Sunrise east of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Check your insides

Do you ever wish that you could see God? I do. It’s not that I have a hard time believing in Him. It’s just that I would appreciate being able to actually look Him in the eye when I talk to Him. Eye contact means a lot to me, and not being able to see His face is frustrating sometimes. Not being able to see Him smile can be frustrating. Not being able to see Him frown is frustrating. Some days I would give ten years of my life to spend ten minutes in His presence when I can actually hear His voice and see His face.

But that’s not how our relationship works. As a human being, I can’t be in God’s presence–not physically. But is there any way to see God? My life is so wild and crazy all the time that I would dearly love to be able to see God so I know I’m going the right way, but is there actually a way to see Him? Well, according to today’s verse, there is.

Sunrise east of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Sunrise east of Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:8.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.

The pure of heart will get to see God. That’s what this verse says. But what does that mean? What does it mean to be pure-hearted? Does it go back to attitude? Does it come from your motivation for living? Does that mean you never do wrong?

When I think of being pure of heart, I think of some fictional knight in shining armor, one of those valiant chivalrous types who rescues damsels in distress and never does anything wrong. Maybe some people think of innocence in children. Or maybe others think of people who are just generall good. But is that what being pure-hearted means in this context?

Most of the time when I’m doing a word study, since I don’t know Greek, I use the Amplified Version, but for this verse it uses the same phrase: “the pure in heart.” And that doesn’t help much. Pure-heartedness is one of those identifiers that can mean so many different things.

So my other go-to translation is the Message, a paraphrase. It’s not as “accurate” as the Amplified Version or the NLT, but the Message is really good at capturing the essence of what whole passages in the Bible mean. And this is how the Message puts our verse today:

You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

Whoa. Did that rock your world or was it just me? According to this paraphrase, being pure of heart means getting your heart and mind in order. It means focusing your heart and mind on the things that matter. It means having the correct perspective about God, about yourself, about your life. And when you have the right perspective about what’s going on inside you, then you’ll be able to see God outside.

But does that really work?

I’ll be the first to tell you it does.

On those days when I’m so distracted that I can’t tell which way is up and which way is down, I know my inner perspective isn’t right. I know I’m not putting God first. I know I’m not living the way the Bible says. And on those days God seems far far away.

But on the days when I’ve got my head on straight, when I’m paying attention, when I have a healthy perspective on who I am and who God is, then I can see Him. No, not physically. I don’t see Him standing in plain sight, but I see the results of Him. I see Him working in my life, in others’ lives, in situations.

When I’m not focused on the things that matter (like loving God and loving people), I’m focused solely on myself. But when I start taking God at His word, He changes me from the inside out. And it’s not that He suddenly starts working in the situations around me then; it’s that I finally begin to see Him working.

God is always working. God is always there. He’s always in plain sight. But we’re the ones who have our eyes closed.

So if you’re tired today, if you’re struggling and feeling lost and abandoned, take a moment and check your insides. Make sure your heart is where it needs to be. Make sure you’re focusing on the things that really matter in life–like loving God and loving people, like doing the right thing, like loving mercy, like living humbly. And once you get those things under control, try looking for God again. I bet He’s closer than you think He is.

Is God really so hard to see?

Why is God invisible? Do you ever wonder about that? When I was little, I used to think that it was strange that God chose not to show Himself, and a part of me now still understands peoples’ hesitance to believe in a God they can’t see. After all, it’s so easy to believe that the things we see are real because we can experience them. It’s difficult to experience something you can’t see in this world, and when it comes to eternity, well, we just have to take His word on it. Because who really knows what happens after we die? Can anyone report on it?

Sure there are books and testimonies of people who have had near death experiences, and I’m not discounting what they went through. But if you don’t believe in God because you can’t see Him, I doubt you’re going to believe someone spent an afternoon in heaven when they were dying in a hospital somewhere.

The question that stopped me this morning challenges that perspective. Because is God really invisible? Is it really so impossible to see Him?

DSC_6153Today’s verse is Matthew 5:8.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure,
    for they will see God.

Matthew 5 is the beginning of a sermon Jesus preached toward the beginning of His ministry. If I remember right, The Sermon on the Mount is found in Matthew 5-7 and it marked a turning point in peoples’ perspectives about him because: When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law (Matthew 7:28-29).

The Sermon on the Mount begins with a section folks call the Beatitudes, which contain some of the strangest concepts in scripture. Well … they seem strange to us because they are instructions from God, and the world we live in has turned everything upside down.

According to today’s verse, if our hearts are pure, we will see God.

Okay. I’m down with that. There are loads of examples throughout scripture where God has revealed Himself to regular old people, so I don’t doubt that He can do it if He wants. So why doesn’t He do it more often? Is it because our hearts aren’t pure enough? I’d buy that.

What does it even mean to have a pure heart? Biblical statements have a tendency to be rewritten and redefined and plagiarized by the world, but in this instance, I don’t think the definition has changed too much. Being pure of heart means having a heart with good intentions. It’s living with integrity. It’s always doing the right thing.

And honestly, many days I fit in that category. I know a lot of other people who do too. But none of us have seen God. Does that make Him a liar?

I love having the Bible in more than one translation. English is so weird. When you’re translating from an image-rich, idiomatic tongue like Greek, you lose so much if you try to state it word-for-word in English.

