuinely know and love God. Maybe our parents and grandparents are people of true faith. These are all good things. And these people are all good role models.

However, their lives–like ours–ultimately fall short of the glory of God [Romans 3:23]. They themselves are still in the process of being transformed by the renewing of their minds [Romans 12:2]. Patterning ourselves after any one of them will make us an untrue version of another person rather than a genuine copy of Christ.

God is good and we are the light of His goodness to the world around us. Are you patterning your life after the original through prayer and Bible study? Or are you living as a copy of a copy?



Together for Our Good

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28

Image result for bound wristsGod is good.

And though He has not pre-planned our lives, being omniscient, He does know what we will face and how we will respond. For many, this understanding is enough to reject God as anything-but-good. Others find this verse in Romans and question how God can make good out of the bad in our lives–why He wouldn’t just start with ensuring that we don’t experience bad to begin with. Two wrongs don’t make a right, right?

But with sin jamming up the spiritual rudders of human beings, bumper boats happen all day every day. What I mean is, our lives effect others and their lives effect us. Because of sin, the result can often be tragic. Sometimes these offenses are mishaps of close contact. Other times they are premeditated evils.

Joseph, Israel’s eleventh son, knew this full well. Motivated by sheer jealousy, his brothers beat him up, threw him in a cistern and sold him into slavery. They lied to their father, Israel, to cover up their hateful sin. And they believed the worst was behind them. Until one day, they found themselves standing before the mercy of the brother they had so hatefully mistreated.

But Joseph loved God. And Joseph knew that God had called him to Egypt for a purpose. What his brothers did out of hatred, anger and jealous spite, God worked for the good of Joseph and his father Israel [Genesis 50:20]. Really, for Israel’s entire household.

We can’t often change our circumstances or the people who mistreat us. God doesn’t condone sinful behavior, and everyone will have to answer to Him for their wrongdoings [Romans 14:12; 1 Peter 4:5]. And though He calls people to step into these situations to right them, people don’t always listen or obey.

But that doesn’t nullify God’s goodness. Rather, when we keep our eyes on Him–our help, the author and perfecter of our faith–God reveals His goodness to us in surprising ways [Psalm 121:1; Hebrews 12:2]! He takes the lemons [excuse the cliche] that sin chucks at us and makes, not lemonade, but the most refreshing living water and satisfying bread of life–beyond what we could even imagine–if we allow Him to.

Are you in a difficult circumstance today? Have you come through a tragic past? Do you find it impossible to forgive your parents or other family members for any reason? Remember who your help is. Fix your eyes on God who is working in you to bring about your good despite what the world throws at you. Will you trust in His goodness? Will you let Him do the work He began in you [Philippians 1:6]?


If God Is Good, Then Why Is There Bad in the World?

“With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Micah 6:6-8

Image result for tearsGod is good. And He is infinitely so. But what is that goodness? What does it consist of or pertain to? How and when does it manifest?

Many cultures have mythologies of gods that are sinister but powerful. The Greek and Roman pantheons were worse than the most corrupt human beings, acting selfishly in all their ways and disposed by whim to mistreat humans it suited their own immoral pleasures. Their character couldn’t have been further from the truth of who God is.

Good is the opposite of evil. God is not bad in anyway [Psalm 92:15]. He is morally upright, but more than that, He is generously kind and loving to all. His infinite goodness is the source of every blessing and joy, the source of our hope and the wellspring of His love and goodwill–mercy and grace–toward humankind.

He created for all our needs and faithfully provides for them, though we are unfaithful about cultivating our relationship with Him [Matthew 5:45] and though we fail to thank Him for His faithful beneficence.

He keeps His creation in motion, patiently waiting for more of mankind to turn and recognize Him as God [Genesis 8:22; 2 Peter 3:9].

He hears our prayers and provides us with His Spirit to overcome just as He did. Because He is good, we can have peace [John 16:33], joyful strength [Nehemiah 8:10], hope in Him [Isaiah 40:31] and contentment waiting for our heavenly home [Matthew 11:29 & 10:24]. Because He is good, He strengthens us in our present circumstances [1 Peter 5:10-11]. Because He is good, He made a way to reconcile with us so that we could spend eternity with Him [John 3:16].

But our present circumstances are exactly the rub for so many who choose to walk away from belief in God. They shake their fist at heaven and ask, If God is good, then why is there bad in the world?

God is infinitely good. But His adversary, the devil, is full of every kind of evil intent toward us. Satan is angry that he will never attain heaven and angry at human beings that we can be redeemed. And he does everything he can, in his limited power of deception, to keep as many of us from coming to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ [1 Peter 5:8].

