Changing lanes without clear vision

When we left to go camping for a week, we loaded my dad’s HRR down with all our equipment and supplies. There wasn’t an inch to spare. The stuff in the car was piled so high you couldn’t see out the rear window, which meant the rearview mirror was of no use whatsoever. So for every turn, every lane change, and every instance of backing up, you had to use the sideview mirrors.

It’s completely doable, and I don’t feel like we took any major chances with not behind able to see, but there’s something intensely disconcerting about not being able to see straight behind yourself when you’re driving. If you’ve got to change lanes or back up, you don’t always get a clear picture of what’s behind you, what you might hit or bump or run over. Sometimes you have to see it from the side. Seeing something from the side isn’t always easier. Most of the time it takes more than one glance to make sure you’re seeing it clearly, but you can see it. You can know what’s behind you even if you’re looking at it from a different angle than you’re used to. And then, you have to make the choice and change lanes, even if it feels like you can’t see everything.

road-street-car-vehicleToday’s verses are Psalm 37:5-6.

Commit everything you do to the Lord.
Trust him, and he will help you.
He will make your innocence radiate like the dawn,
and the justice of your cause will shine like the noonday sun.

When you’re navigating through life, you aren’t always going to feel like you know the right answers. Sometimes it will feel like you’re trying to change lanes when you can’t see out your back window. In those moments, you have to trust what you know.

Just like I could use my side mirrors to see behind me, you have to use the information you have available to make the best decision you can. It’s the same for following God. You might not be able to see all of His plan, but you can see bits and pieces. And you can know who He is. So that gives you enough to go on.

Even if all you knew about living was that God is good, that would be enough to know you could trust Him. Because you can always trust someone who is 100% good. That person won’t ever do anything wrong, won’t ever do anything to harm you, and even if you end up in difficult circumstances, that person won’t ever turn against you.

But we know more than that about God. We know God is good. We know God has a plan for His children. We know His plans are His best for us. We know He’s promised that everything in the life of a Christ-follower will work together for our good and His glory. We know He’ll never abandon us. We know so much about who He is and what He does in our lives, how can we ever think that God is keeping secrets? How do we ever assume that God doesn’t love us, when He tells us in His Word over and over again all that He’s done to reconcile us to Himself.

So maybe you can’t see everything. Maybe you don’t have the answers to every question. Know what? That’s okay. You can know enough about one or two questions to give you an idea of where you need to go or what you need to do.

Maybe the view out the back window is obstructed, but you can see clearly enough from the sides–maybe not the whole picture but enough to know you aren’t going to run into or over someone else.

God gives us what we need so we know when to leap and when to stand still. He doesn’t just shove us out into the world and expect us to follow Him blindly. He does expect us to follow, yes, but He will provide all the information you actually need to make a decision. You just have to look for it.

Dove sitting on a power line at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Need to see God today?

Sometimes don’t you wish you could see God so you’d know what He’s up to? Not metaphorically. Actually. There are days when I really wish I could see Him leaving those footprints in the sand instead of merely coming on them after they’re made.

Some days God moves so slowly it’s all you can do to keep following. Other days, He moves so fast it’s all you can do to keep up. But even though you can see indications of what He’s been doing, we never actually get to see Him. And at this point in our lives, that’s probably a good thing because seeing Him in reality would kill us. Very few people in the Bible ever actually saw God.

But there’s something in us that yearns to see truth with our own eyes. I think it’s because our brains are so small and limited. Our world as we know it is limited to what we can experience, what our five senses can comprehend. If it can’t be experienced through taste, touch, smell, scent, or hearing, we tend to think it doesn’t exist. We think it’s not real.

And that’s the irony because the things that our senses can’t understand are more real than the ones that are. But that’s not much comfort for people who need to see God, who need to remember who He is.

Well, if that’s you today, look no farther than your inner circle.

Doves sitting on a power line at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Doves sitting on a power line at Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are 1 John 4:11-12.

Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.

Have you ever had someone encourage you when you were down? Have you ever had someone listen to you and let you blow off steam without getting anything in return? Have you ever had someone tell you they love you for no other reason than just to tell you?

You realize behavior like that isn’t always compulsory. Just because you are friends or family or Christians doesn’t mean that people will go the extra mile to show others how much you love them. But people filled with God’s love can’t help but share it with others.

Do you have friends like that in your life? I do.

Here’s the deal, friends. If you need to see God, look at the people in your life. Pay attention to what they’re doing for you. If the people in your life love you and sacrifice for you, what do you think could make another stubborn, selfish human being actually want to do that for another person?

That’s right. God’s love. God’s love for us overflows so that we have too much to handle and have to give it away. And if that’s not evidence of God in my life, I don’t know what else is.

On those days when I’m feeling down and all I want is to see God so I know that I’m going the right direction, inevitably someone comes across my path to encouragement–and they have no reason to.

So if that’s where you are today, hang around someone who loves God and see what happens. If you need to see God, watch people who love Him, and you’ll see undeniable proof of God through the love His people have for each other and for those around them.

True, Christians can be the meanest people on the planet, but I’m not talking about those kinds of Christians. If you’re friends with those kinds of Christians, sorry to be blunt, but you need to change your crowd. Fortunately, those kinds of Christians are usually pretty obvious. They won’t hang out with mere mortals anyway!

But if you’ve got a crowd of normal, average, broken people who need Jesus every moment of every day, I promise you’ll get to see God before your time with them is over. Just keep your eyes open.


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.