Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Face to Face with God

It's always been God's idea to have face-to-face fellowship with humanity.  It is only our own disbelief and stubbornness that keeps us from having that closeness.  Adam and Eve, our first parents, walked and talked with God, until they decided (with some help from Satan) that he was holding out on them.  They withdrew from God, and there's been nothing but trouble in the world since then.

So God, who has infinite patience with us rascals, (see 1 Timothy 1:16) kept on pursuing us even when we wouldn't listen.  He rescued Israel from Egypt, to honor his promises to Abraham, and met them at Sinai to give them what we call the Old Covenant.  But they couldn't handle the fireworks and noise level (Deut. 5:4-5) so they asked him to talk to Moses alone; so God spoke with Moses face to face, instead of directly to the people.  (Ex. 33:11, Deut. 34:10).  He pursued his messy people Israel with prophets and judges, using all kinds of different metaphors and ways to describe himself, but still they didn't listen.  Finally, the Father sent his only Son. 

And still, some people didn't believe, even though God was standing there in the flesh in front of them.  Can we believe?  The Gospel accounts were written so we'd believe (John 20:30-31) but we still have a decision to make.  We need to turn and face Jesus, and give up on working our way to God by being good (that's what most religions and even many Christians teach), or even by trying to keep the Ten Commandments and the other Old Covenant laws.  Or by avoiding smoking or drinking or movies or sinners.  We have to turn and face Jesus, and believe that he has already saved us from everything we can't save ourselves from -- which is everything.  When we turn and face Jesus, we can see clearly (see 2 Cor. 3) for the first time.

What do we see when we turn to Jesus?  More on that next time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

God With Us: reflections on the Chilean mine rescue

I didn't write this but wish I had.  You can see or listen to it online, or get the script here:


Thanks to God for his deliverance through Jesus Christ!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Face to Face (part 2)

Experts say 90% of communication is non-verbal -- that is, not the words themselves, but the vocal inflection, timing, and the facial and bodily expressions that go with the words.  This is why I'd rather see my wife while we talk, than just speak on the phone, as I can understand more of what she's saying.

John, the apostle, seems to have known Jesus best of the twelve.  He wrote his gospel to comment on Jesus' divinity and how he reveals the Father to us.  John writes in chapter 1 verse 1, that "In the beginning the Word already existed.  The Word was with God, and the Word was God."  The word "with" in English indicates being next to, or participating; but that's far too simple a thought here.  It is translated from the Greek "pros" which has the idea of connection, nearness and intimacy.  It means, in this usage, something like "face to face with."  John takes it even farther in verse 14, when the Word (who became human, now obviously speaking of Jesus) is called "the Father's one and only Son."  So John is painting a portrait here of a Being who is God, who is also face-to-face with God, and who also became human

Verse 18 is also powerful:  "No one has ever seen God. But the unique One, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s heart. He has revealed God to us."  The Greek here says "God the one and only" or "God the uniquely begotten one".  That's the one we know now as Jesus; who as the eternal Word, became a human being just like us and showed us who and how the Father really is. The Hebrew writers and prophets described God as best they could; but human language was just not good enough.  God himself came to be with us and let us see him, to supply all the information that language alone couldn't provide (among other reasons).

Jesus was giving the disciples a deeper understanding of his relationship with the Father in John 14.  He said to Philip in verse 9, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father! So why are you asking me to show him to you?"  So when we want to understand who God really is, what he's really saying, we look at Jesus.  Jesus was and is God, not just a prophet; so what he shows us is more complete than what was said before.  There is no other "God" hiding behind Jesus' back.  There aren't two different faces to God, the God of anger and judgment on one hand and the God of love in Jesus on the other -- that's our own misunderstanding of the scriptures.  There isn't any other mysterious 'plan of God' besides Jesus.  Jesus is the One who brings out in detail the full plan and purpose of God from creation:  that is, to be with us, to save us from all our sins and failings and to get us close to him so he can show us what real life and real love are about -- forever!

