See yourself through God’s loving eyes

My church recently studied the First Epistle of John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” At the end of the series, my pastor handed out a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith. Step five on the list is: Examine yourself accurately, based on God’s truth.


Examine yourself accurately, based on God’s truth. When I read these words, I thought my pastor meant that you should look at yourself honestly and admit your sins. While that is an important step in growing closer to God, the message of the Bible verses the pastor provided for this step was something else entirely. So I am calling it: see yourself through God’s loving eyes.

The first Bible verse on the reading list was Zephaniah 3:17.  The Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing. The image of God delighting in his people, rejoicing over them with singing, is quite different from the picture I had in mind – that of God being displeased with me because I am a sinner.

The image of God delighting in those he loves reminds me of the Parable of the Prodigal Son, the story Jesus told to illustrate how great God’s love is. A man had two sons. The younger son left and squandered his fortune in wild living. When the money ran out and he fell on desperate times, he remembered how good he had it at home. He returned to his father and confessed that he was not worthy to be called his son. But the father was compassionate. He was filled with so much joy at the return of his lost son, he celebrated with a feast worthy of a king.

God is with us wherever we are. He sees our suffering. He sees our struggles. When we cry out to him, he is waiting with open arms to take us in and shelter us, just as a parent cares for a child. What love the Father has lavished, that we should be called his children!

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy (Psalm 30:11). 

The prodigal son saw himself as unworthy of his father’s love. God does not see his children as unworthy no matter how sinful we are. He sees us as redeemable. Incredibly, he sees us as worth dying for.

Jesus didn’t tell us about the prodigal son’s life after he returned home but I am certain that he was a changed man. He had tried the ways of the world, indulging every desire, but was left him empty and unsatisfied. His father showed him mercy he did not deserve. I imagine that he was grateful and ready to live a life worthy of his father’s grace.

In Ephesians 2:1-5, Paul writes that those of us saved by Christ were once dead in our sins and transgressions. We followed the ways of the world. We were just like everyone else. Like the prodigal son, we lived to gratify the cravings of the flesh, indulging its desires and thoughts. We deserved God’s wrath because we were disobedient. But God loved us so much and was so rich in mercy that he made us alive with Christ. He saved us by grace.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,  in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

When you are made alive in Christ, you no longer want to conform to the ways of the world. You want to be transformed by the renewing of your mind. You want to follow God’s will – “his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When you examine yourself accurately, as my pastor put it, you see God’s truth – you are his beloved child. True, you don’t deserve his love and mercy. On your own merits, you are not worthy to claim the reward of salvation. But in God’s eyes, you are worth saving. God is greater than our hearts. He is mighty to save. He is rich in love and mercy.

Reading List:

Zephaniah 3:17
Psalm 30:11
Proverbs 30:5
John 15:3
Romans 12:2
2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Ephesians 2:1-5
Ephesians 4:24
1 John 3:20
1 John 5:13

Look Beyond What You Can See

My church recently studied the First Epistle of John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” At the end of the series, my pastor handed out a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith. Step four on his list is “Pray and look beyond what you can see to the deeper realities of God’s work.”

Look beyond what you can see

I have presbyopia. My old eyes need help seeing things that are far away. It is much easier for me to focus on close objects. My mind’s eye also has trouble imagining the future. When my mind is not occupied with work or ordinary daily activities, I tend to worry about the crisis or scandal of the moment. I get discouraged because it feels like evil is winning.

I am limited by what my eyes can see and by what my mind can conceive. How can I look beyond the chaos I see to the deeper reality of God’s work? My pastor said, pray and look beyond. Pray for insight. Pray for wisdom. Pray for understanding. Pray for hope.

According to 1 Corinthians 2, God’s wisdom is revealed by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit reveals deeper spiritual realities to those who love him. The Spirit explains spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. Not everyone can accept these words. Not everyone can understand these words. But the person who has the Spirit understands spiritual truths because he has been shown the mind of Christ.

However, as it is written:

“What no eye has seen,
    what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
    the things God has prepared for those who love him—

these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.

1 Corinthians 2:9-10

The deeper reality of God’s work

The prophet Jeremiah wrote that the Lord has plans for us – plans to prosper us and not to harm us, plans to give us a hope and a future. But even though God promises to make all things work out for the good of those who love him, he doesn’t promise that there will be no trials and tribulations along the way. Suffering produces perseverance, perseverance builds character, and character produces hope.

Now I see things imperfectly. Someday I will see everything with perfect clarity.

When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.

Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:11-13

Mahatma Ghandi had the right perspective: “When I despair, I remember that all through history, the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it – always.”

Ghandi looked beyond what he could see to the invincibility of truth and love. This is the deeper reality of God’s work. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

When I despair, Lord help me to remember that love never fails. Love always prevails.  Always.

Reading List:
Jeremiah 29:11
John 8:32; 10:10
Romans 5:1-21; 9:16
1 Corinthians 3:19
2 Corinthians 5:15
Ephesians 2:8-10; 4:24
Philippians 4:13
1 John 3:19-24

Depend on the Holy Spirit

My church studied the book of 1 John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” At the end of the series, my pastor gave us a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith walk. Step three is Depend on the Holy Spirit.

