The God Who Is God

God called Moses to be his appointed servant. Moses’ service would be to deliver the Israelites from their brutal captivity in Egypt.

The Israelites had been crying out for that deliverance. God heard their cries. He recalled the promises he had made to the patriarchs, the forefathers of the Israelite people. He was concerned for his people. And he was about to do something about it.

God acted through a miracle. From a burning bush, he told Moses that he was appointing him to be his emissary to call upon Pharaoh. He was to call for the Israelites’ release from slavery.

Moses knew he would be asked if he was doing this on his own authority, or did he really have God’s backing?

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV).

God’s response to Moses is very important.

“I am” sent Moses to the Israelites. The God who is. The God who exists. The God who does not have to defend or justify himself to anyone because “he is who he is.” He does not change — not for anyone or anything.

He is the same God whom Jacob served, Isaac worshiped, and Abraham followed in faith. He is the same God who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and who crafted a beautiful home named Eden for Adam and Eve.

And he is the same God who still is today. Unchanging. Unconquerable. Unrelenting in grace and in his willingness to see your misery, hear your cries for help, and be concerned about your suffering.

And because he is God — the one, the only, true God — he is capable of doing something about it.

Lord God, thank you that you are who you are. You are the same God who loved the children of Israel and sent Moses to deliver them. You are the same God who loved lost sinners like me and sent Jesus, your own Son, to deliver me. May I always know you, the one true God, and your Son Jesus, whom you sent for my salvation.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 8, is Exodus 1:1 – 3:22, Matthew 26:1-30 and Psalm 19:1-6.

Header image based on "All the troubles lie on his shoulder" by Ossama, CC by-SA 2.0

Handing Out Awards Like Hotcakes

We have a God who loves to hand out awards. And because he is as gracious as he is generous, these awards are lavish — and completely undeserved.

After all, God created us in the first place. He gave us our hands, feet, eyes, ears, minds and hearts. Every good and perfect gift, James says, comes down from the Father of heavenly lights.

Then God redeemed us from our empty way of life under slavery to sin. He bought us back from a certain and eternal death — freeing us from sin, guilt and shame. And he did it at great cost to himself. He sacrificed his one and only Son, Jesus, to make that redemption become real.

God also gifted us with our talents, abilities, and various personalities. He shaped and molded us into the individual we are today, both through nature and nurture. Our inner “wiring” all belongs to him.

By grace, God has saved us for eternity. Even more shocking, he is building a personal home for each of us in the life that follows this life. He gives us this heavenly home for free. No mortgage payments. No savings account needed in this life. What provides this gift to us is the grace of God. No more. No less.

And finally, God promises to bless us in heaven when we use the bodies he’s given us, express the freedom he’s won for us, apply the gifts he’s chosen for us, all while living in the hope of eternal life that he’s made available to us.

And where do you think the motivation and energy we need to do this comes from? You got it. Like everything else, it comes from him. By grace.

God is that guy. He’s indiscriminate and unrelenting in his grace and generosity. So much so that the outside observer looks on and wonders if God is not way too generous.

But please understand God’s heart. All of this is because what God really wants for us is to share in his happiness.

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’” (Matthew 25:21, NIV).

Lord, thank you for your amazing generosity and grace which we get to personally experience each day. Thank you for wanting us to share in your happiness.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, February 7, is Job 40:3 – 42:17, Matthew 25:14-46 and Psalm 18:43-50.

Header image based on "Trophies" by Paulus, CC by 2.0

Inside Out

Have you ever discovered that you’ve put your t-shirt on inside-out? It’s not usually the most elegant fashion statement.

But, as an elegant solution for change? The inside-out approach is absolutely the best! The Bible talks frequently about “inside-out” change, as opposed to “outside-in” change. And there are some very good reasons for that.

Jesus points out that one of those reasons is that the outside-in approach leads to hypocrisy. That was the case with the Pharisees. Everything seemed fine on the outside, but the inside was still very unclean and corrupt. Greed and self-indulgence ruled their hearts. And so Jesus called them on their spiritual blindness and told them to get their priorities straight.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean” (Matthew 23:25-26, NIV).

Jesus teaches us that when we start with the inside (the mind, the heart), the outside (the hands, the feet, the tongue, the ears and the eyes) will follow suit.

So, how do I clean the inside? How do I bring about change in my mind and heart?

The answer is, “I don’t!”

But Jesus does. When his love, grace, and mercy are poured into our hearts, Jesus cleans the “inside” for us. His blood-bought forgiveness is the only “cleansing agent” that truly works to radically alter our minds and hearts.

When Jesus’ grace lives in your heart, Jesus’ strength resides in your hands.

Lord, thank you for changing and re-making me into a new person. With your grace and forgiveness, you purified my mind and heart. Now give me your Spirit that I may be made new all the way to tips of my hands and feet.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, February 4, is Job 33:1 – 34:37, Matthew 23:1-39 and Psalm 18:25-36.

Header image based on "heart is in my hands" by Laine, CC by 2.0

Prevailing Grace

Human opposition is part of life in this fallen world. You’ve faced it. And so have I.

Sometimes it originates from those closest to us. Brothers have struggled for supremacy over one another all the way back to Cain and Abel. The sinful condition of the human heart–pride, jealousy, anger, and greed–creates volatility in our relationships.

Do you know the story of Joseph? He experienced exactly what it’s like to suffer from the fallenness and sin of people close to him. Every time he would crawl out of one hole, the next jealous or angry person would come along and push him back into the pit.

Yes, there was even an actual pit at one point. And that was followed by being the victim of traders trafficking in humans, then a jealous husband, next an unjust imprisonment, and finally, a high government official that ungratefully ash-canned the help he got from Joseph.