This is Matthew 5:8 in the Message, which is a paraphrase that captures the essence of what is being said:

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”

Do you get that? Do you understand what it’s saying?

Get your heart and mind right. Clean out your heart. Clean out your mind. Focus on what matters. Get your perspective in order. Then, not only will you be happy (blessed); you will see God.

God can let us see Him if He wants to, but there have to be some conditions first. Why? Well, in every instance in Scripture where God shows Himself, people tend to glow. Not figuratively. Literally. And that’s just from seeing the trailing edge of him as He passes by. So seeing God in our weak states now wouldn’t really be healthy for us.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t see the results of His presence.

If you want to see God, get your perspective straight. God is everywhere. He’s at home. He’s at work. He’s at church (I hope). He’s with you. He’s with me. He’s in Zimbabwe. In Guatemala. In Wichita, Kansas. He’s in Antarctica. He’s in England. He’s everywhere because He Is.

And the reason we “can’t see Him” is because we’re not looking. He’s not invisible. The obvious signs of His presence are screaming at us on every street corner, in every awkward silence, in every child’s laugh, in every blooming flower or drifting snowflake.

Your attitude determines a lot, and if you have the attitude that you have to see God on your terms, you’re going to be disappointed. Because God doesn’t operate on our terms; He never has. And I’m glad. Because our terms are screwed up, and if you’re honest, you’d recognize that too.

But once you have the attitude that is willing to go along with what God wants, lots of things change. Once you get your heart focused on Him and your mind focused on Him, He’s not so hard to see. In fact, He becomes so obvious it’s hard not to see Him.

Mullberry leaves

Seeing God the only way we can (right now)

Do you ever wish you could see God? I mean, it’s one thing to believe in Him. It’s one thing to believe that He created everything. It’s one thing to pray to Him. But it’s something else entirely to see Him. Granted, in all the instances in Scripture, when someone has seen God, He’s had to protect them in some way to prevent them from dying. Puny people like us can’t withstand Him. His presence is so powerful, we’d just wilt and die.

But in spite of the fact, I would really like to see Him face to face. And then I read today’s verse.

Mulberry leaves

Mulberry leaves - Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verse is Matthew 5:8.

God blesses those whose hearts are pure, for they will see God.

Whoa. Really? So all I have to do is to be pure of heart, and I will see God? Sounds like a plan to me. So what is involved in being pure of heart? I got to wondering what that really means. Because you hear about being pure of heart in all those Medieval movies about King Arthur and his knights or about warriors or princesses or princes in fantasy stories who are pure of heart. But what does it really mean? I think it is usually used to mean that people are good people.

So if you’re a good person you’ll see God? I don’t think that’s what this is saying.

Matthew 5 is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount which is found in Matthew 5 through 7 in the New Testament. This first part of it is commonly called the Beatitudes, and I can’t begin to tell you why. But what the Beatitudes are famous for are their paradoxical qualities. This is the passage that says if people are mourning, they are happy; if they are poor, they are happy; if they are humble, they’ll inherit the earth; etc, etc, etc. It’s in this passage where we find the statement that if you’re pure, you will see God.

So I thought maybe it would be a good idea to compare some translations. So I started with the Amplified Version, because it really focuses on specific word meaning. But the Amplified Version really only focuses on the word Blessed, although blessed meant more than I expected: “happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous–possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions.” But it didn’t say anything about pure.

So I moved on to the Message, which is a paraphrase but is often very useful in grasping the total meaning of a passage. And this is what it said:

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.”

This is saying that being pure of heart is getting your mind and your heart focused on what is right. So what’s right? That one’s easy. God’s Word is right. The Bible is right. Living the life that God has told us is right. Living the way Jesus did is right. When you can focus your heart and mind on living the way God has told us and seeing things the way God has told us to see them, then you will be pure of heart.

It’s all about perspective.

So, if you get your heart and mind put right, as the Message says, does that mean you’ll be able to see God?

Well, not to be difficult, but what does it mean to see God? Can God even be seen?

We have the idea that to see something or someone face to face means that person or object is real. But that’s not the case. I think I can see my best friend, but I can’t. I can see her body. I can’t see the real her. The real her, her soul, is undetectable. It’s another paradox. The things that are real are the things we can’t perceive right now. It’s the things we see that will pass away.

And God is real. He’s more real than anything. So that means we can’t perceive Him in the way we perceive objects that will eventually stop existing.

But God has given us signs of His presence. When you see the sun rise, you’ve seen God’s handiwork. When you feel the wind blow (or when the wind knocks you over, if you live in Kansas), you can feel God’s power. When you see the trees all beginning to bud and leaves starting to grow again and remember that winter doesn’t last forever, you can see the promise that God has made to the world never to abandon His children.

I can’t see God face to face right now. I will someday, but not now. I’m limited because I’m bound by a world that will pass away. But the day is coming when I won’t be tied down to this crazy world anymore. And on that day I will be able to see God. But until then, I’m satisfied to see Him in creation. Until then, when I set my heart and mind on what is right, I am blessed (happy, enviably fortunate, and spiritually prosperous–possessing the happiness produced by the experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace, regardless of their outward conditions) to see God the way I can.