Christians believe that God is three Persons in one: God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Most Christians don’t pay a lot of attention to the Holy Spirit, the one Jesus called the Counselor or Advocate. Yet Jesus said that no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born again, that is, born of the Spirit. The Spirit gives birth to spirit. Jesus promised to send the Spirit to his followers. The apostle Paul likened the Spirit to a deposit, a guarantee of what is to come.

Why should believers depend on the Spirit? What exactly does the Holy Spirit do? Jesus and the apostles provided many answers to these questions.

  1. The Spirit testifies about Jesus, reminding believers of everything Jesus said.
  2. The Spirit glorifies Jesus and affirms his oneness with God.
  3. The Spirit reveals God’s wisdom.
  4. The Spirit teaches believers about spiritual realities.
  5. The Spirit proves that the world is wrong about sin, righteousness and judgment.
  6. The Spirit searches and reveals all things, even the deep thoughts of God.
  7. The Spirit leads believers to live a spiritual life, which is not a life of the flesh.
  8. The Spirit brings hope, peace and joy to those who believe.
  9. The Spirit produces good fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
  10. The Spirit advocates and intercedes for God’s people in accordance with God’s will.
  11. The Spirit guides believers into truth and helps us discern light from darkness.
  12. The Spirit enables true worshipers to worship God.

God came into the world as a Son of Man so that we might be saved. The Savior is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” When Jesus returned to the one who sent him, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that God could continue to be with us.

As I studied verses about the Holy Spirit, Francesca Battistelli’s song, Holy Spirit ran through my mind. Let us become more aware of your presence. Let us experience the glory of your goodness.

Holy Spirit, You are welcome here
Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by Your presence, Lord
Your presence, Lord


Reading list:

  1. Isaiah 11:2; 34:16
  2. John 3:6, 4:23-24; 6:36; 14:15-31; 15:4-8, 26-27; 16:7-15
  3. Romans 8:1-17; 14:17; 15:13
  4. 1 Corinthians 2:6-16
  5. 2 Corinthians 5:5
  6. Galatians 5:13-26
  7. 1 Thessalonians 1:6
  8. 1 John 2:26-27; 4:1-6

Trust in God’s Loving Protection

My church studied the First Epistle of John in a sermon series on “Living Deep.” My pastor handed out a list of fourteen steps to help us go deeper in our faith walk. Step two is Trust in God’s Loving Protection.

Trust in God’s Loving Protection

When I think about God’s loving protection, I can’t help but recall the times when I narrowly escaped physical harm. But God’s protection is also emotional and spiritual. In the Book of Psalms, I read of David’s trust in God’s loving protection. The Lord was David’s rock, redeemer, fortress, and refuge just as he is mine. With my reading list in mind, I reflect on what God’s protection means to me.


Trusting in my Father’s Protection

I am your beloved child.
You hold me so close,
no one can snatch me
out of your hands.

When I’m tossed around
by the storms of life
You calm the raging seas
and bring me peace.

Your love is perfect;
it drives out my fear.
I will not be dismayed,
for you are my God.

A day of evil has come
and I prepare to stand
in the power of your name
with your gospel of peace.

You are a mighty fortress,
the rock on which I stand.
Your love gives me strength
to battle the darkness.

I don your full armor..

the shield of my faith,
the belt of your truth,
the sword of your Spirit.

Standing against evil,
I will act justly
I will be merciful
I will walk humbly.

The One who is in me
is greater than the one
who is in the world.
With you I overcome.

Reading List:

Psalm 18:2, 91:14, 139:5-12
Isaiah 41:10
John 10:28, 17:11-15
1 John 4:4, 18, 5:1-5
Ephesians 6:13-17

Image of Christ walking on the sea, by Amédée Varint, [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Love Foreigners as Yourself

The current immigration crisis has really exposed people for the heartless hypocrites they are. What a hypocrite Jeff Sessions was to use Romans 13 to excuse this administration’s immoral and inhumane immigration policies. Sessions completely misses the heart of the gospel. For those who claim to worship God, there is no greater authority than God who said, love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. Keep my decrees.

When one of the pages I follow listed Bible verses that specifically address how immigrants should be treated, a guy who can’t spell said this:

“I think no one who written that had expected this super-massive inmigration crysis. This applies for a normal inmigration status, but not for an invasion, because that’s not one or two inmigrants, that’s just a non declared invasion. Wake up.”

What made this guy think he can interpret God’s word better than Moses? Did he go back in time and take a head count of the number of immigrants?

Wake up yourself, you fool.

The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.

Leviticus 19:34

I woke up in the middle of the night last night thinking about the children separated from their parents at the border. I cried and I prayed that God would protect them.

I thought about a comment I heard yesterday on K-Love radio about a child being the greatest gift God gives us. How inhumane it is that our government thinks it is just to take a child from the parents God entrusted with caring for them. How heartbreaking it is for the caregivers who cannot comfort them.

I thought about the business trip I took to New York when I saw the Statue of Liberty from a distance. It stands as an enduring symbol of this nation’s history of welcoming immigrants. “Bring me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The New Colossus (Emma Lazarus, 1883)

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

I just heard King Trump say that we’re going to move to a system of merit not luck or happenstance. I wish that he could walk even one mile in the shoes of the mothers and fathers who came to the border of this country seeking asylum. The luck belongs to those of us who were born here. I wish that Trump knew what God’s grace is. None of us merits God’s mercy.

I will end with this verse from Romans 14. It brings me comfort to know that God is watching. So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.