The Startling Reshaping of God

Add this preference.  Take away that dislike.  Choose the place and the how.  There are many ways to worship God, right?  The ancient story recorded in Judges eerily seems to mirror the current thoughts in the mainstream today.  The uncanny likeness sends chills down our pious spines.  Let it be a warning to our modern hearts to guard against making a god that conforms to our own shaping preferences. tim keller idol



How can a god save us  that we can control?





Judges 17 & 18
Oh, they had great dreams!  Lively discussions ensued as the tribe made plans to develop their future home.  The tribe of Dan had entered the Promised Land along with the nation of Israel ready to receive the long-awaited gift of a permanent home, but progress had stalled due to their failure to settle in their allotted territory and obtain their promised inheritance.  The Danites had been promised an inheritance by Yahweh, but their vision had become distorted and clouded with confusion.  Hazy goals are hard to see in a fog.

What was their vision statement again?

Micah was a thief.  He wasn’t even a respectable thief, either; for he had actually stolen a huge amount of money from his own mother.  Never fear, his mother was not one to bear a grudge against her son.  No, she would affirm her son’s choice to return the money by giving him a small reward.  Better yet, she would praise Yahweh for this blessing!  So, this indulgent mother hired the local silversmith to design a couple of images to celebrate her son’s return of the money.  Micah already had a shrine in his home, so this would be the perfect gift to encourage him for doing what was right.  Micah had his own personal gods, and he continued to pursue with dedicated fervor what he personally believed was right.  Full of religious intensity, Micah added an ephod and even hired a Levite priest for his own personal worship.  Believing his life was devoted to all that was right and good,  Micah said, “Now I know that Yahweh will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.”

Yet another example of how confession will bring the blessings of God, right?

1.  No other God

The Danites still needing to locate themselves permanently and finally agreed to pursue a piece of property that particularly appealed to them.  The Danites felt themselves justified in slaughtering a peaceful, undefended, unsuspecting community saying to each other, home sweet home“The land is spacious, for God has given it into your hands, a place where there is no lack of anything that is in the earth.”  The takeover was easy and did not require faith or courage.
Clouded vision distorts how we see things.
The Danites were happy.  They had secured their inheritance.  The Danite leaders had just been informed by their scouts that nearby there was an ephod, artisan images of worship, personal gods, and, the best of all, a Levite priest.  The scouts advised, “Now therefore consider what you will do.”  Indeed, what an opportunity!  So incredible was this opportunity that the men engaged the young priest immediately with a better offer as well as taking full advantage of the worship center.  “And the priest’s heart was glad.”

Weren’t these God’s provident blessings?  2.  No idols

Of course, Micah was not happy that his gods were taken away.  But, since these Danite men were too strong for him, he went back home.  What could he do?  It is what it is.

The Danites were on a roll.

Since the strategy had worked so well, they employed it yet again and enlarged their space by overtaking another quiet, unsuspecting community with sword and fire.  They also had a celebrity priest.  Gershom and his sons continued to serve as priests, and everyone knows that Gershom is Moses’s grandson.  Yeah, they certainly had been blessed.1.  No other God

Can we really reshape God from our own
cloudy vision?

God has revealed himself through his Word, not as our hearts direct.

Dancing in the Darkness Bringing Joy!

Lord of all creation is Himself born.
Indeed, a God of wonders bursting forth as divine light,
the rising sun coming to us from heaven,
dancing in the darkness bringing  joy to the world.

Dawn breaking
(Photo Credit:  Mikko Lagerstedt)

Born to save his people, he is a bridge groom in the manger coming for his bride.  The babe wrapped in swaddling clothes dresses his bride in white linen, with love wrapping her in his holiness, pure and bright.   The old hymn begins, “Man of sorrows what a name for the man of God who came…”  Man of sorrows, enduring sorrows with so much joy, suffered even the shameful death on the cross to obtain the embrace of his bride in oneness.   Known by his scars, those astonishing wounds are now healing for the nations, joy to the world.  “What wondrous love is this that caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul…” are staggering words of joy that millions join to sing in endless hallelujahs.

Darkness has become dawn,
and now sweet Lord of joy,
you invite us to enter the joy of Yourself.

