Saturday, January 23, 2016

How big is God?

"How big is God?" Hanna just had to know. Being tall compared to other four-year-olds, my daughter wanted to hear how she compared to God's stature. "God is a spirit, he does not have a body like we do," I tried to explain. "Of course - " Hanna exclaimed understandingly, remembering how I had recently praised her for drawing people with full bodies, "he only has a head and feet!" In her mind this was settled and she felt no need to discuss this any further. Three days later she was ready to breach the subject again, revealing that this new concept was becoming established in her mind: "Mama, why does God not have a belly?" Now it seemed even harder for Hanna to grasp the truth.

Aren't we just like that? We find comfort in having our world neatly categorized and continue to entertain thoughts, even when they turn out to be misconceptions. The longer we cling to these false concepts, the harder it is for us to change our way of thinking.

For me, the false belief that God's love was conditional was one of those misconceptions I found hard to let go of. For such a long time I had focused on all the things I thought I had to do to please God, that I had to be reminded of the truth many times for it to finally sink in.

Maybe you have felt overwhelmed at times, thinking of all the things you need to do for God. Perhaps you struggle with the thought that God can't possibly love you just the way you are. Today I would like to remind you of all the things God has already done for you.

You foreknew me. (Rom 8:29)
You predestined me. (Rom 8:29)
You knit me together in my mother's womb. (Ps.139:13)
You know my thoughts. (Ps. 139:2)
You are acquainted with all my ways. (Ps 139:3)
You chose me. (Is.41:6)
You have called me your treasured possession. (Dt. 7:6)
You have engraved my name in the palm of your hand. (Is 39:16)
You desire me. (Songs 7:10)
You draw me with chords of loving-kindness. (Hos. 11:4)
You redeemed me. (Is.43:1)
You raised me from the dead. (Col 2:12)
You gave me new life. (Col 2:13)
You saved me. (Is. 43:1)
You forgave me. (Col. 2:13)
You released me from the law. (Rom 7:6)
You cancelled the record of debt that stood against me. (Col 2:14)
You blot out all my transgressions. (Is. 43:25)
You washed me. (1Cor. 6:11)
You justified me. (1Cor 6:11)
You see no flaw in me. (Songs 4:7)
You call me beautiful. (Songs 4:7)
You adopted me. (Eph. 1:5)
You filled me. (Col. 2:10)
You sealed me as your own. (Eph. 1:13)
You indwell me with your Spirit. (Rom 8:9)
You have made me your heir and co-heir with Christ. (Rom. 8:17)
You have given me an inheritance. (Eph. 1:11)
You have lavished the riches of your grace upon me. (Eph 1:7)
You circumcised my heart. (Col 2:11)
You restore my soul. (Ps. 23:3)
You sanctified me. (1Cor 6:11)
You glorified me. (Rom 8:30)
You change me with ever increasing glory. (2Cor. 3:18)
You rejoice over me with gladness. (Zeph. 3:17)
You quiet me by your love. (Zeph. 3:17)
You exult over me with loud singing. (Zeph. 3:17)
You hem me in, behind and before. (Ps. 139:5)
You lay your hand upon me. (Ps 139:5)
No-one can deliver me from your hand. (Is. 43:13)
Nothing can separate me from your love. (Rom 8:39)
You see me as precious. (Is. 43:4)
You take thought for me. (Ps 40:17)
You hear me when I call. (1 John 5:14)
You long to show me compassion. (Is. 30:18)
You sympathize with my weakness. (Hebr. 4:15)
You catch each tear that falls. (Ps. 56:12)
You removed the veil from my eyes. (2. Cor. 3:17)
You have made known to me the mystery of your will. (Eph. 1:9)
You prepared in advance the work for me to do. (Eph. 2:10)

That is how big our God is!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Show me your Glory!

People can be so aggravating! Last week I spent four whole days being mad at an acquaintance for a selfish remark. I tried to keep my cool, but inside I was definitely stewing. Maybe it's just me, revealing my immaturity, but I'm sure we all have people in our lives we can't avoid but who are very difficult to be with. In fact, many of us are probably that person to someone else. The question is, how do we deal with these people, be it co-workers, fellow students, church members or relatives, in a godly manner?

