What do I do knowing that God knows all things. He sees all things. He knows my thoughts even before I think them. He knows what I am going to say before I say it. Jesus is an exact representation of the Father and Jesus clearly knew what people were thinking, even to discerning the motive of the heart.

I took a walk through scripture to see what others said about God knowing all things. This is what I found. At the end of Psalm 139, David responds to the all-knowing nature of God like this

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.

Psalm 139:23-24

David invites God to investigate his thoughts and motives. Rather than hiding, he offers himself voluntarily. Perhaps you are uncomfortable with this searching, thinking you have things under control. Check out Jeremiah’s writing:

The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is? But I, the Lord, search all hearts and examine secret motives. I give all people their due rewards, according to what their actions deserve.

Jeremiah 17:9-10

Paul says this in his letter to the Corinthians:

As for me, it matters very little how I might be evaluated by you or by any human authority. I don’t even trust my own judgment on this point. My conscience is clear, but that doesn’t prove I’m right. It is the Lord himself who will examine me and decide. So don’t make judgments about anyone ahead of time—before the Lord returns. For he will bring our darkest secrets to light and will reveal our private motives. Then God will give to each one whatever praise is due.

1 Corinthians 4:3-5

Where am I going with this, you ask? I think I always know what motivates me and that I live from a pure heart. Sometimes I do. Other times I discover I am not as altruistic as I want to believe.

I am also guilty of “knowing” why others do what they do, ask the questions they ask, post what they post. Yet, I don’t. I can’t possibly know the motives and thoughts of another. That is God’s job and the only person I know who does it well is Jesus.

My encouragement – leave the judgments to God alone. As Paul said, it is for the Lord to examine us all. He will reveal the secrets of our hearts, the motivations of our minds and reward accordingly.

How about we get back to loving one another outrageously and leave all that other stuff to God?

When I was a child, I hid activities I didn’t want my parents – and older siblings – to know. I could excuse the behavior because it wasn’t breaking one of the BIG TEN.

There were other things I did I wanted my parents to see and applaud me for doing. If I worked harder than my sister or received good grades, I wanted to be noticed.

To be honest, neither of these proclivities worked out well for me. Often the thing I tried to hide was discovered and the thing I wanted seen went unnoticed.

In my reading today, I noticed a particular emphasis coming through repeatedly. In Jesus’ reframing of a couple of the commandments – murder and adultery, specifically – he reminded his listeners that the hidden attitudes of the heart are just as damaging as the overt action of our hands. In essence, you can’t hide behind that pretty face!

In Matthew 6, he emphasized the importance of privacy. Privacy in good deeds, giving to others, spiritual disciplines like prayer and fasting – all of these should be done privately to be seen by Father who gives rewards. In essence, anonymous is the way to go.

Throughout scripture an attentive reader learns that God is omniscient. In other words, he knows all things. Check out this one example in Psalm 139:

O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!

Psalm 139:1-6

I suppose some might be freaked out by that…he knows everything, even what I am going to say before I say it. Maybe that is why I get a check in my spirit at times. It is the Holy Spirit cautioning me to change my words or to speak the words he gives me.

Jesus’ emphasis in these verses – God sees all and will reward or withhold reward accordingly – is also seen in Jesus’ interaction with others. More than once, religious leaders doubted his identity and he knew their thoughts (Matthew 9:4; Matthew 12:25; Luke 6:8). At times it was the disciples who were talking among themselves and Jesus knew their thoughts (Luke 9:47). He didn’t just know what people were thinking, he also knew the motives of their hearts. One day as he observed people putting their offering in the box, he saw many rich people give large amounts of money and a widow put in a very small amount of money. Knowing this was all she had, he commended her. (Mark 12:41-44)

Awareness that God sees all should be a comfort, not a fearful thing. Performing for praise from people is the opposite of how God wants us to live. While it is true that our good deeds will be noticed (after all, our good deeds point people to God and incite praise to him), the motivation for good deeds is not human praise.

Jesus reveals God to us. He reminds us it is the intentions of our heart that are his concern, not just outward actions. Outward actions are done to point others to the Father, not for personal recognition. How do we respond to this all- knowing character trait of God, seen in Jesus?

Come back tomorrow to consider our response…

In my biblical studies, one of my professors taught on the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — one God, three persons. It is a difficult concept to wrap the mind around and I don’t intend to do that now, but something in his teaching comes back to me often.

