Category Archives: Knowing God

How to See With Clear Eyes

“Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, in whom you have put your hope.  If you had believed Moses, you would believe Me, because he wrote about Me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how will you believe what I say?” John 5:45-47

What’s your tribe?  This is a big thing right now.  Everyone’s getting their DNA done, researching their ancestors.  I confess that I like to know my tribe.  I like to hear stories about my grandparents, and their parents, and so on.  I can trace my mother’s maiden name, Tillinghast, all of the way back to the 1600s in Rhode Island.

For the Jews, one of the defining members of their tribe was Moses.  He was their historical savior.  He wrote the Torah.  He gave them the law from God, which governed everything about their lives. 

So Jesus hit them in the gut when he told them Moses was accusing them.  He was like, “You say Moses is your man, but you don’t give cred to what he said.”

What did Moses say that they should have believed?  Here are some statements about the coming Messiah from the first 5 books of the Bible, which were widely accepted to be written by Moses. (And many of us still believe that Moses wrote them, through the Holy Spirit!)

  • “I will put hostility between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15)
  • “All peoples on earth will be blessed through you [Abraham].” (Gen 12:3)
  • “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.: (Gen 49:10)
  • “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (Deut. 18:15)

If the Jews believed Moses, they would have been watching for a prophet who had power over the devil, brought blessings, was from the line of Judah, and was a savior, as Moses was.  If we look at the life of Jesus up to this point in the book of John, we see what the Jews should have seen.  Jesus could do miracles and heal. (John 2:11, 23)  He spoke as if speaking for God.  He had a message of salvation and life. (John 3:15, 4:14)  Plus, it would not have been difficult for the Jews to determine his lineage as a descendant of Judah.  It was probably common knowledge in his hometown. 

So Jesus’s indictment here, which comes at the end of a lengthy speech, pinned the Jews to the wall.  When it came to Moses, they hadn’t put their money where their mouth was.  They weren’t walking the walk. 

It’s sobering to see how Jesus expected God’s people to understand the scriptures correctly.  Yes, he came to the simple and the uneducated, and many of them recognized him.  But it was the teachers of the law, the ones who had the scriptural knowledge. who should have had the clearest view of who Jesus was.  And they didn’t.  And they got called out for it.

It’s a heavy expectation, so I want to protest, “But the scriptures are complicated.”   The thing is, it wasn’t like they were missing a nuance.  It was like they were missing the whole shooting match.  Everything in the Bible is about Jesus.  The Fall in the Garden hints of a time of redemption.  Abraham set in motion blessings which would be fulfilled in Christ.  Moses saving the people was a foreshadowing of Christ saving the world.  And so on.  For more on this check out “From Shadow to Reality,” by John Oakes. 

Even if the Jews didn’t see the fulfillment of Moses’s words, or the foreshadowing, one thing in the Old Testament is so clear and huge, it should never be missed — the repeating message of redemption, hope, good will, faithfulness, loyalty, and salvation.  If they got that, how could they not see that those qualities were embodied in Jesus?  All of the things that should have thrilled them about God had come to life in a man.

What can we learn from this?  That it’s highly important for us to seek to understand the Bible correctly.  What gets in the way?  Our tendency to look at it through the wrong lens. 

We can look at it through the lens of our culture.  For instance, due to popular opinion, many Christians are now saying that a loving God wouldn’t condemn homosexual behavior.  Another big trend today is postmodernism.  One pastor summed it up, “The postmodern era is where everyone just wants to decide that they can believe in everything, in nothing, or in some things. If someone wants to believe that Jesus did not exist, that can be truth to him or her. If another person wants to believe that Jesus did exist but he didn’t die on the cross and rose to everlasting life that could be truth for them.”

We can look at it through the lens of our upbringing.  Many have a tough time seeing God as a caring Father because they’ve had bad experiences with their fathers, or just with life.

We can look at it through the lens of our personal needs and agenda.   I have a great desire to affirm myself, so I can make the Bible about how I can be good and pat myself on the back.

Perhaps what happened with the Jews is that they looked at the scriptures through the lens of tribalism.  They focused so much on their identity from their forefathers that they got away from the focus on God.

Let’s not fall into any of these traps.  Let’s make it our goal to have a clear lens, so we can understand the scriptures correctly.  How can we do this?  By making it our primary pursuit to find and know God and Christ, through reading the whole Bible.  And then, as we know them better, to seek to see through their eyes, and have their heart.