When Moses was asked to lead the Israelites through the Sinai desert, most of his people would have fallen under the "difficult" category. Both God and Moses called them "stiff-necked" on several occasions. This means they were stubborn, set in their ways, unwilling to change, disobedient, proud and unable to see the folly of their own ways. Sound familiar? How then was Moses able to guide them for forty years without going nuts?

Moses knew he needed to focus on God rather than on the shortcomings of others, so he asked God, "Please show me your glory." (Exodus 33:18) God replied, "I will make my goodness pass before you." (Exodus 33:19) God's glory is seen in his character, and his goodness is defined by the following passage: "Then God passed before him and proclaimed, 'The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,...'" (Exodus 34: 6+7a)

During this time of worship, God did much more for Moses than merely help him redirect his focus. Not only was Moses then able to overlook distressing behavioral patterns in his people, when he came down from the mountain his face shone. He was reflecting God's glory to the stiff-necked people.

When we see God's glory, we will reflect His goodness by becoming merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. We will be able to forgive the stiff-necked people in our lives.

So after spending four days praying for this particular person to change, for my situation to be different, or for God to give me strength to deal with this acquaintance in a loving manner, I started praying instead for God to show me His glory. God is so faithful. That same day it suddenly felt easy to forgive and God's peace once again reigned in my heart.

So, whenever you find it hard to forgive, whenever you are tempted to look at circumstances, whenever you feel like you have nothing left to give, whenever you feel just plain aggravated, don't stay mad for days like I did. Run to God and ask him: "Please, show me your glory."

He who calls you is faithful. (1 Thess. 5:24)

Friday, January 8, 2016

Approved by God

What do you do when you are stuck in the house on a rainy holiday? Last week our family had the crazy idea to experiment with blue hair dye. By the end of the day everybody who was game, including me, had blue streaks or tips. That was when Toria, my eight-year-old, made the priceless request: "Mama, can you come to my class so that everyone can see your blue hair? When the kids see that my hair is like yours, they will think I am so cool!"

While I revel in knowing that my daughter would think of me as so cool that she would be considered cool by association, this statement also underlines her dependence on others' opinions. She is not alone in this. "Focus on the Family" published a survey in which school-aged children were asked what their greatest fear was. The majority feared, above all else, being viewed as uncool because of something they did, said, or wore.

I believe one of the greatest gifts we can give the children God has put into our care, is to teach them how they are viewed by God. 1 Thess. 2:4 states, "Just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we speak, not to please man, but to please God who tests our heart."
The key here is to show our kids that they are approved by God. From my own experience I know that the more I understand God's approval, the less I struggle with desiring the praise of others, freeing me up to be who God wants me to be. Then I can seek to do God's will, rather than wasting my energy on worrying about how I are viewed by others.

Here are some practical ideas
1) Have fun together!
Knowing that you enjoy spending time with them plays a major role in helping your children understand God's approval. This will make them less prone to seek the acceptance of others. Be creative, with or without blue hair dye.

2) Worship God together!
The closer their relationship with God, the more they will understand his heart.
We love to turn up the worship music and dance around the kitchen together.
Each night after supper, we have a family devotion which includes reading a Bible story or devotional, praying for each other and also for needs outside the family, and ending together with the Lord's Prayer.
Throughout the day pray spontaneously for a need or thank God for his goodness. You will be surprised how even the youngest members of the family will quickly follow suit.

3) Pray over your kids!
Before they go to school, thank Jesus that he has promised to be with them and that these children are his treasured possession.

4) Write a Bible verse on their mirror!
It might help your daughter to understand God's heart, if she read Songs 4:7 while looking at herself in the mirror: "You are altogether beautiful, my love, there is no flaw in you."
How about writing Judges 6:12 for your son: "The Lord is with you, O mighty man of valor"?

5) Encourage your child in things that matter to God!
Rather than focusing on looks and intellectual accomplishments, praise your child for their generosity, kindness, patience etc. Toria's note in her lunchbox today read, "Do you know what makes you so beautiful? That you love sharing with others!"

6) Help your child to focus on others!
On your way to a gathering, ask your child to seek out those who might be sitting by themselves. These people are probably in need of a hug or a kind word.