A Trustworthy Love

“Oh, holy night, fill with silence that I might hear that which is not spoken by human voices.” – Sharon Ann Reich-Gray

How well do we know God? We are told that even the stars in the sky reveal who he is. We see his fingerprints all around us in creation. He speaks to us through his Word when a verse just seems to come to life as we read it: The message jumps off the page and into our hearts.

And he speaks through our thoughts, sometimes giving direction, often just letting us know how much he loves us or encouraging us to trust him. He might say something like this:

I love you beyond anything you can know. Accept my love. Love me back.

Or this:

Accept that I have given you gifts and talents for you to use and enjoy as you choose. You don’t have to prove anything. Just receive my love. Know me better. When you really begin to know me, you will serve me better, too.

Or this:

Believe I am who I say I am. Trust me to go ahead of you on the path, to always tell you the truth.

Or this:

Trust me in the dark. Trust me never to leave you, always to love you.

He truly loves his children and wants nothing but the best for us. If we believe that, we can face anything that comes our way today. Keep listening!

“And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17b-19

Secret Believers

 “Oh, how great peace and quietness would he possess who should cut off all vain anxiety and place all his confidence in God.” – Thomas a’ Kempis

In some countries, Christians must be careful about sharing their faith with people they don’t know, and they often bond with other Christians and meet together secretly. Their lives may depend on staying under cover.

For most of us, though, we’re not in danger if we talk about God or claim to be a follower of Jesus. But still, many of us tend to keep our faith under wraps.

The Gospel of John tells us many Jews believed in Jesus after witnessing the raising of Lazarus. But they believed secretly because they were afraid they would be ostracized by the religious establishment. John saw through their motivation for secrecy. He said, “They loved human praise more than praise from God.” (John 12:43)

John’s implication is we can either please other humans or we can please God, and very often we can’t do both. Sometimes we have to be willing to be criticized or ridiculed if we’re going to be bold in living out our Christian faith.

Maybe we need to be more honest about who we are, more comfortable with letting our faith in Christ show, and more willing to speak the truth. Sometimes that may bring a negative response, but, if we share of ourselves with quiet confidence and grace, God will be pleased. Who do we want to please the most?

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” – 1 Peter 3:15b-16

Jesus: Who is he?

But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” – Matthew 16:15a

What would you think if some some simple person with no social standing, home, or education, stood in front of a crowd and said, “I am the light of the world?” That was Jesus in first-century Jerusalem. Who did he think he was? Light of the world? Really?

To Nicodemus he said, “If I am lifted up, I will draw all men unto me,” and to his disciples, “No one comes to the Father except through me.” Why would anyone make these claims?

He said them because he believed he was God incarnate and that his statements were true. If he was not God, then he must have been a delusional narcissist.

There was no narcissism his behavior, though. He interacted with the religious elite and with the lowest sinners. He chose hard-working fishermen and social outcasts to be his closest friends. He healed, he gave his time lovingly even when he was tired. He was patient with his disciples when they didn’t understand or, worse yet, failed him. And he boldly confronted those who abused others.

“Above all, he was unselfish. Nothing is more striking than this. Although believing himself to be divine, . . . he was never pompous. There was no touch of self-importance about Jesus. He was humble.”*

Who do you say he is? An outrageous egotist or God himself? He can’t be both. Your answer to that question matters more than you know.

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic–on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg–or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.” – C. S. Lewis

*Stott, John R. W. Basic Christianity, pp. 43-44

Truth in Context

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18

When a witness is on the stand and is told to answer only “yes” or “no,” you know you’re not getting the full story, and a yes or no answer could actually be misleading. Truth, to be understood as truth, has to have context. The witness has to be able to tell his story.

There are those who object to Jesus saying “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But he made that claim after several years of public ministry in which he showed in other ways who he was. For Jesus the concept of “way, truth, and life” included his compassion for those in need, healing those who were lame or sick, teaching about his Father, and moving lovingly toward those who were sinful. For him, saying he was the “way, truth, and life” was a summary of what he had exampled among the people already. The statement was set in the context of his life.