One disastrous situation followed another. Every time it looked like Joseph might finally climb his way out the pit, he’d get slammed right back down again. Ironically, this was all put in motion because his brothers couldn’t handle the fact that Joseph was their father’s favorite.

The remarkable result, however, is that while Joseph’s earthly father could not protect him, his Heavenly Father did. As a result, Joseph stayed close to God.

And so grace prevailed. God’s grace protected Joseph through all the ups and downs. What followed is stunning. Touched by God’s grace, Joseph did not remain angry with his brothers. He did not hold a grudge. Nor did he exact revenge, though he had every reason and opportunity to do so.

Instead, he forgave. He restored their relationship and reconciled with his brothers. Grace prevailed there, too.

And because grace prevailed through all that Joseph endured, God’s gracious purpose prevailed too.

“Then Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Come close to me.’ When they had done so, he said, ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you'” (Genesis 45:4-5, NIV). 

Lord, may your grace and purpose always prevail. Thank you that your grace toward me did prevail. Help me to reflect that grace toward those who have injured me and sinned against me, so that I may serve your purpose with my life, and through all my struggles.

Our Bible reading for Friday, January 23, is Genesis 45:1 – 47:12, Matthew 16:1-20 and Psalm 14:1-7.

Header image based on "O to grace how great a debtor, daily I'm constrained to be!" by Alexander, CC by 2.0

Where Change Begins

January is the month when we try to make changes in our lives. New Year’s resolutions!

We’re going to work out more. We’re going to lose weight. We’re going to finally read that book. We’re going to fix that relationship.

Character qualities rise to the fore. I’m going to be a more hard-working person in 2015. And more honest. I’ll amp up the compassion. Get rid of the swear words. Stop the gossiping.

So we set up a “fine jar.” A dollar for every cuss word. Five dollars for every time I catch myself gossiping.

We write out our list of goals. We share it with our best friend, and ask him to keep us accountable.

None of those are bad things. In fact, they can be very, very good things. But they are not the place to start.

Jesus shows us that place. The starting line for life-change is not our neighbor or the list on our smartphone.

“But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:18-19, NIV).

This is so important. Jesus tells us why our habits are broken. It’s because our hearts are broken.

The place to start is with healing the heart. And the place where healing the heart begins is the cross. The person who can change my habits permanently is not me. The person is Jesus.

That’s because change begins with hope, with strength, with love. Not with condemnation, with feeble attempts, with selfishness and shame.

And who is Jesus? He is hope. He is strength. He is love.

Ask him to heal your heart. And change your life.

Jesus, heal my heart through the good news of your forgiveness won for me at the cross. I want to change. Give me your hope, your strength, and your love.

Our reading for Thursday, January 22, is Genesis 43:1 -44:34, Matthew 15:10-39, and Psalm 13:1-6.

Header image based on "Granite Cross" by Lindman, CC by 2.0

No daggers. Simply grace.

Jacob had problems. And they were of his own making. He had deceived his father, Isaac, and stolen his brother Esau’s blessing.

This did not make Esau happy. In fact, he was murderously unhappy with Jacob. So, on his mother’s recommendation, Jacob decided that it was time to beat a hasty retreat from his home.

What follows shows us how merciful and gracious our God can be. On the very first night of Jacob’s escape, God came to him with a message. It was not a message of anger, though Jacob had sinfully and faithlessly taken matters into his own hands. It contained no warnings of a desire to punish Jacob, despite his refusal to simply trust God for his blessing.

No wrath-daggers would be thrown. Not by Esau. Not by God either. Instead, God gives Jacob promises of sheer grace. He will be present with Jacob. He will bring Jacob back home again. He will not fail to keep his promises.

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you” (Genesis 28:15, NIV).

Do you need a message like this? Maybe you suspect that God has every right to be angry with you, turn his back on you, and let you hang out there with no hope of rescue or return. You’re all set to dodge the wrath daggers.

After all, you are a sinner.

But God’s grace that he displayed to Jacob, is the same grace that he has displayed (and will display) to you.

He is with you, present every day in your life. He wants to bring you home to himself. He will not fail to keep his promises to you.

How do you know this? Because Jesus–God with us–is the most perfect evidence of the fact that God is present, longs to bring us home, and will not fail to keep his promises to us.

Lord Jesus, be merciful to me. Be present with me and demonstrate your grace to me. I do not deserve it. I deserve your wrath and anger. I deserve your punishment because I too, have been faithless. But treat me as you treated your servant Jacob.

Our reading for Tuesday, January 13, is Genesis 27:1 – 28:22, Matthew 10:32 – 11:15 and Psalm 9:1-6.

Header image based on "Knife" by Blume, CC by-SA 2.0

Birds of a Feather

“Birds of a feather flock together.” At least, that’s what my Mom used to tell me. She had all sorts of proverbs like that. Such wisdom came from her Kentucky upbringing.

The only problem is that the proverb doesn’t work at all for Jesus. The one who was tempted like us in every way, except without sin, had not come to “flock together” with other spiritually pure and sinless people.

Good thing. Because those people don’t exist. At least not in the real world. And Jesus came into this very real world for real people like us.

He came for sinners. The spiritually sick. Those who are not in a healthy relationship with God. That’s who he came for.

People like me.

People like you.

Praise God for that!

On hearing this, Jesus said, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners” (Matthew 9:12-13, NIV).

Lord Jesus, thank you for coming for a sinful person like me. I am sorry for the unrighteous and sinful things I do every day. Please forgive me. Call me to be your disciple as you once called Matthew. Show me the same mercy you once showed him.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, January 10, is Genesis 21:1 – 23:20, Matthew 8:23 – 9:13 and Psalm 7:10-17.

Header image based on "Birds of a Feather?" by McCullough, CC by 2.0