Within the Trinity there is mutuality, equality, oneness; each is for the other. The Father points us to Jesus, Jesus points us to the Father; the Holy Spirit teaches us about Jesus, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is eager to have the other parts noticed.

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

Matthew 5:14-16

When I light a lamp, it is for me, to illuminate my way or so I can see what I am doing. Every evening, I turn the lamp on beside my bed so when I turn the overhead light off, I can see my way to bed. When I am tucked under the covers, I turn my light off. I am not concerned that someone else might need it.

Jesus said our good deeds are the light of the world. They should shine out, not for personal benefit, but for others. Our deeds should point people to Jesus, to cause praise to rise to his name.

This concept was countercultural then; it is countercultural today. So often, I do what I do hoping to be recognized, applauded, “liked” (on social media – oh come on, you check that, too!) Living in obscurity is not anyone’s goal ever. And yet maybe it should be.

Jesus is incredible. He knew who he was (God), where he was from (eternity), where he was going (heaven bound) and yet he lived in relative obscurity and unknown. Repeatedly, he asked people not to tell others what he had done for them. He walked away from fame and notoriety to take his place among the poor and needy. His good deeds were a light for others, to point them in the right direction. They were never for himself.

Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this.”

Matthew 8:1-4

In these passages, I learn that Jesus didn’t live for himself. Everything he did pointed to his Father. Concern for receiving credit for his deeds did not exist as he focused solely on revealing God to us, giving us cause to praise our Creator.

I learn that Jesus is willing. Deadlines, appointments, activities were never so pressing that he couldn’t stop to meet a need. He stops to listen, to intervene because he is willing; he desires to set us free.

Scripture says Jesus “radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.” (Hebrews 1:3) My deduction: God is willing; he stops to hear the cry of my heart and transform my situation. And his motives are pure; he reveals himself to me in as many ways as possible so that I might in return love him and light the way for others through my good deeds.

I am the light of the world and the way I live is the bulb. Is your lamp lit? Is it lit for you (fame, notoriety, accolades) or for others (pointing them to Jesus, showing them a hopeful alternative)?

“God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

Matthrew 5:3

Jesus’ perspective on life and what makes life worth living is astonishingly countercultural — not only in his day but in ours as well.

As I began reading the blessings of Jesus, his first caused me pause. It is uncertain to me if Jesus meant poor as in lack of money (see Luke 6:20) or poor as in lack of sufficiency of spirit (Matthew 5:3). Either way, it is only by knowing our true condition — poverty — that a person is positioned to know the kingdom of heaven. When I rely on my ability to provide for myself, whether by the means of money or in other ways, my necessity for God is obscured; my need for his presence and intervention in my life goes unnoticed.

More than ever, I sense the poverty of my spirit. I know that without him, I will not succeed or prosper. May his presence fill my life so fully that I know what it means to experience the kingdom of heaven here on earth.

How do you find yourself needing God right now? How can the Kingdom of Heaven make a difference to your life?

I am not a buffet person. There is so much pressure for me to taste everything and put as much on the plate as I can. Deciding at the table what suits my tastebuds and discarding the rest is a strategy often used. I don’t like that the food all touches and overlaps retaining none of its own flavor. If the goal is to assuage hunger, a buffet meets that criteria.

One of my favorite dinners at a restaurant was in St. Louis. Our children were all adults and had a spouse or significant friend along. We opted for the tasting menu which had eleven different courses served as small plate tastings. Each plate was only three or four bites but the flavors were phenomenal. Each course was served with plenty of time to enjoy and reflect on the food and the unique flavors. The whole experience took several hours. If the goal is to interact with the flavors, textures and intricacies of various foods, this type of dining experience does it well.

Dining in this fashion is not for everyone and it’s not how I normally dine. But it was extraordinary and allowed us to taste dishes we would not normally eat.

Too often I approach scripture with a buffet mentality. Read as much as I can, try to find something that stands out and be done for the day. It’s a most unsatisfactory way to approach scripture unless your goal is to get done – just check the box.

If you want to savor the Word and be changed by it, taking it in smaller bites and reflecting on what is read will accomplish that purpose.

As I seek to see God, my Creator, perfectly reflected in Jesus I have to slow down and take time to ask questions and listen. I am excited about what I will learn but know that I may only read a verse or two before I stop to reflect.