Jesus was and is God's equivalent, for us, of all the non-verbal communication cues that we use in trying to understand others.  His life and teachings, in the Gospels and the rest of the New Testament, are there to help us get face-to-face with God and understand him.  So let's continue to look to him (Heb. 12:1-2) until we actually get to see him with our own resurrected eyes.  More on that next time.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Face to Face

The Lovely Joanne and I talk by phone during her business trips, as a way to stay connected.  What's better is when she can call me on her computer and we can see each others' faces.  We can read the emotions in the facial expressions, not just hear the words, and that's a far greater connection. 

Wouldn't it be nice to have a direct, face-to-face connection with God?  Adam and Eve got to talk with God in the garden of Eden.  Abraham spoke with God in person (Gen. 18) but that seems to have been a rare thing even for Abraham.  Moses was said to talk face to face with God in Ex. 33:7-11, but ancient Israel as a whole never saw God's face or heard his voice.  Who said that?  Jesus himself, in John 5:37:  "And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face."  

Let's look at those words in context, in John 5.  Jesus heals a lame man at the pool of Bethesda, where people who were "blind, lame and paralyzed" waited for an occasional miraculous healing.  The Pharisees, keepers of all things righteous, objected to Jesus 'breaking' the Sabbath day.  Jesus begins to explain how they don't see what is right in front of them -- explaining that he is the Son of God, so clearly that they are ready to kill him (verses 16-18).  He says that he does only what he "sees his Father doing" and his Father "love the Son and shows him everything he is doing" (19-20).  Jesus says that "those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life" (24). 

Again, he talks about his relationship with the Father, and the authority he carries, in 36-38:  "But I have a greater witness than John—my teachings and my miracles. The Father gave me these works to accomplish, and they prove that he sent me. And the Father who sent me has testified about me himself. You have never heard his voice or seen him face to face, and you do not have his message in your hearts, because you do not believe me—the one he sent to you."  To cap that off, he tells them that they are refusing to see what the Father has been showing them in the scriptures: "You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me! Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life" (39-40).  

Jesus met people who were blind, lame and paralyzed at the pool.  For some reason, we only read about one whom he healed, although there could have been others, because John has a specific reason for bringing this story to us.  What is it?  That these Pharisees were spiritually blind, lame and paralyzed by their refusal to believe.  (Watch the number of times Jesus refers to seeing and hearing in this passage.)  Most of all, he points to himself as the one true Messenger from the Father.  Jesus came to show us the Father (John 14:9) so that we would no longer be blind, lame or paralyzed spiritually; and so we would see the Father through him, face to face.  

Want to see God face to face, to know him intimately?  Look at Jesus.  More on that next time. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

What Do You Know?

Here we are again, deep in another school year.  I'm taking a class (and am behind already!) and a bunch of young people I know are taking classes too.  Later this year, we'll all get tested on what we know.  In high school, many students will take the ACT or the SAT tests to see if they know enough for college.  So everybody wants to know what we know, or how much we know.

Everybody except God, that is.  God doesn't care how many facts you've memorized or whether you can solve quadratic equations or chemistry problems.  He wants you to know him:  "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:3).

One of the reasons Jesus came is to reveal the Father to us; so that by what he said and did, we would truly know God.  He showed us the Father's heart, by healing and teaching and loving us, and by being lifted up on the cross for us:  "In the same way that Moses lifted the serpent in the desert so people could have something to see and then believe, it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up—and everyone who looks up to him, trusting and expectant, will gain a real life, eternal life. "This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life."  (John 3:14-17).

So, what do you know?  Do you know facts about God, or do you know a Person?  Have you memorized scripture or are you actively pursuing a living relationship with the living Jesus Christ, the Son of God?  He has already accepted you, drawn you into himself and saved you (Col. 1:19-20)-- but do you live every day knowing him and focusing on him?  Has his mind in you changed the way you think about everything you are and do?  He's still working to help me see him, and he'll keep working with you too.

Get to know Jesus -- who he is, is more important than anything else you'll ever learn!