Category  |  Doctrine of God

When Weakness Is Strength

Drew had been imprisoned for two years because he served Jesus. He’d read stories of missionaries who felt constant joy throughout their incarceration, but he confessed “this was not my experience.” He told his wife that God had picked the wrong man to suffer for Him. She replied, “No. I think maybe He picked the right man. This was not an accident.”

 

Drew could likely relate to the prophet Jeremiah, who had faithfully served God by warning Judah that God would punish them for their sins. But God’s judgment hadn’t fallen yet, and Judah’s leaders beat Jeremiah and put him in stocks. Jeremiah blamed God: “You deceived me, Lord” (v. 7). The prophet believed God had failed to deliver. His word had only “brought me insult and reproach all day long” (v. 8). “Cursed be the day I was born!” Jeremiah said. “Why did I ever come out of the womb to see trouble and sorrow and to end my days in shame?” (vv. 14, 18).

Eventually Drew was released, but through his ordeal he began to understand that perhaps God chose him—much like He chose Jeremiah—because he was weak. If he and Jeremiah had been naturally strong, they might have received some of the praise for their success. But if they were naturally weak, all the glory for their perseverance would go to Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:26–31). His frailty made him the perfect person for Jesus to use.

He Hears Us

US President Franklin D. Roosevelt often endured long receiving lines at the White House. As the story is told, he complained that no one really paid attention to what was said. So, he decided to experiment at a reception. To everyone who passed down the line and shook his hand, he said, “I murdered my grandmother this morning.” The guests responded with phrases like, “Marvelous! Keep up the good work. God bless you, sir.” It was not until the end of the line, greeting the ambassador from Bolivia, that his words were actually heard. Nonplussed, the ambassador leaned over and whispered, “I’m sure she had it coming.”

Do you ever wonder if people are really listening? Or worse, do you fear that God isn’t listening? We can tell if people are listening based on their responses or eye contact. But how do we know if God is listening? Should we rely on feelings? Or see if God answers our prayers?

After seventy years of exile in Babylon, God promised to bring His people back to Jerusalem and secure their future (Jeremiah 29:10–11). When they called upon Him, He heard them (v. 12). They knew that God heard their prayers because He promised to listen. And the same is true for us (1 John 5:14). We don’t need to rely on feelings or wait for a sign to know that God listens to us. He’s promised to listen, and He always keeps His promises (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Perspectives from Above

When Peter Welch was a young boy in the 1970s, using a metal detector was only a hobby. But since 1990, he’s been leading people from around the world on metal-detecting excursions. They’ve made thousands of discoveries—swords, ancient jewelry, coins. Using “Google Earth,” a computer program that renders a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite imagery, they look for patterns in the landscape on farmland in the United Kingdom. It shows them where roads, buildings, and other structures may have been centuries ago. Peter says, “To have a perspective from above opens a whole new world.” 

God’s people in Isaiah’s day needed “a perspective from above.” They prided themselves on being God’s people yet were disobedient and refused to give up their idols. God had another perspective. Despite their rebellion, He would rescue them from captivity to Babylon. Why? “For my own sake, . . . I will not yield my glory to another” (Isaiah 48:11). God’s perspective from above is that life is for His glory and purpose—not ours. Our attention is to be given to Him and His plans and to pointing others to praise Him too. 

Having God’s glory as our own life’s perspective opens a whole new world. Only God knows what we will discover about Him and what He has for us. He’ll teach us what is good for us and lead us along the paths we should follow (v. 17).

Live Wire

“I felt like I had touched a live wire,” said professor Holly Ordway, describing her reaction to John Donne’s majestic poem “Holy Sonnet 14.” There’s something happening in this poetry, she thought. I wonder what it is. Ordway recalls it as the moment her previously atheistic worldview allowed for the possibility of the supernatural. Eventually she would believe in the transforming reality of the resurrected Christ.

Touching a live wire—that must have been how Peter, James, and John felt on the day Jesus took them to a mountaintop, where they witnessed a dramatic transformation. Jesus’s “clothes became dazzling white” (Mark 9:3) and Elijah and Moses appeared—an event we know today as the Transfiguration.

Descending from the mountain, Jesus told the disciples not to tell anyone what they’d seen until He’d risen (v. 9). But they didn’t even know what He meant by “rising from the dead” (v. 10). 

The disciples’ understanding of Jesus was woefully incomplete, because they couldn’t conceive of a destiny that included His death and resurrection. But eventually their experiences with their resurrected Lord would utterly transform their lives. Late in his life, Peter described his encounter with Jesus’s Transfiguration as the time when the disciples were first “eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).

As Professor Ordway and the disciples learned, when we encounter Jesus’s power we touch a “live wire.” There’s something happening here. The living Christ beckons us.

Surprised by Wisdom

“It seems like the older I get, the wiser you become. Sometimes when I talk to my son I even hear your words coming out of my mouth!”