(Photo credit:  Joe Holley)

Don’t Give Up!

Banished on the island of Patmos, can you imagine what the apostle John must have felt when Jesus’s beloved friend heard the voice of “one like a Son of Man”?  How long had it been? 16 yrs? . . . did he remember the breakfast smells of freshly caught fish wafting from the shore kindly prepared by a risen Lord? hope in the clouds Did he remember the day His dearest Friend left, his departure so stunning as he effortlessly ascended into the drifting clouds?  John’s own brother had now been killed by King Herod . . . faithful Paul, too, had been martyred. I wonder what he felt in the persistent silence of aloneness? John himself had been exiled for his testimony of Jesus, and now he was waiting weary & longing, patiently persevering.

Christ now stands in the midst of the churches, and we read what John records, “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last, & the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The coming King . . . don’t give up, John. Remember who I am. The foundation for our faith, courage and endurance is laid on this cornerstone. Oh, how He loves His church! Jesus is still the Shepherd of His sheep, leading us safely home.

Reflection of Glory

brilliant sun

Your Word, O LORD, is a forever Word, firmly fixed above us in the heavens, unmovable, unchanging, existing in permanent relevance. Your reliability is reality. And this world stands today; only because you rule. Ultimately, all things serve your will. In love, you call us to yourself, away from the ruin and destinies of pain in this world.
To any who believe, love, and trust you, Jesus, you have entrusted your good news of love and rescue to share, an exquisite, invaluable treasure offered to others in a vessel as weak as ourselves.  Wow!  You designed for your glorious love to be shared through us!  It is like putting an one-0f-a-kind, priceless treasure in a disposable, red plastic cup, easily broken or tossed away.  You allowed it to be this way on purpose, so that every one will know that the power came from you and never from us.  So each new day, as we look to you, Jesus, a part of our old self dies; so that, your life in us, Jesus, is seen more and more by others.  And as we fix our eyes on you, our Morning Star, we are being transformed into Your image, from one degree of glory to another.  So, by your grace, every-day-dying is at work in us, so that your life, Jesus, is reflected, your Light in us.  We are made to be in oneness with the Beauty we see.

          “We are to shine as the sun, we are to be given the Morning Star.” ~ C. S. Lewis


One Passion to Rule Them All

Unite My Heart Art“Follow your heart” is a maxim often repeated today, as if the heart knows all and is generally regarded as a good leader.  But, is the heart a good leader?  Mine can be fickle at times, so then what?

The heart is often spoken of as the center of desire, the most intimate part of a person reserving room for our deepest longings.  Desire is the passion of the heart and determines what we want and what we will do to get what we want.     

Living life with one love describes the heart won by Jesus and sealed by His Spirit.  But, even though, I truly love Christ, I personally find my heart can be divided in its loves.  With sincerity, I may speak of Christ as my all in all, the center of my devotion; but, in reality, it is easy to get distracted with other interests.  Paul writes to the believers in Corinth about the complications and diversions that captivate our attention.  He says, “From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of this world is passing away. I want you to be free from anxieties.  … I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint on you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.”  (I Corinthians 7:29-32, 35).  What?  Exactly, what is Paul saying?  Don’t get distracted with every day life?  How then are we to live in the world?  Paul actually does make sense, because he understands the heart.  The heart is the center of the personality, the place where your commitments exist.  Whatever your heart is most passionately trusting in & deeply loving sets the course for everything else.  But, if your heart is divided, and you do not have one single, consuming passion, then your heart pulls in multiple directions.  It can get so tangled up, that the disordered loves actually pull in opposing directions.  


Disordered love leads to an eventual break-up. Loving secondary things as if they were the primary naturally leads to consequences that reflect the conflict.

True freedom and self-control
involves rightly ordering your loves.


Self-control is loving supreme things supremely with undivided attention & affection.

Paul gets the importance of this kind of united heart in the Christian’s life and emphasizes the need for centering on one primary goal.  He uses an athlete to illustrate it further, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize?  So run that you may obtain it.  Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. ”  (I Corinthians 9:24-25).  Live life with your eyes resolutely fixed on the prize!  Let your eyes be fixed on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith!   Let one consuming passion rule!