“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (I Tim 2:15)

“This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 9:24)

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The God Who Reveals

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“The Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does.” (John 5:20a)

Why do we worry?  Often, it’s because we can’t see what God is doing, or even if he’s doing anything.

But in today’s red letter verse, Jesus said that God showed him all that he was doing.

And we think, “Man, that must have been nice.  Jesus was in the know.  He didn’t have to get all tied in knots, like we do.”

But what was it that Jesus saw God doing?  Did God literally show Jesus everything, so he knew exactly what God was doing at each point of time?

If we look Jesus’s life, we get the picture of someone who, by and large, was unaware of what might happen minute to minute.  One great example of this is when he was amazed at the faith of the centurion.  (Matt. 8:10)  He wasn’t expecting that.  He also didn’t seem to expect a crippled man to be lowered through the roof, or a woman to touch him in the crowd and be healed.

There were times when Jesus could see exactly how God was going to work.  When Lazarus was sick, Jesus knew that he would die and come back to life.  (John 11:4) Other times, though, I think that it wasn’t that Jesus saw with a clarity of what would happen, but that he saw with a clarity that God was present and engaged.  So Jesus could sleep in a boat during a storm, or face impossible situations like feeding 5,000 in a wasteland.  He could pray, and know he would receive what he needed, and thus live righteously and powerfully, and endure the trials of the cross.

So all of this brings us to the question, “Can we see like Jesus saw? How much is God showing us?”

The answer is super exciting, because our God is not remote, as are the gods others worship.  Our God wants us to know him.  He makes himself known.  He walked with Adam and Eve.  He interacted with Abraham.  He met Moses on the mountain, and gave him his will to pass on to his people. He showed himself to Elijah. He sent prophets who spoke his very words.

He gave us Jesus. That was the ultimate reveal.  “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18)  Jesus said, “Everything I have learned from My Father I have made known to you.”  (John 15:15b)

Isn’t this totally encouraging?  God shows us so much through his son.  And all we have to do is read the stories of Jesus to see how God operates.

Here are some other ways that God reveals himself:

  1. The scripture.  “The word of God is living and active.”  (Heb. 4:12) God gave us this incredible collection of scriptures that cause light bulbs to go off in our heads.  Whatever we’re struggling with, we can read or hear just the just the right verse, and it clicks.  It’s exactly what we need to hear.  The world makes a little more sense.  Everything doesn’t become clear all at once, but God definitely gives us glimpses that bring us peace and reassurance.
  2.  God’s works on earth.  “The Holy Spirit descended on [Jesus] in a bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased.'” (Luke 3:22)  This verse is just one example of how Jesus saw God working. It wasn’t simply that it was Jesus’s nature to be faith filled.  He saw with spiritual eyes, and had a catalogue of ways God had acted that bolstered his faith.  Some of the ways occurred in the Old Testament.  But some, like the Holy Spirit coming on him and God’s voice being heard when he was baptized, happened during his lifetime.  We also can see with spiritual eyes, list times we’ve seen the supernatural at work in our lives, or around us, and this list can bolster our faith.
  3. The Spirit.But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth.”( John 16:13)  Jesus had the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and as Christians, we have it as well.  In our prayers, we can be quiet and listen to the promptings of the Spirit.  We can listen for the voice of love, joy and peace, rather than the voice of fear and worry.  (See also I Cor. 2:12)
  4. In answer to prayer.  “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you.” (Eph 1:18a)   God can open our eyes so we can see him more clearly.

And do you know what’s really cool?  We can see God in ways that those in the past weren’t able to.  Paul wrote, “This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.”  (Col 1:26)   (See also Ephesians 3:3-6)

God has made so much of himself known.  So the next time you are tempted to worry, look for how God wants to show you all that he does.  Try at least one of the following:

  1. Read the Bible until something clicks.
  2. Write down something from the life of Jesus that can inspire you in your situation.
  3. List ways you have seen God work in the past.
  4. Pray, and make quiet space to listen to the Spirit. (If you’re hearing nothing, try writing down what you think God would write to you in a letter.)
  5. Pray for God to open your eyes to see better.

Remember that you may not be able to see exactly what God is doing, but you can have a clarity that God is with you, supporting and empowering you.