Join me in this adventure if you, too, want to savor the gospels and transform your thinking about Jesus. I’m beginning in Matthew 5 tomorrow. I may still be in Matthew 5 a month from now. Who knows?!

But then, what’s the hurry. We have all the time in the world!

It is difficult to pick up the newspaper or click on a news link expecting anything other than difficult news. This nugget from scripture has kept me at peace today.

Jesus traveled throughout the region of Galilee, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness.

Matthew 4:23

He came to bring GOOD NEWS! In the midst of political chaos, economic hardship and poverty, he offered something different. He offered peace and abundant life.

He is still offering that to us today. In the midst of political chaos, economic disruption and harship, he offers peace and abundant life.

May your Sunday be blessed and your father’s celebrated as they deserve!

Yesterday I wrote that the prayer of my heart is an increased understanding of the revelation of God in Jesus. I want to swim in the deep waters of his love for me and all people.

As is my custom, I read a blog or two first thing Thursday morning. The one writing focused on renewing our minds, hungering and thirsting for Jesus. The writer says this is accomplished by reading and meditating on the Word. As we read the Word, we will be changed. As we believe the Word, new life will come. I heard it as a message for me, a response to my prayer.

As I reflected on the blog, I sensed the invitation to engage the Word, specifically the gospels, to increase my understanding of Jesus. So, that is what I did. Obviously, I didn’t read all four gospels today. I am, after all, taking care of my granddaughter. But I started.

I invite you to join me. Discarding any obligation to begin at chapter one, verse one, I jumped to the end of Matthew 4. This is the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, after his 40 days of temptation in the desert.

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. “

Matthew 4:17

The first thing I confronted is Jesus’ message, but more specifically, his tone. I have been watching a PBS Masterpiece Classic and in the street scenes, there is a doomsday preacher holding a sign proclaiming all kinds of “repent or burn” dogma. As he walks the streets, he shouts out warnings and judgments. When I read that “Jesus began to preach…” I read his message in the tone of the doomsday preacher. And I paused. Is that how Jesus sounded? Was his tone harsh and full of judgment?

I paused and asked Jesus to help me hear him, to perceive across the centuries what his voice was like. Several verses later it says this, “Large crowds followed him wherever he went…” I compared that to the doomsday preacher and knew. No one was following the doomsday preacher, no one even acknowledged his presence. But Jesus was different. He invited a response, he drew people in, caused them to stop and listen. He was unlike any other.

I paused to hear his message again, this time in gentler tones. I looked into his eyes and saw only love. My first takeaway…

He didn’t come to condemn me, but to save me.

John 3:17

High fructose corn syrup was introduced in 1970 as a solution to the rising costs of sugar cane. While reducing the production costs of soda (and many other products), it wreaked havoc on the waistlines of Americans. Obesity grew expotentially in the years following, making it the second leading preventable cause of death in America.

Gluttony is condemned in scripture as well as greed which I assume includes hoarding food. Yet I find myself able to navigate the rough waters of gluttony and greed without pushing anyone out of the raft. After all, Jesus was accused of drunkenness and gluttony by the Pharisess, but according to his words, “wisdom is shown to be right by its results.” (See Matthew 11 for the full account.)

In Jesus’ words to the religious leaders, I hear him saying that not everything is as it seems. Jesus eating and drinking with tax collectors and sinners didn’t make him a glutton.

Not everything is as it seems…I know many people who struggle with their weight, they might even meet the criteria for obese, and they are not gluttons. These people are genuinely concerned with their health but for one reason or another, losing weight is extremely difficult. I am sympathetic to those with underlying issues that cause obesity. I know not everything is as it seems.

There are so many other situations just like this one. The other day, I stopped at a grocery store where I don’t usually shop. It is out of my way, but this day I was going past and needed a few things. I encountered so many people who looked wounded and scared. At one time, I might have judged them unfit in some way or been uneasy in their presence; but not this day. A song by Tim McGraw says all I felt as I walked through the store, gathering my few things. The first verse goes like this

I pulled into the shopping center
And saw a little boy wrapped around the legs of his mother
Like ice cream melting, they embraced
Years of bad decisions running down her face
All morning I’d been thinking my life’s so hard
And they wore everything they owned, living in a car
I wanted to tell them it would be ok
But I just got in my Suburban, and I, I drove away

Grown Men Don’t Cry by Tim McGraw

It bothers me that I can so easily say that “all is not as it seems” about some sins (gluttony), while other sins (promiscuity, stealing, hatred, lust, sowing discord, etc) are so clear cut in my mind. My prayer these days is for a deeper revelation of the person of Jesus being an exact representation of God. I pray that any obstruction to seeing the glorious image of God in Jesus would be removed and my eyes see clearly.

