Our perceptions have everything to do with how we live our lives. If I had thought further schooling wasn’t something I wanted to pursue past high school, I would not have elected to go to college. Therefore, I would not have met my wife and we would not have had three children and I would not be eating lunch with my granddaughter right now. We can tie most every movement of our lives to the perceptions we hold. The most important perception we have, the one that affects us in each moment of our day, might be the one that we have considered least.
Far more important than any other view we hold, it is our perception of God, It affects how we think of the world around us, our purpose in the world, how we think of ourselves, relate to others and even our eternity. Why then are we not more intentional about seeking and knowing the God who is real, instead of viewing Him though our own myopic lenses? Why are we simply leaving it to society or our circle of friends, or our preconceived notions developed years ago to shape our understanding of who God is?
The brilliant theologian A.W. Tozer posed the question so beautifully yet simply; “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us. ... Worship is as pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.”
Tozer’s quote makes a lot of sense. If one viewed God as someone who is a harsh, judgmental sort of cosmic police officer looking to punish the mistakes we make, that view of God will typically not be focused on the love of God but misdirected to view God as largely punitive. Would we tend to truly love and worship this type of God? Perhaps we view God as uninterested, stoic, uncaring and removed from everyday life. Is this a God who we deem worthy of full devotion? We miss the great promise of Jesus when we hold skewed perceptions of God. We miss the promise of the full and abundant life that Christ promises. In reality, His love is so immense that Jesus has said His greatest desire is to be with you and live with you.
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.
Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
– John 17:22-23
Please don’t miss the power of the last sentence. The world will know that God sent Jesus for one mission and that is a mission of unity and love. That there is absolutely no difference between the love God has for Jesus and for you and me. Does that sound like a God who is punitive or uncaring, stoic or judgmental? God’s love is powerful, present and active. It is only our own distorted views that block our ability to bask in His powerful love and live a life of abundance that Christ offers. As pastor and author Eugene Peterson writes, “God is out to win the world in love and each person has been selected and set apart to do it with Him”
1. What is my current view of God and why do I hold this view?
2. Do I truly believe God to be a loving God who is active and present in everyday life? If not, why?
Bad decisions. We have all made them. And to varying degrees these decisions have impacted our lives in one way or another. When living with Christ, a bad decision is just that...a bad decision. It is not a fatal decision or a decision that will cost you His love and presence. An example from the Bible is the story Jesus tells of the Parable of the Lost Son, where a son demands his inheritance from his wealthy father only to squander it all on sinful living. Please take a moment to read the words of Christ in Luke 14:11-31.
Rather than focusing upon the misguided thinking of the young son, let's look at the stunning beauty of the father’s love. When the son realizes the folly of his ways, he comes to his senses and makes a wise choice.
“So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him;
he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.
– Luke 15:20
Each time I read these words describing the son’s humbling return to his father, I am truly moved by the powerful description of the father searching the landscape. I can imagine the father walking his property each day, perhaps many times a day, gazing at the horizon in hopes that he will see his son returning home. Day after day, and with no indication that the return of his son is imminent or even possible, the father, fueled by his great love for his son, continues to scan the landscape with great hope. Then one day...off in the far distance the father finally sees what he has longed for...his son is coming home. The joy of the father knows no bounds; “filled with compassion for him, he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.” What a touching and beautiful description of the Father’s love. Jesus tells this story to highlight the astonishing love that God has for each of us. The father in the story is God and his reaction when we decide to come to Him, is exactly how God reacts to us when we turn back to Him.. Mistakes and bad decisions are forgiven.
Since God views each of us with His love and mercy, we need not fear repentance. We can embrace the truth about our imperfections and brokenness because there is no punishment involved, God wants to transform our hearts and minds to reflect Christ. He wants us to love like Jesus. And by making us aware of how loved we are, we can begin to allow God's love to move through us and to our relationships.
When reading and thinking about the prodigal son, I sometimes wonder, just what prompted the lost son to make the decision to return home. The Bible simply says, “when he came to his senses.” I have to think that the powerful pull of the faithful love that his father had displayed his entire life rekindled thoughts of his true identity, his home and the goodness of his father. The son had to know that there was a strong possibility that his return would be met with the love of his father, or he probably would never have considered returning home to be an option. He knew that home was where he belonged.
