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

 

Let me see!

“The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” – Psalm 119:130

Have you ever watched a legal drama on television? First we hear the prosecution’s case and it’s clear the guy is guilty. Then the defense presents its case and we aren’t so sure any more. The same thing happens when we hear the other side of an argument – particularly those about theological or sociological issues. If we listen openly to a well-presented response to our viewpoint, we may walk away saying, “I never thought of it that way before.” Don’t you like those moments of insight that open up new possibilities of thinking for you? I do!

In Acts 9, we read about Saul. He was persecuting followers of Jesus because he thought he knew the whole story about this now-dead Jewish rabbi. Then he was confronted by the resurrected Jesus and the encounter left him physically blinded, but spiritually enlightened. He was sent to Ananias in the city of Damascus. Ananias touched him and the Bible says something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see clearly. The restoration of his eyesight evidenced the truth that he had met the Christ, but the greatest miracle, to me, is the opening of his spiritual eyes so he could now see the world around him as God does: without prejudice, arrogance, or fear. Everything changed for Saul when he met Jesus and, for the first time, saw him as Lord.

“Dear Lord, I acknowledge the way I see things may be wrong. Remove the scales from my eyes so I can see the world, people, and your work among us as you do – with an understanding mind and loving heart.”

“We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” – Blaise Pascal

 

 

Your kingdom come?

“Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy.” – Psalm 98:8

What do you suppose Jesus meant when He taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”? Do you wonder would it would look like if God’s kingdom and will ruled the earth?

Maybe that’s part of what Jesus was showing us when He walked with humans long ago.

  • His miracles give us a peek into a kingdom where everyone would see, hear, walk, jump, have enough, and be well.
  • His casting out demons show us what it will look like when we’re all free from the influence of evil.
  • His teaching reveals God’s kingdom as a place where grace, unity, forgiveness, and integrity reign.

If we’re sincere when we pray “Your kingdom come, Your will be done”, how could we not desire to be working alongside God to bring His kingdom values to earth today? Of course we won’t do it perfectly, but we can at least be moving in the same direction God is.

Jesus exampled what it means to live in a kingdom-come way: He taught truth, showed compassion, decried evil, and dealt honestly with everyone. He helped us see what it means to begin the process of making all things new (Revelation 21:5). And, He sends us out to continue what He started.

What does He want us to do today to help accomplish His will on earth? I think we should ask Him. It seems there’s a lot to be done!

“God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven would mean food, water, and homes for all who lack, justice in politics and economics, peace between nations, harmony with nature, healing and comfort for the sick, souls reconnected to their spiritual source.” – Philip Yancey

 #kingdomofgod #doinggood

Numbers, Part 2

“How great is God—beyond our understanding! The number of his years is past finding out.” – Job 36:26

NOTE: A few weeks ago, I posted a blog saying our spirituality and our success in serving God are not measured in numbers. Some of you responded with thoughts reminding me that, while spiritual measurements are not usually given in numbers, numbers are very important to God. I completely agree – enough so, that I thought it a good topic for today’s blog. 

The Bible is full of numbers: God took a census of His people on several occasions. He recorded people’s ages when they died and length of reigns of kings. We’re told the number of people fed with Jesus’ loaves and fishes, the number of fish caught when the fishermen threw the nets to the other side at Jesus’ instruction. The book of Acts presents the initial growth of the church in ever-increasing numbers. Paul records specifically how many times he was beaten with 39 lashes. These biblical numbers can be taken as counts and records.

At other times they might be seen symbolically. For example, when the Bible says there are 10,000 x 10,000 angels, maybe it means there are so many they cannot be counted (like we might say “a zillion”). As we observe how God used numbers, 10 often seems to refer to present kinds of earthly governance (reflected in the 10 Commandments), while 12 seems to refer more to God’s kingdom plan (12 tribes, 12 apostles). Seven is the considered the number of completion (as in the creation account) and 6 is seen as the number of man. Forty often refers to times of trial (Israel’s 40 years in the desert, Jesus’ 40 days of temptation, Noah’s 40 days of rain).

But maybe the most important scriptural mathematical principle of all is how God shows personalized attention to His creation.

  • He knows the number of hairs on each of our heads.
  • He determines the number of stars and has a name for each one.
  • He sees even one sparrow that falls.

The great and glorious God who created a mathematically ordered universe, remains intricately involved in it. Isn’t He amazing?

