What God Sees–Part 5

God sees the secret place before the shameful place

My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.  Psalm 139:15-16

God has always seen you.  You have never been outside His timeless view of you. 

 It is this timeless view that defines your identity in God’s eyes. 

 So many of us are defined by experiences:  things we’ve done, places we’ve been, people we’ve met.  Like weights on a pendulum we try to have our good experiences outweigh our bad.  If done, than we have a good identity. 

 God sees us altogether differently, because before there ever was a shameful place in your life, there was a secret place with God where He declared you to be who you are through His divine counsel and perfect will.  No secret, shameful place ever came before the secret place with God.

The promise for you and me is that in this secret place, God ordained your days.  He has read you like a picture book—page after page, today after yesterday—He knows your story! 

 That is why He can find Moses cast out in the desert and send him back to His people.  And His people trapped in suffering and send them out into freedom.  He can see Gideon in a wine press and call him what he believes himself not to be.  He can see David, small of stature by big of virtue.   Just like them, God knew you in your secret place before you ever found your first hiding place. 

 Today you might hide behind your experience of this education, work, family.  Any experience you call a “failure” or a “success.”  But God named you first in His secret place with you.  Any experience—or title, or role, or position—will never be your true identity.  You are who God has declared you to be. 

In Ephesians 1, the Apostle Paul says in Christ we declared as chosen in Him…not rejected, holy and blameless in Christ…not graffiti-ed by sin, His child…not abandoned, redeemed…not broken and hopeless, predestined to be conformed to His will…not without purpose, included…not alone.

 No secret place of this world will ever redefine who God has declared you to be.  Today, rejoice in this truth.  Agree with God.  Renounce the secret and shameful places that still whisper lies to you and allow the secret place before the shameful place to define you.

What God Sees–Part 4

God sees what is good.

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  Psalm 139:14-15

We humans are good at breaking things down and tearing them to pieces.  Most of us practice this on ourselves regularly.  Awareness of our faults and inadequacies distort the image God intends for us to see.

However, what God sees is that we are His masterpiece­­­­­–His prized work of art.  “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which He prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:10.  You—me—were created to display the artistic genius of God. 

In every masterpiece, the artist leaves traces of Himself—favorite colors, treasured objects, valued virtues.  He displays them as hints to who he is.  You are no different. 

You were created to display the very image of God.  He placed His image in you and He said, “it is good.”  By God’s authority, you have been declared good.  Not on account of anything you’ve done…a picture hanging on a wall can take no credit for the ribbons of excellence which adorn it.   All the credit—the glory—goes to the artist.

What would it look like for you to know this “full well?”  What self-talk would change?  What would you do that you currently believe you couldn’t do?  How would you display yourself differently if you really knew “full well” that God is your artist? 

Failings, weakness and insecurities graffiti our paintings.  Praise Jesus for His restoration!  He alone can restore and redeem the beauty of the original painting.  The apostle Paul says that God has qualified us to share in His kingdom of light (Col. 1:12).  Some of us, in the deep places, believe we’ll never be qualified..but based on the authority of God, in Christ Jesus, you already are! 

In Christ, God sees beyond the graffiti—He sees the strokes of His brushes that evoke love for other humans as His image resonates in you.  He sees the speckles of his plaster smoothed around the contours of your smile as you delight in the rising of the sun.  He sees the stitches of your heart stretching to rejoice and suffer with those who do likewise…and He says, “It is good.” 

Your Artist delights in you.   However, so many are like a three-year-old at the Getty—surrounded by the artistic genius but distracted by the rudimentary flipping of the nearby trash can lid.  Step back today and look at your portrait; allow yourself to delight in His masterpiece as you do good works prepared in advance for you.

What God Sees–Part 3

God sees what you cannot. 

If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.  Psalm  139:11-12

Darkness.  When it surrounds us, we light a candle, switch a flip, open a blind.  Intuitively, we seek out conditions that illuminate life to us.  We know that in the darkness we will stumble, fall, and misjudge things.

What’s true in the physical world is not so easily remedied in the emotional and spiritual world.  When the darkness of the heart—hopelessness & helplessness—closes in like fog around our heart, a lit candle will not penetrate the resulting sightlessness. 

When this happens, remember that this is not the first time in history that darkness covered the deep places.  You heart is no different than the deep places of the earth—formless and empty—where His Spirit hovered.  Hovered knowing and seeing what could be.  In darkness we can neither see what is or what can be…but the Spirit of God can and declares a remedy:  Light. 

