Month: February 2017

Mind Boggling God

What do you think about the attributes of God? Some people think they are abstract and overly theological. But today I want to show you how God’s attributes reveal that he is a mind-boggling God: He overwhelms our thoughts and emotions.


Today’s photo makes me think of the most majestic features of God. The creation of the universe!  Innumerable galaxies, billions of stars. And the book of Psalms is a great place to see the attributes of God come alive.  In Psalms, we see God’s goodness, might, lovingkindness, and even his anger.

In Psalm 86, we first get a taste of the awesome side of God:

For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
     you alone are God. (Psalm 86:10)

Later in the Psalm, we get a taste of how personally  his attributes touch us.

 But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God,
     slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15)

I do not claim that I have the following experience every time I pray, not by a long shot:

But, during this recent prayer time, I started by admiring God as the almighty creator of the universe, so transcendent that he is even above time. And then that marveling segued to experiencing a God who has condescended to walk with me, I got a most intense awareness that Almighty God was personally living with me and walking with me in each thought or feeling that I had as I prayed……this sense of entering personal communion with the Lord in such a deep way lasted for a few minutes.

This God who is both majestic and personal is the same God who sent his Son to die for us and give us new life. As we study God’s attributes and begin to experience them, we enter what Jesus said about getting to worship God in Spirit and in truth.  God’s attributes are not dry abstractions, but rather engines that get us more fired up for experiencing him and his love and passing it on.

Facing Tests and Trials

As Christians, we often undergo trials and tests. Today I’d like to give an overview of Trials and Testing throughout the Bible.

These tests call us to humble ourselves before God and are meant to grow us. But there’s a problem: We (me too!) often switch it around and test God.

Early in Scripture we learn about a huge test failure on a test: The Fall.   Adam and Eve failed the test big time. See Genesis 2:15-17, 3:1-6, 3:22-24 to review what happened. The bottom line: Adam and Eve thought they were smarter than God.

Centuries later, after escaping from Egypt, Israel went into the wilderness —- and failed the test. A typical example of this failure is Exodus 17:7:  And he [Moses] called the name of the place Massah[testing]and Meribah [quarreling], because of the quarreling of the people of Israel, and because they tested the Lord by saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?” To complain against God is to test him and to look down on him. We hold God in contempt.

Jesus began his ministry in a place familiar to the Israelites:   in the wilderness. Good news for us:  Unlike the Israelites he passed his wilderness test! See Matthew 3:16-4:2 and 4:5-7 for how Jesus had victory in this.

The fourth test is the one faced by us Christians. In James 1:2-4 we learn: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. “And James 5:19-20 tells us even more about this.

Through trials and testing, what is our goal? James is confident that when we have trials, and as we seek prayer and encouragement from the body of Christ, we will grow to be able to pass these tests.  We can then share in Paul’s joyful declaration in Ephesians 3:20-21:

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

Here are some questions to help you work through the implications of today’s teaching:

  1. When are you most likely to think that you are smarter than God?
  2. When are you most likely to complain against God?
  3. When are you most likely to fail the test? (i.e. hungry, not enough sleep, too busy to study scripture, etc.)
  4. How do you feel and react when you have failed the test? Not just how you are supposed to react, but how you actually react?  
  5. What should happen when we fail a trial or test? See 1 John 2:1-2
  6. Does a trial test our ability to do it OR does it test our faith in what the blood of Christ accomplished?
  7. In what specific area of testing would you like prayer for growth?

My idea for writing this post was inspired by Ed Welch’s teaching in the Human Personality Online Course at CCEF.

I profited from and recommend taking the CCEF online courses. Your growth in Christ and the ability to minister to others will make it well worth the effort.

A Fresh Look at Workers in the Harvest Field

Matthew 9:35 Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness. 36 When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. 37 Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. 38 Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

When we visited Wales and Scotland, we saw far more sheep in the fields and on the hillsides than we had seen in our whole lives. These sheep were well cared for. Fencing, shepherds and sheepdogs were quite effective at preventing them from wandering off the property and becoming lost sheep.

But the photos below, from the UK, show what happens when a sheep does wander off the range. So helpless!  Strong shepherding hands come to the rescue! I can understand a few sheep escaping through a whole in their fence in the left photo, but don’t ask me how that sheep at the right managed to get stranded on top of a roof! But isn’t that sheep a lot like us when we mess up? We think, “I know I slipped through God’s fence, but how did I ever end up in this position?!”

Often, when today’s Harvest Field passage of scripture is taught, you only hear about the last two verses. There’s a danger in doing this, though. The last 2 verses used alone can be used to put you on a guilt trip. It goes something like this : “If you don’t tell them about Jesus, their blood is on your hands !” Then the person I talk to becomes more of an object to assuage my guilt than someone I deeply love and care for.

That is why I would suggest looking at all 4 of these verses together. Jesus had it in the right order. He saw the disease, saw the sickness, saw how messed up people were. Seeing all this struggle and need, then Jesus calls “Please! I need people to help these poor souls.”

Jesus is not proclaiming only the good news of once saved always saved, but the good news of entering God’s kingdom. What a heart Jesus had for these people, and he invites us to share the same heart.

These people really are like sheep without a shepherd. So, the good news of the kingdom must include care for them, not only in eternity but now, too. In the Lord’s prayer, we are praying that the Kingdom comes on earth just as it is in heaven.

Jesus does rescue our soul for eternity but he radically impacts our day to day life for the rest of our lives on earth. Isn’t that what the whole good news of the kingdom really means for us and for those we want to invite in?

Running into God’s peace

Below is a wonderful country road where I like to go on a long run. The run I am describing today was in the dead of winter, but the setting is still beautiful, especially when the ground is snow-covered.


At this point, 7 miles into my run, my body felt a little tired. This tiredness reminds me of what Mr. Littler, my high school track coach, used to say during a hard workout.  “You’re not that tired, Baker, you just think you are!”  Back in those days I was a hardened agnostic, and the coach’s words would inspire me to grit my teeth harder and dig down a little deeper, dredging up some good running masochism. The idea that I could depend on something outside of myself while running (or doing just about anything in my life) was alien to me.

Here in 2017, though, instead of gritting my teeth I had a musical pathway to God.  I did not have my headphones with me so I put on an instrumental worship music station which played out of my pocket.  Gentle Praise is a worship music mix which bills itself as “designed to be a respite anytime that you need to focus on the things of God.”

As I listened, I began to thank and praise the Lord out loud!

This worship refreshed my spirit ……and that fed back to my body…. I didn’t feel so tired. That draws me to Jesus’ words on weariness:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  Matthew 11:28-30

Of course, Jesus’ words apply to more than just running. And now I know that the real win over weariness comes from outside ourselves, not from digging deeper within ourselves. So, we can even experience refreshment amid all the tumult that life in 2017 can bring.  When we are weary, may we enjoy worship that draws us upwards to experience more of Jesus.