There is a lot of skepticism these days about truth in just about every arena of life. If Christians want to be seen as people of truth in a world gone sideways on the subject, we need to remember Jesus’ model: live it first, then tell it. Intellectual truth is important, but it doesn’t have the impact of truth contextualized in a well-lived life. Live truth.

The people of God are not merely to mark time, waiting for God to step in and set right all that is wrong. Rather, they are to model the new heaven and new earth, and by so doing awaken longings for what God will someday bring to pass.” – Philip Yancey

The Truth About You and Me

“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” -2 Samuel 22:20

Is it true that you and I are imperfect and sometimes selfish? That, by God’s definition, we are sinful? That we let people down? Yes.

We all recognize our weaknesses, our sinfulness. And sometimes that’s where we stop. But that’s not the whole truth!

I realized that one morning I read this amazing statement: “I will believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is.”*

Could it be that there are truths about you and me that are beautiful? Of course there are, but those are things that we often don’t allow ourselves to recognize. Think of how we handle criticism. We take it to heart, brood about it for days and vow never to be like that again

How do we handle praise? Sometimes we just brush it off. Our success was a fluke. If people really knew us, they wouldn’t think so highly of us. We’re not smart, wise, funny, or all that likable.

Why is it so hard to believe something positive about ourselves?

Listen to this: “You are altogether beautiful, my darling; there is no flaw in you.” (Song of Solomon 4:7). True, this is a lover speaking to his bride, but it is also seen as God speaking to his beloved people. It’s OK for us to realize that God thinks we’re lovable and that, through Jesus, he sees us as flawless.

We are always aware of our failures in loving God and others. But we also need to hear the tender messages from our good and merciful God. Believe the truth about yourself even if it’s beautiful!

“God doesn’t love us because of our worth. We are of worth because God loves us.” – Martin Luther

*Macrina Wiederkehr

Are you seen as wise?

To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his. – Job 12:13

Do you sometimes feel like we are living in a world turned upside down? We see disorder, disrespect, anger, and chaos where there used to be civil discourse and attempts at mutual understanding. Long-held moral values seem to have been discarded. Many people feel they are adrift, without an anchor in truth. They long for common sense, direction, and wisdom.

That’s where you and I might be able to be of help. There’s a passage in the Bible where Moses is summarizing for the people the commands of God and his history with his people. Referring to God’s laws, Moses says, Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.'” (Deuteronomy 4:6)

My paraphrase of this directive is something like this, “Because God tells us what a well-lived life should look like, if you obey him, people observing you will think you’re wise.” It makes sense, doesn’t it? God alone knows how humans function best!

There is something attractive about a person who understands what gives life meaning, lives confidently under God’s design for humans, and is not easily swayed by the churning world around us. Scripture seems to say if we live as God has directed, others will look at us and think we are wise. And, by God’s definition, we are. Fearing, following, obeying him, he says, is the beginning of wisdom.

Our world needs wise people, living God-directed, spiritually rich lives. I want to be one of them. Do you, too? 

Wisdom in scripture is, broadly speaking, the knowledge of God’s world and the knack of fitting oneself into it.” – Cornelius Plantinga

#Wisdom #Following God

Keep it simple.


“For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel—not with wisdom and eloquence, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” – 1 Corinthians 1:17

If you’re like me, you sometimes hesitate to talk about your faith and, usually, our silence is because we’re afraid:

  • Afraid someone might ask a question we can’t answer.
  • Afraid they’ll think we’re not very sophisticated in our thinking.
  • Afraid we just won’t say it right.

Here’s where Paul comes in with a God-given insight (see verse above): It’s not about our intellectual words, knowing all the answers, or having the power to persuade – it’s about Jesus. When we simply point people to Jesus, his message, his actions, and his cross, we can’t go wrong. Paul says, in fact, that if we’re too good in arguing our point or using impressive words, the attention goes to us and our message falls flat. If we can direct someone to Jesus and the cross,  Paul says, that’s where the power is. Not us – him. That was Paul’s message to the people of Corinth in the 1st century and it’s ours today.