By jus t the speaking of His word, “Let there be…” and there was.  Darkness runs from the revelation of the light.  So stay in the dark place, believing and waiting for the word to be spoken…”Let it be!”  There is no need to run and panic.  The Lord sees what can be.   

Do you feel stuck today?  Does a situation seem hopeless?  Do not forget, that God does not share in your darkness.  He sees the lighted path and with just one word, He can illumine the way for you.

Spurgeon said, “Never doubt in the darkness what God has revealed in the light.”  Do not let the darkness rob you of faith.  Instead, use the occasion to ask God to stir up great faith—faith to see what is not; faith to believe His light can conquer darkness; faith that the darkness is just a momentary pause waiting for the light to reveal God’s creative genius.

What God Sees–Part 2

1.       God sees you snuggled in the safety of His sovereignty.

You hem [fortify, shut in, enclose] me in—behind and before; you have laid your hand [power] upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.  Where can I go from your Spirit?  Where can I flee [bolt/push away] from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.  If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Psalm 139:5-10

God sees you in the scary places.  The places you thought you’d never find yourself in.  Two inches over your head and three inches short. 

 He says He has fortified us and His power rests on us—in the fearful places of oppression, despair, incompetence.  Behind and before, He sees and knows that by His divine decree you safe by His presence that is with you. 

 Alone.  It’s a frightening word.  Who of us can argue with God when He declared, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  How we know this truth full well! 

 How we must remember the provision—God is with us!  We are never alone…He is the love we cannot escape.   Hagar thought she had escaped the love of God and the tyranny of her master.  Alone, or so she thought, despairing by a spring, Hagar met with the angel of the Lord—Christ, Himself!  He speaks words of life that spring up hope in her heart and reminds her, as He reminds us, “Go back (Gen. 16:9)…go back to trusting me.  Don’t think you have to protect yourself; keep yourself safe.  I will do that—my hand of power and strength and protection is on you.  Nothing will separate you from my love.  You will never be alone…I’ll see to that. “ And so we see why Hagar responds, “You are El Roi—the God who sees.”

 God sees us all as orphans—abandoned by a spring.  He doesn’t leave us as He found us—He places in relationship—with Him and with others.  Today, give thanks for His presence in your life.  Rejoice that you are not alone.  Spread hope to those who feel they will never be loved or understood that on the authority of God’s Word, they already are.

What God Sees

So often we pray, “Lord, give us your eyes to see what you see.”  This last week, someone asked me to write down my thoughts about what Scripture tells us about what God sees.  The study has been incredibly encouraging and I thought over the next little while, I would share with you what I have found on this subject.  (The study is not done yet…I can tell this is going to be one of those subjects that will take some time to journey through.) 

What does God see when He looks at you…at me?  How do we transfer this knowledge to the practice of how we see others?  A correct view of God and self allows us to see others aright.  Make no mistake—until we allow the Lord to show us how He sees us, we will never be able to have God’s eyes for others.  How can we see self and others as God does?

A look at Psalm 139 helps us to gain understanding of how God sees us and how we can have God’s vision for other:

1.   God sees your “big picture” through the tiny details.    

O Lord, you have searched [penetrate, examine intimately, find out, seek] me and you know [discern] me.  You know when I sit [settle] and I rise [am roused]; you perceive my thoughts from afar.  You discern [spread/strew] my going out and my lying down; you are familiar [treasure] with all my ways.  Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely [whole thing], O Lord.  Psalm 139:1-4

God takes notice of you!  Who of us wants to be invisible?  We weren’t created for ambiguity.  His glances do not pass you by with disinterest.  No!  He studies you…He delights in the things that you make you unique.

He has counted the hairs on your head. He has read your thoughts.  He makes note of your patterns.  And treasures all these details about you.

How does it make you feel to know that He has discerned you so?  Does it bring you comfort to know that He is sees and knows your thoughts when you are settled and when you are roused? 

We tend to get stuck on the details.  We carry small, odd details of self and one another around in our hearts like pieces of a puzzle kidnapped from their set.  Not so with God.  Each piece, each tiny detail of you is important…and God sees just exactly where that piece fits in the completed picture. 

When life seems fragmented…do not forget that it is just a piece.  Today is just a piece.  Your current disposition is just a piece.  Pieces that God sees in the full portrait of your life.    

There is no insignificant thing to God…no insignificant person to God.   Today, give thanks to God that He has a big vision for you…and your details of distinction are a part of its magnificence.  Look for the details today in others—ask God to give you eyes to see what others may miss and the wisdom to take those details and connect them to the fabulous portrait that God is making out of that person’s life.

Leadership Lessons from Toy Story 3

(Warning:  Toy Story 3 plot spoiler.)