Our identity does not begin to take shape when we begin to understand ourselves. That is merely self reflection without Christ. We are very good at deceiving ourselves, just as the son did by demanding his inheritance and running away. We can create false identities and wear these masks very effectively through life. Our true identity is formed when we begin to understand the character of God and his love for us. When we understand that we are chosen by God and we are known and loved by God, we understand that our identity is not something we create, but it is simply that of a beloved Child of God.
1. Can you see God faithfully searching the landscape for you?
2. What will prompt you to shed false identities you’ve created and accept your true identity as a beloved Child of God?
If you’re like me, you sometimes listen to a compelling sermon or read a powerful book that produces in you a desire to deepen your relationship with God, only to fall back into the same habits and thought patterns of life that existed before this burst of inspiration. It’s frustrating and we wonder why I'm not able to move forward in my walk with Christ as I had desired? Jesus has given us the answers to this perplexing situation as He explains the Parable of the Four Soils in Luke 8:4-15.
Jesus speaks about a farmer who widely cast seed for the obvious purpose of growth and fruitful produce. However, some of the seed falls on hard ground and will never take root. Other seed has fallen on rocky or thin soil, so it sprouts, but cannot be sustained and therefore withers and dies. In some cases, the seed is cast upon an area where weeds exist, which choke and inhibit the growth of the seed. Finally, there is some seed that falls upon good soil that fuels an abundant and healthy crop. In this parable the seed, Jesus speaks of, is the Word of God and the four soils represent the condition of our hearts and souls as we receive God’s Word. Our odds are not good. Three of the four soils Jesus describes in the parable are bad; one is good.
Jesus gives us the parable because He knows that in order to grow our faith and walk as disciples of His we must be very intentional about cultivating a “good soil” within us. Is it rocky and thin because I have allowed very little room for God in my life? Is my “soil” being overtaken by the weeds in my life, such as the anxieties, busyness, and distractions of life? Or is my soil healthy and fruitful? By bringing our everyday lives before God and identifying the current condition of one’s soil in relation to His seed, we begin to place God and His Kingdom into our daily living. We become aware and open to God’s cultivation of the soil of our soul. And as this awareness deepens we become aware of His presence in our everyday lives. I believe that those who are most aware of God’s presence are usually those who have taken the time and discipline to become intentional in cultivating their souls. We each have a responsibility to surrender to God so that He can produce full and fruitful living.
When your soul is open to Christ, you begin to see Jesus in your everyday life. You look about and soak in the evidence of God's love that covers the world? The sharp autumn air you breathe. The beauty of so much of God’s remarkable living creation that surrounds you. The joy and peace within you. The love of friends and family you experience. All of this and so much more is the stark reality of how God’s presence and love envelopes you and the entire world. We simply need to cultivate good soil to experience it. As the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God”. As Jesus explains the parable of the four soils to the people gathered before Him, He highlights the importance of possessing a heart mind and soul that is continually receptive to God. “ But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” – Matthew 13:16. Eyes that see and ears that hear the presence of God in daily living is the way of discipleship. It is experiencing Christ each day in the everyday.. It is the good soil that will produce a fruitful life
1. What steps will I take in order to cultivate my soul to produce the “good soil” that Christ says will lead to a fruitful life?
2. How can I become more aware of God’s presence in my daily life?
This week, meditate on the heart of God. Take time to consider all that you mean to God. Reflect upon the verses from Scripture below, in which God’s love for you is proclaimed and promised. Allow yourself to bask in the glow of God’s unending and unconditional love for you as you read these sacred words.
Take a walk outdoors. Notice the beauty of God’s creation, with “eyes that see and ears that hear” And as you do, reflect on the character of God and His constant loving presence in the world.
“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations
of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
– Deuteronomy 7:9
“Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”
– Psalm 136:26
“Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”
– Lamentations 3:22-23
“The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you;
in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
– John 3:16
“And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”
– Romans 5:5
“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
"And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.“
– 1 John 4:16