When Fear Paralyzes

key to my life   FEAR PARALYZES.  God gave his people an inheritance of land with a promise. However, the people of Joseph came to their leader Joshua complaining that that their population was too dense for the land space allotted to them. Joshua didn’t budge. If they were so numerous, then be a numerous people with great power and make something of the land. Still, they complained of the obstacles that seemed to define them in their shaky selves. Joshua kept pushing back with God’s promise already given to them.

What devastating weakness lurks in my life, that doubt that makes me shake in my boots?  Remember, fear paralyzes when we forget who is in control. Measure risk by God’s promise. His promise is a sure thing outweighing the loss every time.

May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
(Col. 1:11-12)

Tim Keller object of faith
Often, courage  is defined by NOT reflecting what we are surrounded by, but rather courage will call for us to step away from the devastating norm and lead into a new direction by faith in God’s promise.


Darkness Without Light

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Exactly, why are we here?

We live in a world of frenetic bustle attempting to achieve relentless goals, but, for a moment, these snapshots of conflict give pause and remind us of our humanity and the soul wounds of war.  Every story matters. I believe each life has been given a certain number of days, and that each life has meaning and purpose. Without purpose, destiny is meaningless. I wonder if the struggle to find meaning in the darkness of injustice doesn’t show more clearly the need for light in the world. C. S. Lewis said, “If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be without meaning.”  Our hearts beg for illumination in the darkness.

light shining in darkness

Darkness without light leaves no room for hope.
  Jesus, however speaks boldly, saying,
I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  The Holy Scriptures say this of Christ, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”  Only the flooding light of the Son of God can drown the darkness. He is the Sun of Righteousness dawning over the night of the soul.  If the claims of Jesus are not true, then we have no hope.  But, God actually offers a bigger and better hope.  God has not only offered light shining in the darkness, but He has prepared an eternal home, a new earth, where there will be no more angry blackness and bleeding soul wounds.

And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. …And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.”  (Revelation 21:23, 22:5).

Is 42 6 and 7


The Cup

All of hell was held in that cup.
The dark wine of God’s fury filled to the brim.
In just a few hours, Jesus would no longer be the Beloved Son,
but rather the one Cursed by the Father.
If Jesus had not drank the cup of God’s wrath,
we would have to drain that bitter cup ourselves.
Together, God in the Father and God in the Son suffered
to atone for our many violations and the very intentions of the heart.
Thunderous, quaking judgment of horrible proportions,
as God abhorred his soul.
Jesus, you drank the cup of wrath without mercy,
so that I could receive your mercy without wrath.
All glory, honor and power be yours!
Receive the cup of His mercy, O Sinner, and live!

Sibbes more mercy than sin in us

The Not So Simple Act of Forgiving

Forgiveness is a tricky thing. Nobody can “just forgive,” not even God. First, it is impossible to “just forgive,”to just let the wrong go.


Dictionary definition of the word Forgive.

“Let it go” sounds nice, but forgiveness is not a simple thing and never easy.  Every wrong has a cost. Someone always pays.  The cost of the wrong is paid in sleepless nights, damaged relationships, regret, lost trust …well, you get the idea…and that is just the beginning of the incredible cost. Besides, what if we really care about the person who violated what is right?  Is it in the best interest of the person for us to magically “let it go”? Would it be loving or just for society to overlook evil?   How much more so with God?

God’s justice is wrapped up in His essence. Psalm 85 10, 11If there is a God, there is a real justice.
If God lets injustice go, then there is no right or wrong.
If there is no absolute right or wrong, we have a paper doll god.  Please, don’t give me a paper doll god cut out in one dimension, a god of my own making.

Forgiveness gets really messy and complicated. Perhaps, that’s why we love fairy tales that serve us poetic justice and a “happily ever” after ending. So, bottom line…how does a real God deal with real wrong?

The one real God absorbed the wrong. All wrong has a cost, and God Himself chose to pay that price.  Together, God in the Father and God in the Son suffered for our great violations. There is a glorious complexity to the cross! A God who just forgives is not a holy God. A God who won’t forgive is not a loving God. A God who cannot forgive is not wise, for He does not know how to satisfy love and justice. In the cross, love, justice, and holiness are fully satisfied…”even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom.”Tim Keller wrath and love satisfied
On the cross, wrath and mercy were satisfied.  And on the cross, love wins.
This personal ransom is paid for me and for anyone who desperately needs real forgiveness and is willing to trust Him for everything.  Oh, how we need Him for everything!