A Lotso lurks in all of us.

In Disney’s Toy Story 3, Woody, Buzz, and the other toys are mistakenly sent off to Sunnyside Daycare where they meet up with the daycare Toylord, Lotso.  While he smells like strawberries, Lotso is anything but sweet.  Instead, this big, pink teddy bear rules Sunnyside with an iron meat mallet; thwarting justice for all the toys who are forced to finish out their existence under the gaze of his control.  Kindness and pretense of concern are tools used for emotional control and when that doesn’t work, physical oppression serves to secure power.

Lotso’s leadership schema is built on the pain of the past.  Like gauze wrapped around a seeping wound, cruel and calculated bitterness safeguard Lotso’s broken heart.  Rejected by the one he believed loved him, Lotso is no longer able to give or receive love.  His worth as a person is now tied up in the role he plays.  And so he does what many of us do who can’t face our pain–we lock down freedom and shut out love.

A Lotso lurks in all of us who lead—parents, coaches, bosses, managers, teachers, pastors, alike.  He lurks in the shadows of our hearts, telling us we can right wrongs of the past by what we can control today.  He is anywhere power is used for the good of self instead of for those we lead.  He is anywhere people are exploited for what they can do, rather than esteemed for who they are in God’s image.

Lotso, like many leaders, think leadership is about greatness.  He with the most power, most influence, most persuasion, wins.

Jesus had a different idea about leadership—and it is one that every Lotso, myself included, must confront.

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”  (Philippians 2:3-4).

How can we as leaders avoid the Lotso Affect?

  1. Resist the urge to right life’s wrongs through the things you can control–instead hand over your disappointments, rejections, and wounds to the Lord and His healing.  Tightly controlling things will not heal you; it will only hurt others.  Make no mistake:  Everyone’s past is a part of their current reality.  Will you lead through a past that has been redeemed by and reconciled to the cross?  Or will you perpetuate your pain through inflicting hurt on others by guilting them to therapy your wounds and losses?
  2. Recognize your worth comes from who you are; not from what you do.  When we know who God has declared us to be before the foundation of the earth in the secret place with Him (Ps. 139:15), we can assume a humble position in life, like our Lord.  What possibly can I prove about myself  that will make me more fearfully and wonderfully made?
  3. Serve others for their good.  Look deeply into the eyes of others and ask the Lord to show you for what greatness He has created them…then partner with Him in helping it come to pass.  Our destiny is not the landfill, as the toys at Sunnyside Daycare believed.  Our destiny is the presence of God, reflecting His image in all its glory (2 Cor. 3:18).

Greatness—true greatness—will never be found in subverting justice.  Whenever those who are called to lead, lead from self-imposed power and control instead of from sincere love and service, justice unravels at the seams.

If, like Ken and Barbie, we want to make life groovy for those in our realm of influence, we must seek a fresh calling from the Lord today to lead people deeper into their original callings.  If man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, than those of us who lead—wherever that may be—must make God our chief enjoyment so that others may be recipients of His righteousness, peace and joy through us.

Where do you lead?  How are you calling out other’s greatness through serving them?  Are there any people who you lead–children, employees, athletes–that you are looking to for enjoyment that should be found only in God?

Where is repentance?

“This is why preaching that neglects to mention sin is not true peaching and why ‘experience’ of God that does not leave the worshiper with a profound sense of his or her own sinfulness and an even greater sense of the love of God is no true experience.  It is why we live in an age whose religious ‘health’ is an illusion.  Today we have preachers, well-known, highly successful preachers, who refuse to mention sin in their teaching–not because it is difficult to do or because they have trouble doing it, but because, in their judgment, people do not need to hear about such subjects.  They believe people feel bad enough as it is.  They need rather be affirmed.  Affirmed?  People today hardly feel the weight of sin at all.  Nothing they do is ever considered sinful.  Will you maintain that such persons know God and are saved by God even if they make no profession of it?”  (James Montgomery-Boice, Christ’s Call to Discipleship, 1986)

I hear a lot about revival these days, but very little about repentance.  This would make sense if it were plain to all that the Church was walking as the holy people of God…if I was walking in holiness.  But far too often the people of God are like those described in Mark, chapter 4.  We hear the word that is given to make us holy and to draw us into the depths of God’s greatness and goodness, “but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful(Mark 4:19).

An unrepentant life is an unfruitful one.  If the Word is not confronting us with sin, challenging us with a greater vision of God, and compelling us to deeper devotion we will never be that ‘seed’ that “hears the word, accepts it and produces a crop–thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times what was sown”  (Mark 4:20).

Forgive me, Lord.