My daughter’s candor made me laugh. I felt the same way about my parents and frequently found myself using their words as I raised my kids. Once I became a dad, my perspective on my parents’ wisdom changed. What I once “wrote off” as foolishness turned out to be far wiser than I had thought—I just couldn’t see it at first.

The Bible teaches that “the foolishness of God is wiser” than the cleverest human wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:25). “For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness” of the message of a suffering Savior to rescue “those who believe” (v. 21).

God always has ways of surprising us. Instead of the triumphant king the world would expect, the Son of God came as a suffering servant and died a humbling death by crucifixion—before He was raised in unsurpassable glory.

In God’s wisdom, humility is valued over pride and love shows its worth in undeserved mercy and kindness. Through the cross, our unconquerable Messiah became the ultimate victim—in order to “save completely” (Hebrews 7:25) all who place their faith in Him!

Unseen Realities

Stephen Cass, an editor at Discover magazine, was determined to investigate some of the invisible things that are part of his daily life. As he walked toward his office in New York City, he mused: “If I could see radio waves, the top of the Empire State Building [with its host of radio and TV antennas] would be lit like a kaleidoscopic flare, illuminating the entire city.” He realized he was surrounded by an invisible electromagnetic bedlam of radio and TV signals, Wi-Fi, and more.

Elisha’s servant learned about another kind of unseen reality—the invisible spiritual world—one morning. He awoke to find himself and his master surrounded by the armies of Aram. As far as his eyes could see, there were thousands of soldiers mounted on powerful warhorses (2 Kings 6:15)! The servant was afraid, but Elisha was confident because he saw the army of angels that surrounded them. He said: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them” (v. 16). Then he asked the Lord to open his servant’s eyes so he too could see that the Lord had surrounded their enemy and He was in control (v. 17).

Do you feel overpowered and helpless? Remember that God is in control and fights for you. He “will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11). May we fix our eyes on this unseen reality.

Through a New Lens

“It’s amazing to look at a tree and see the individual leaves instead of just a blur of green!” my dad said. I couldn’t have said it better. I was eighteen at the time and not a fan of my new need to wear glasses, but they changed the way I saw everything, making the blurry beautiful!

When reading Scripture, I view certain books like I do when I look at trees without my glasses. There doesn’t seem to be much to see. But noticing details can reveal the beauty in a boring passage.

This happened to me when I was reading Exodus. God’s directions for building the tabernacle—His temporary dwelling place among the Israelites­—can seem like a blur of boring details. But I paused at the end of chapter 25 where God gave directions for the lampstand. It was to be hammered out “of pure gold,” including its base and shaft and its flowerlike cups, buds, and blossoms (v. 31). The cups were to be “shaped like almond flowers” (vv. 33–36).

Almond trees are breathtaking. And God chose to incorporate that same natural beauty into His tabernacle!

According to Paul in the book of Romans, “God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature” are seen and understood in creation (1:20). Sometimes we have to look at creation, and uninteresting passages in the Bible, differently, through a new lens, to see God’s beauty.

God Is Here

A plaque in our home states “Bidden or not bidden, God is present.” A modern version might read, “Acknowledged or unacknowledged, God is here.”

Hosea, an Old Testament prophet who lived in late eighth century BC (755–715 bc), wrote similar words to the Hebrew nation. He encouraged the Israelites to “press on,” to acknowledge God because they had forgotten Him (Hosea 4:1). As the people forgot God’s presence, they began to turn away from God (v. 12) and before long there was no room for God in their thoughts (see Psalm 10:4).

Hosea’s simple but profound insight to acknowledge God reminds us He is near and at work in our lives, in both the joys and struggles.

To acknowledge God might mean when we get a promotion at work, to recognize God gave us insight to finish our work on time and within budget. If our housing application is rejected, acknowledging God helps to sustain us as we trust Him to work in the situation for our good.

If we don’t make it into the college of our choice, we can acknowledge God is with us and take comfort in His presence even in our disappointment. As we enjoy dinner, to acknowledge God may be to remind ourselves of God’s provision of the ingredients and a kitchen to prepare the meal.

When we acknowledge God, we remember His presence in both the successes and sorrows, whether big or small, of our lives.

Thanks for Who God Is

Among the thousands of sentiments printed on greeting cards, perhaps one of the most touching is this simple statement: “Thanks for being you.” If you receive that card, you know that someone cares for you not because you did something spectacular for that person but because you’re appreciated for your essence.

I wonder if this kind of sentiment might indicate for us one of the best ways to say “Thank you” to God. Sure, there are times when God intervenes in our lives in a tangible way, and we say something like, “Thank You, Lord, for allowing me to get that job.” But most often, we can simply say, “Thank You, God, for being who You are.”

That’s what’s behind verses like 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Thank You, God, for who You are—good and loving. And Psalm 7:17: “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness.” Thank You, God, for who You are—the holy One. And “Let us come before him with thanksgiving . . . for the Lord is the great God” (Psalm 95:2–3). Thank You, God, for who You are—the Almighty God of the universe.

Who God is. That’s reason enough for us to stop what we’re doing and praise and thank Him. Thank You, God, for just being You!