Take a deep breath and exhale.

God will help you see enough to walk with certainty through the things you can’t see.

(Photo Credit: DarkWorkX.)

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How Do We Know God?

Woe to those who rise early in the morning,
that they may run after strong drink,
who tarry late into the evening
as wine inflames them!
They have lyre and harp,
tambourine and flute and wine at their feasts,
but they do not regard the deeds of the LORD,
or see the work of his hands.

Therefore my people go into exile
for lack of knowledge;
their honored men go hungry,
and their multitude is parched with thirst. (Isa 5:11-13)

In the end, it was the lack of knowledge that caused the downfall of the Hebrews of Isaiah’s time.

And this is scary, because they identified themselves as God’s people. This was their heritage and their culture.

Yet they didn’t know God.

We’re in the same boat.  We think of ourselves as Christians.  But how much are we making sure we really know God?  Jesus gave us warnings similar to that of Isaiah 5.

  • “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'”  (Matt 7:22-23)

So how can we know God better?  We can start by looking at what the Jews of Isaiah’s time did wrong.

First, they didn’t regard the deeds of the Lord.  They didn’t see how God had been abundantly active in their lives. They didn’t realize that everything they had — their land, wealth, possessions, health and wellbeing — was all due to the God.  They didn’t see the grace and mercy of their Lord, that he had provided these things in spite of their behavior.

Second, they didn’t see the work of God’s hands  in the natural world around them.  Every plant, creature and vista should have been evidence of the awesomeness of God.

Thus, to know God, we need to see him more.  We need to see how he has been abundantly active in our lives.  We need to see his miracles in creation all around us.  We need to see how his grace has been poured on us, time and time again.

And it should be easy to see these things.  God makes them plain.  “For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.”  (Romans 1:20)

But because people all through history have had such a hard time with it, God worked in amazing ways so we could have an even better vision of him.

  • No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18) 
  • We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true by being in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. (I John 5:20)
  • But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. . . he will take what is mine and disclose it to you. (John 16:131. 15b)

We have Jesus.  We have the Spirit.  We have resources that can help us see right into the heart of God.

And, boy, does Satan not want this!  His prime objective is to blind us.

As I’ve been studying life coaching, I’ve been working on my own character.  One thing we assess is how much we “judge.”  I’ve been appalled to discover that I frequently look at a person or situation and jump to a conclusion.  I see someone on Facebook and I think, “They’re stuck up.”  Someone says something and I decide, “They don’t like me.” Something bad happens, and I say to myself, “It’s going to go from bad to worse.” I develop beliefs based on these assumptions.

Yet if I found out more information, I’d probably see that my assumptions and beliefs are not true. How convicting that I get sucked into this so often!

The same thing applies to how I regard God.  I go through a struggle, and my thoughts are, “God’s not going to work.  He cares about others and helps them, but he’s not going to help me.”

Of course, this plays right into Satan’s hands.  It’s exactly what he wants.  He wants me to believe lies.  He wants my pride, insecurities and emotional baggage to shape my beliefs.

Can you relate?  How often do you jump to conclusions, instead of investigating what the truth is?  As it says in James, we should be quick to listen and slow to speak.

Let’s engage in a daily battle to recognize the lies and discover the truth about God, so we can really KNOW him.

This is what the LORD says: ‘Let not the wise boast of their wisdom or the strong boast of their strength or the rich boast of their riches, but let the one who boasts boast about this: that they have the understanding to know me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,’ declares the LORD.”  (Jer. 9:23)

The consequences for not knowing God are serious.  Isaiah prophesied that the Hebrews would go into exile, and they did. The book of Revelations depicts seven churches that did many good deeds, and at the same time were way off base.  These churches were given warnings of what would occur if they did not repent.  

Let’s not fall into the same trap.  Instead, may it be our prime objective to know him better by:

  1. Seeing him more in the world around us.
  2. Seeing how much he has done for us and had mercy on us.
  3. Studying the life of Jesus.
  4. Praying and listening for the voice of the Spirit.
  5. Refusing to jump to conclusions.
  6. Investigating what the truth really is.

Carefully determine what pleases the Lord.  (Eph 5:10)

Don’t be like the people of this world, but let God change the way you think. Then you will know how to do everything that is good and pleasing to him.  (Romans 12:2 CEV)

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