So, if someone asks what we believe or why we have hope or peace in this sometimes-crazy world, let’s not get sidetracked with reconciling the Bible with science or theorizing about prophecies. Let’s just talk about Jesus, what he has done for us, and what he has promised to those who follow him. Then he does the rest. No more fear!

“The cross tells us that God understands our sin and our suffering, for he took them upon himself in the person of Jesus Christ. From the cross God declares, ‘I love you. I know the heartaches and the sorrows and the pain that you feel. But I love you.'”- Billy Graham


You don’t need me?

“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth.” – Acts 17:24

There’s a scene from the TV series West Wing in which the US discovers a nuclear explosion in another country. The president meets with the ambassador from that country and is told that it was not nuclear, it was an oil refinery fire. Not true. He gives the littany of evidence of their lack of security, training, and expertise in to be able to handle nuclear weapons and he offers to help. The ambassador says, “We don’t need your help.” The President leaves the room in anger, knowing she’s lying and, in not accepting expert help, is putting the world at risk.

Then I read the prophets of the Old Testament and realize the one thing that seems to make God leave the room in anger is when his people think they don’t need him. “We’ve got it covered, Lord.” And by covered, they mean they are hiding their messes, sweeping the dirt under the rug, putting false fronts on the disasters lurking, and hoping someone (other than God, of course) will step in to save the day.

The messes in our world are big. The messes in many of our lives are big, too. It may be time we admit we’re not doing a very good job of managing things ourselves. Maybe it’s time to turn to God and say, “I need you! I’ve needed you all along, but have been trying to do it on my own. Now look at this mess. Can you, would you, please help me?”

The believing man does not claim to understand. He falls to his knees and whispers, “God.” – A. W. Tozer

#trusting God

Looking for Christmas gifts?

Books are always a sure-to-please gift in our household. Here are a few I have written that you may like for yourself or others:

The GodSense Journey: Exploring Sacred Pathways (April 2016): A year-long interactive devotional covering subjects such as intimacy with God, fruit of the Spirit, spiritual gifts, and relationships. Includes teaching, Bible study, prayers, and personal application. Click here to preview: 

The Bible for Skeptics (June 2017 – Second Edition) An invitation to conversation about the authenticity of the Bible and its revelation of God and His plan for those of us who live on this planet. Click here:

The GodSense Devotional (2004): A year-long devotional study of God’s Word, requiring interaction, meditation, and prayer. Click here to preview:

http://www.amazon.com/GodSense-Devotional-Beverly-Van-Kampen/dp/0972419667/ref=la_B001JOTW1E_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1433859238&sr=1-2

 

The Bible Study Teachers’ Guide (2006): A helpful resource for those who lead small-group Bible studies at home, church, or the marketplace. Click here to preview:

https://www.amazon.com/Bible-Study-Teachers-Guide/dp/1932902635/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1543848641&sr=1-2&keywords=beverly+van+kampen+books

 

Because I love you . . .

“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” – Ephesians 2:4-5

Do you ever go through those times when you think, “Why does God even bother with me? I’ve let him down again. I keep failing to overcome some of the issues that haunt me. I don’t know why he doesn’t just give up on me.”

Listen. Really listen to the quiet voice of the Holy Spirit inside you as you sit in his presence, as you pray, as you read the Bible. You are likely to hear something like this:

I love you even when you feel unlovable. And because I love you, I

  • answer your prayers
  • guide your steps
  • teach you through my Word
  • protect you from the evil one
  • draw you closer to me
  • will take you someday to a place where we can be together forever.

I love you just because. You’re going to have to get used to that!

Can you believe that? Really believe it? It’s true, you know. God loves each of us unconditionally. Once we grasp the reality of that truth, we will never be the same. Our worthiness is not even a small part of the reason God loves us. He loves us because he created us. He loves us because it is part of his eternal nature to love us – no matter what. How can we help responding with joy to such unconditional, unchanging love? Believe it. Live in it. To God, you are always lovable. And always loved!

“My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it.” – Brennan Manning