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation…

Colossians 1:15

The Son radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God, and he sustains everything by the mighty power of his command. When he had cleansed us from our sins, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God in heaven. 

Hebrews 1:3

Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.

2 Corinthians 4:4

Adam and Eve believed a lie about God — he was withholding something good from them, he wasn’t trustworthy, he didn’t really care about them. There is a remnant of that lie I continue to believe but, by God’s grace, I am asking for it to be eradicated from my life. The cry of my heart is to walk in the deep waters of God’s love for me and all His creation! Open my eyes to the unsurpassable worth of every single person he created.

How about you? Do you easily show grace and mercy for some sins while actively condemning others? Do your sins seem less odious than the sins of others? What will you do about it?

The book of Job has always been a favorite of mine. Mainly because it gives me permission to allow God to be God, to be content with ambiguity. I am reminded in reading Job there is so much I cannot know about God and how he works. The intricacies of creation are beyond me; the realm of the supernatural is an enigma. I don’t know why some suffer and others prosper. I don’t know why children get cancer, fires destroy homes or viruses jump from animals to humans.

There are many aspects of God he allows us to know. He showed us his incredible love by sending Jesus. He allows us to know that one day he will come again and take us to a heaven. He gave the Holy Spirit to guide us. We know there are forces of evil that oppose us, but that those forces cannot stand against or destroy his people.

While there are many things I can know, there are many things I cannot know. When Daniel prayed, the angel was detained for three weeks fighting a battle in the heavenlies. (Daniel 10:12-13) Daniel didn’t know why his prayer was not answered, but he continued to pray until it was.

Job didn’t know why his family and possessions were taken from him (Job 1-2). He remained faithful even though his life was falling apart. Joseph was sold into slavery, and yet years later he told the ones who sold him, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good.” (Genesis 50)

We can be certain of God’s love even when life seems to be falling apart. Perhaps it might be a good idea to remind ourselves that He is God, we are not; he is judge, we are not; he is omniscient, we are not; he is sovereign, we are not. It might even be helpful to read Job 38-41 to be reminded of all the ways we are not God. Perhaps our conclusion will be like Job’s:

I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.

Job 42:5-6

I have not been called to judge good and evil, even to know it at all. And so I must be comfortable with ambiguity. I must learn to embrace not knowing and allow God to be God.

How about you? Is ambiguity your friend? Are you comfortable with not knowing and allowing God to set boundaries, to be mysterious?

A while back I wrote about my sojourn along our bike trail. I am obligated to protect what I see in other’s backyards. They are sharing, even if unwillingly, a look into their private spaces. It is my duty to protect it.

Honesty hour! One of the most difficult tasks I face as a human is to see my own sin as desperately wicked and in need of the full measure of God’s grace. After all, I’m not a serial killer, a child molester, a drug addict, a thief or adulterer. I am nice. I try to be kind, loving and patient.

Scripture says we all need the same amount of grace to cross the gap between us and God. Paul uses these words:

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.

Romans 3:23

For a complete picture of the depravity of humankind, read all of chapter three. The truth is evident, my redemption cost exactly the same as those I would judge as more sinful. The way to redemption is the same for everyone as well. Paul says we are made right with God by faith in Jesus, who is the exact representation of God to us. (Romans 3)

What must I do with this knowledge? In my reading today, Gregory Boyd put it this way:

Rather than being concerned with playing God over others, we must be concerned only with repenting before God for our own sins. Our sins should be to us as tree trunks we confess and seek to get rid of, while other people’s sins should be to us as dust particles we seek to hide with love.

Gregory A. Boyd, “Repenting of Religion”

And there it is again. It matters how we handle the secret knowledge we have of others. How can I, in love, hide those things that might be cause for rejection or humiliation if discovered? What do I perceive the danger to be if I love too outrageously?

What about you? Is your love outrageous and reckless or carefully meted out?