“God used beautiful mathematics in creating the world.” – Paul Dirac (British physicist)

Can you believe? Just a little bit?

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9

I have a friend who was skeptical about the Bible. He’d read it, then question it. He tried to explain away miracles and dismissed any possibility of Jesus’ divinity. He looked at commands as cultural suggestions, to be revised at will.

But some of his rationalizations didn’t make sense – even to him. Eventually, he came to an intellectual impasse. One day he simply said to himself that, if the Bible were true, he’d be willing to believe. The next day, as he read the Bible, everything seemed to fall into place. His willingness to believe resulted in actual belief.

Sometimes we just don’t want to believe. We are not open to having our minds changed. If you are in that place, I would encourage you to take a step, just a small step toward the possibility of belief.

God is not like us. He thinks differently. He communicates differently. He has capacities and powers we cannot begin to understand. But He loves humans. He sent Jesus to reveal Himself to us. One of my favorite Jesus stories is when a father came asking for his son’s release from demonic powers. Jesus responded “Anything is possible for the one who believes”. The father, in complete honesty, answered, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24).

I have prayed that prayer many times. “I believe, Lord, but just a little. Help my little bit of belief to grow so I can know You as you truly are and trust You with my life.” Are you ready to pray that prayer, too?

“The one you are looking for is the one who is looking.” – Francis of Assisi

 

Note: In my discussions with this person and many others, I’ve had a chance to hear and explore the questions skeptics often ask. If you want to know more, you may be helped by my recent book, The Bible for Skeptics: A Conversation for Thinking People.   https://beverlyvankampen.com/resources/
#bible
#god

Is it true?

“I have chosen the way of truth;” – Psalm 119:30

I read a Facebook post predicting record snowfalls for the entire Midwest this year, with snow beginning as early as September. The impressive weather map showed that we’d have five to ten times the amount of snow we had last year. Just as I was thinking of stocking the pantry, I started reading the comments and realized the article was a hoax. I was feeling anxiety over something that wasn’t even true!

Are you as tired as I am of listening to things we know are lies or exaggerations? I want to know truth – about my health, the world, family, food, finances, and everything else. Not knowing is worse than knowing, even if the truth is hard to hear.

When we take it into the spiritual realm, the stakes are even higher. My spiritual well-being is of eternal importance. I don’t want to risk getting it wrong and I don’t think you do, either! There are three areas I see in which we can discover spiritual truth:

Truth as knowledge: We pursue this truth when we learn, understand, take in new thoughts, and weigh them against what we already know, being willing to adjust our thinking as we learn more.

Truth as experience: This is when we test truth in the laboratory of life. Does it work? Does it last? Does it transform?

Truth as relationship: Whether we realize it or not, our ultimate longing is to know Jesus, the Truth. Every other truth pursuit fits into and finds culmination in our relationship with Him.

Let’s find what is true and trustworthy and discard what is false and misleading. Truth matters!

“Truth is not everything, but without it, nothing goes right.” – Dallas Willard

 

The Jesus Question

 

"May prayer be made for him continually." - from Psalm 72:15

“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in Me should stay in darkness.” – John 12:46

Most people have an opinion or belief about Jesus. Some see Him as a compassionate man who once walked around Galilee and Jerusalem doing good things for people and teaching them to live better lives. Others claim a personal relationship with Him – believing He’s with them, praying to Him, asking Him to guide their lives. For some, opinions are based on hearsay or feelings; for others, they are based on research and reading. There is no doubt that the views of Jesus vary widely.

Here are some things people have said about Him:

  • Some in the biblical crowd: “He is a good man.”
  • Others in same crowd: “He deceives the people.”
  • Roman centurion: “Surely this was the Son of God.”
  • C. S. Lewis: “Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse.”
  • John the Baptist: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.”
  • Peter: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
  • Thomas: “My Lord and my God.”
  • Bertrand Russell: “. . . clearly he was not so wise as some other people have been, and he was certainly not superlatively wise.”
  • People of Nain: “A great prophet has appeared among us.”
  • Temple guards: “No one ever spoke the way this man does.”

If Jesus walked into the room right now, what would you say to Him? About Him? Who is Jesus to you? It’s the most important question you will ever answer.

“The miracle of the gospel is Christ, risen and glorified, who this very moment tracks us, pursues us, abides in us, and offers Himself to us as companion for the journey.” – Brennan Manning