God is infinitely good, but we, His Creation, are sinful and therefore predisposed to love self and thereby wrong others in pursuit of self [Matthew 7:12 & 22:36-40; Mark 12:28-34; Luke 10:25-28 & 16:31].

As believers, we must realize that we were redeemed to be a light of God’s goodness to this world, just the way He intended us to be from the Creation [Matthew 5:14-16].

Does God’s goodness flow through your life to others? Do others understand that God is good because they see His good work in your life [1 Peter 2:12]?


Created for Good

“God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning–the sixth day.” Genesis 1:31

Image result for feeding hungryGod is good.

Many automatically respond to this truth with the pithy chorus, *All the time!* And while there is some truth therein, it is a limited truth turned into a reflexive, religious chant. How many reply in vain, having forgotten or never fully known what God’s goodness truly means?

And why don’t we realize the fullness of His goodness? Could it be because we don’t live it forward as we were created to do?

We were created in God’s image [Genesis 1:26-27]. So then each of His attributes were meant to be an integral part of our own character. But sin deposed God from the throne of our hearts so that humankind is not born basically good, as philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau surmised. Nor even basically evil, as philosopher Thomas Hobbes argued. Rather, we are born sinful–which means that we are separated from God because of our fallen human nature which itself desires to be its own god.

When self is god, then self gets to decide what is good. And self is only interested in what is good for self. God’s goodness, though, is panoptic and it is all-encompassing. God’s goodness flows from His infinite wisdom and omniscience. He sees all, hears all, knows all about all for all of created time, and He works toward the overarching good of everyone in all of human history.

That is quite the difference from our self-limiting goodness. Because when everyone does what is right in their own eyes [Judges 17:6 & 21:25], the result is that everyone visits evil on everyone else. Not always maliciously and intentionally, but even unintentional and accidental effects of our choices can bring great harm to others.

That is why scriptures implore us to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect [Matthew 5:48]. Not that we can actually, in this life, attain to perfect goodness at all times–we can’t. But we can become more like Christ everyday through the Holy Spirit working in us [Matthew 16:24-26; Luke 9:23; John 14:26; Romans 12:2; Galatians 3:26-28].

And just as God breathed life into the first man Adam [Genesis 2:7] and proclaimed that His Creation was very good, so also Jesus’ last breath on the cross created us anew to do the good works we abandoned after the advent of sin [Matthew 27:50; Luke 23:46; John 19:30; Ephesians 2:10]. But only if we choose to accept God’s grace by faith. And only if we then choose to surrender our lives to His Lordship so that we may be His instrument of goodness in a lost and dying world.

Are you allowing yourself daily to be made into the image of Christ? Does God’s goodness flow freely through your life?


A Rubber Resolution?

“And He passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet He does not leave the guilty unpunished;” Exodus 34:6-7a

Image result for measuring tape on woodGod is faithful. That is, He is constant, steadfast and resolute. He sticks unwavering to His purposes and promises.

Faithful is a good trait. Yet in this day and age, where bad is called good and good is called bad [Isaiah 5:20], God’s faithfulness is exactly why many choose to turn their back on Him. In general, people want God to be faithful in His love, goodness, kindness, mercy and grace–as long as it applies the way they expect it to, satisfying each of their desires. But they don’t want Him to be faithful when it comes to His sovereignty, justice and holiness, for example. Because justice means that there is a moral law that we each must adhere to, and that there are consequences if we don’t.

In our self-as-god mentalities, we want to be our own sovereign and determine what is just for our situation–especially if it means opposing God’s holy precepts to fit our perceived needs. In this way, we are not being faithful–steadfast and constant–as God must be.

With God, who is transcendent, moral compliance is black and white–no shades of grey. Either we have forgiveness of sins or we don’t. Either we behave in godly ways or godless ways. Either we glorify Him with our lives, or we dishonor Him. Either we obey or we disobey. It’s like building a house with a rubber band for a ruler, stretching the measuring stick to make it say that the boards are the right length even when they’re truly not. And if every board is slightly off from the true measure, the house will never stand!

Consider that the opposite of a faithful God is one who is careless, cold and corrupt. One who is dishonest, fraudulent and negligent. One who is undependable, unscrupulous and untrustworthy. But these are all words that describe unfaithful human beings. These are the marks of sin in our world, not the hand of God.