The Son of Man takes the wrongdoer’s destruction and sets the heart free to love and forgive others.  Only a real God can satisfy so completely the high cost of righting wro





Tim Keller ransom for me

Longing for the Story to Be True

How do you write words which simultaneously veil and reveal truth?
which direct a story line unfolding with perfect timing revealing a powerful meta narrative that transcends the mind that reads it?  that masterfully weaves multiple subplots intricately supporting and enhancing the one main theme?  to speak through different voices, periods, cultures with a unifying clarity? using various literary genres without distraction?  where the story’s truth rings loud and clear to every generation without fail?  that creates a longing in the heart that will never be satisfied unless the story is true?

For all to align, the author must be omniscient in the creation of the story, be driven with a meaningful reason to create, be directing the story with omnipotence which in turns conveys the ponderous purpose and meaning behind it, which will at the same time create in the reader such a forever longing in the heart, earnestly yearning deeply for the story to really be true, that will never be satisfied unless the story is real and true. C. S. Lewis kind of copy, an echo(C. S. Lewis)

Only an author wielding such a true wisdom and power can unveil his story with such detailed control and offer the substance that spans millenniums.  The author must also intimately know the reader in order to stir the mind, imagination and will of the person to seek the mystery and meaning of the story.  Desire is flamed as the message permeates the unknown recesses illuminating the darkest, most secret, and tender places of the heart; and the reader is called to  engage, for the heart of the story allows for no neutral ground, and the truth calls plainly in the streets for a response.

Sadly, there are few brilliant writers considering how many people have been born.  However, there is one book whose author continues to stir controversy, give hope, remain debated or revered depending on the reader: God.  The ancient one true God who speaks a living word “…piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.”  The claim is ponderous, but the influence of this book remains without question.


Could it be that the invisible reality of the story beckons to what our soul remembers?  Could it be that the conflict of the story is resolved with such desperate, brutal grace that the soul is forever shaken by the unfathomable love portrayed?  It it because we know we could never write a story like that and be authentic, for we could never perform the action?

The Story:   In the beginning, God lived here on earth.  His face was seen by the people he made.  His glory and presence was known and enjoyed daily. In that day, the world was a garden, a true paradise that defied any imagination to envision a surpassing, unparalleled perfect home.  Injustice did not exist.  Hunger was unknown.  Poverty was not conceived.  There was no disease, death, or decay.  God’s beauty filled the earth.  But, like all good stories, there arose conflict that threatened the beauty.  The created wanted control.  Humanity decided to write the story, to be their own master.  It ruined paradise.  The result is that all of humanity now lives in a broken world apart from the perfect community enjoyed in the presence and glory of God.  Paradise is now remote from earth.   When our relationship to God unraveled, our relationships with everything else unraveled.  The ideal became desolate and broken, remote from the real beauty and glory.  Mankind experienced psychological, physical, emotional, social, etc. alienation from God.  So, we became the antagonist against a very good God.

We became like a fish flopping in a small puddle of water,
fish in a puddle
barely able to survive,

with no room for flourishing.

Created for God,
everything else is too small for our souls.

But, all of us try to achieve our potentials.  We pursue power, reputation, approval, relationships, family, success, money, country, causes, etc..  Not designed for such shallow waters,  we were never meant to live for those things.

God redeems in order to habit.   So the story churns on based on the very unchangeable goodness of God, the God who would keep His promises and finish the story.  God redeems and reintroduces home through the hero of the story, his Son Jesus Christ.
Home is a place for the deepest longings of your heart and soul to be met
by His presence;
and the way home is through his Son.

psalm 16.11In God’s presence is joy forever; that is, God’s relational presence & glory is the only environment where every created thing flourishes.  We stay frozen as acorns.  The majestic oak never rises apart from His life-giving blood.

C. S. Lewis cottage palaceOur potentialities will not erupt unless with are in the presence of God, for our souls only dance in His love.  Happy ever after is true in the joy of God’s presence.