God is faithful, we can depend that He will always forgive the repentant sinner. We can trust that He will maintain the seasons, days and years until He renews and restores His Creation [Genesis 8:22]. We can rest assured that He will keep His promise never to destroy the earth again in a worldwide flood [Genesis 9:11]. He was faithful to send His Son, Jesus, to carry out the plan of redemption instituted from the advent of sin [Genesis 3:15] despite the rampant unfaithfulness of human kind in every generation since. And He will be faithful, when the time has reached its fullness, to send Jesus to gather us home [Matthew 13:32 & 24:36].

God is infinitely and eternally faithful. And we are made in His image. We were made to return His faithfulness–to be steadfast in our love for and faith in Him. Do you?

We were made to reflect His constant love and forgiveness to others in our lives. Do you?


The Creation Testimony

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–His eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Romans 1:20

landscape sea coast water nature rock waterfall cliff iceland terrain body of water skogafoss mountains robust water feature wassefall dramatic photoGod is omnipotent, that is, He alone is almighty or all-powerful.

And in His eternality and infinitude God always has had, does have and will have all power. Not only that, but right from the beginning of human history, these truths have been self-evident. The Creation itself testifies to the power of God. Who else can speak anything into existence let alone speak everything into existence out of nothing?

No one!

Who else can set the cosmos in motion and explain the science behind it thousands of years before human beings could discover the truth of it? [Check out God’s Word–it’s in there.]

No one!

As the created, the evidence of God’s power in the Creation should call to the eternity within us. It should prick our hearts and minds to want to get to know Him. Not just to know about Him, but to actually form a personal relationship with our loving Creator. Yet many choose to harden their hearts against Him instead. They ignore the clear signs that God exists, that He loves us and that He has a purpose for each of our lives. They prefer self-as god and defer authority to no one.

But when instead we allow the evidence to return our thoughts to God, then we must get into His Word to get to know Him. There we will find the greater testimony of God’s infinite and eternal omnipotence.

Who else can pay the wages of sin and conquer death, hell and the grave so that we can have eternal life?

No one!

To whom else will every knee from every nation bow? And who else will be confessed as Lord and Sovereign of all by every human tongue?

No one!

Who else can make all things new?

None but our Creator God, His Holy Spirit and His Son Jesus Christ. To whom we should attribute all glory and all power forever. Amen.

Have you taken the time to acknowledge God’s power in the Creation? Have you taken the step from seeing His power to acknowledging Him alone as all-powerful God?



Conduits of Power

“For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Image result for water hoseGod is omnipotent, that is, He alone is almighty or all-powerful.

And He gives us His Spirit [Numbers 11:17; Judges 14:6; Acts 1:8; et al], enabling us, by His power, to bring glory and honor to His name.

By His Spirit, Moses and David led Israel [Numbers 11:17 & 25; 1 Samuel 16:13]. Samson tore apart a lion, effortlessly broke through sturdy rope bindings and battled dozens of men all at the same time [Judges 14:6 & 19, 15:14]. Mary bore the Christ-child [Luke 1:35]. Demons were cast out [Luke 4:36]. And we are empowered to live as witnesses to the truth of the gospel [Acts 1:8].

God’s Spirit doesn’t hide timidly inside us. So neither should we shrink back from a contrary world. Our friends and family might not want to hear about God anymore than they want to hear that eating vegetables and exercising are good for them, but they need us to speak God’s love boldly. They need us to live out the blessings–extreme joyfulness–of the godly, self-disciplined life.

Because–just like we once did–they need God. They need His power to transform their sinful hearts and finite lives into the eternal ones they were made for.

The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with that hope [Romans 15:13]. Did you hear that? Let me say it again. The power of God’s Spirit overflows us with hope!

By God’s power alone we have peace in a war-torn, hating world–even while we ourselves are persecuted for that peace who is called Jesus [Ephesians 2:14]. By His power alone we have joy–though we ourselves get sick, face financial hardships, lose loved ones, get mistreated and threatened for our faith. By the power of His Spirit in our lives we have an abundance of hope that exceeds our finite capacity to hold it, and He keeps pouring the power and hope in and through us until we overflow with hope to everyone around us!

The power of God was never meant to lift us, whimpering, out of the gutter of self-pity or guilt–but it does. And it will do so faithfully and without criticism time and again. When it does–and we have been filled with all the power, joy, peace and hope that we can possibly need–then it’s time to go to work. It’s time to walk around like a fountain with legs and gush God’s power and love into the lives of everyone we meet.

Anything less is denying God’s power in our lives. Anything less is disobedience. Anything less withholds our blessing, locked within the timidity of our hearts.

Are you ready to be a walking conduit of God’s power to this lost and dying world?