The Exact Imprint

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How do we know who God is and what God is like? Are those things knowable? Major religions throughout history have tried to answer those questions. Here’s what the current largest religions say:

  • Hinduism: Infinite number of gods and everyone can have their own that they define.
  • New age: their is a higher consciousness within themselves. Each person is developing as a spiritual deity.
  • Buddhism: there is no god only infinite rebirths and pursuit of perfection.
  • Islam: Allah as almighty but not personal. He is both strict and harsh, only showing mercy based on good works and he is ultimately unknowable.

How about for Christians? Is Yahweh knowable? Is he a personable God? Does He want to be known? All of those questions can be answered in the person of Jesus.

He is the image of the invisible God… For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell…

Colossians 1:15a&19a ESV

I and the Father are one.

John 10:30 ESV

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power…

Hebrews 1:3a ESV

In those passages, Jesus is described as being the image of God, the fullness of God, the radiance of God, that He and God are one, and the exact imprint of God. Is God knowable? Yes. He reveals Himself in many different ways: a burning bush, a pillar of smoke and fire, blinding light, and a voice on the wind. But nowhere does He reveal Himself better than in the person of Jesus. How did Jesus show us Who God is? I just want to propose four aspects of God that we can know based on the life of Jesus.

#1 He Pursued People – All of His disciples He sought out. He found them where they were, when they least expected it, and He invited them to follow Him. He traveled from town to town to share God’s love and message. He intersected with specific people at specific times in their life. The woman at the well is a prime example. Or how about the man who had been lame since childhood and spent his days at the pool of Bethesda. And then there was Paul. Whether in desperation or on the wrong path, Jesus pursued people. Then He invited them into something greater than themselves. I am witness to the unfailing pursuit of God.

#2 He Demonstrated Grace – Everyone Jesus chose to spend time with was an act of grace. The very fact that Jesus came to earth to tabernacled among us is an act of grace. But He also showed immense grace to individuals all of the time. Look at the woman caught in adultery, or Mary of Magdalene. Paul proclaimed that he was chief among sinners yet look how he used him. Peter denied Christ three times, yet Jesus took Him aside to encourage and build him up. All of the disciples abandoned Him when he was arrested yet He never abandoned them or shamed them. Forgiveness and mercy are the centerpiece of Jesus’ message. He displayed it in His treatment of those during his life, He displayed it in His death, and He displayed it in His resurrection.

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.

Ephesians 2:4-5 NIV

#3 He Gave Extraordinarily – Jesus devoted His life in an all-consuming manor. He taught. He gave His wisdom so that we wouldn’t wander aimlessly in the dark. He cares that we knew truth. He wanted us to see it demonstrated and to understand the heart behind the law. He wanted to breakdown hypocrisy and destroy heartless worship and loveless rule keeping. He served. He served in every capacity. He fed people, he prayed for them, and listened to people, and He washed their feet. He showed that the greatest king is one who serves his followers and that nothing is below a servant with a pure heart. He healed. He healed people physically and emotionally. Any time and in any way we are made whole, it is a gift of grace. It’s an extraordinary act of love by the author of love. He gave His life. The ultimate act of giving was at the cost of His own life.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 NIV

#4 He Showed A Desire For Connection – One thing Jesus did a lot of was praying. He prayed so much that his disciples ask Him to teach them how. On multiple occasions, Jesus sought isolation to be in that connection. He prayed for hours at a time, sometimes all night long. He prayed to give thanks, he prayed to heal, he prayed in the good moments and in the desperate. Jesus showed us what it meant to pray without ceasing. That shows us something incredible about God’s character. He wants to be connected to you and me. He wants the intimacy that any great relationship requires. God is not distant. Even though He is Holy other, He still wants to have Holy Communion with us. God wants a relationship that is constant and connected.

In Matthew 11, Jesus says come to me. In Revelation 3, He says that He stands at the door at knocks. In John 15, Jesus says to abide in Him. In John 17, Jesus prays for that same connection for us that He has with God.

In all of these things, Jesus showed us the immense love of God. A love that pursues us. A love that constantly shows grace. A love that gives extraordinarily. And and A love that wants an intimate connection with us.

The original Greek word for Christian is “Christianos” which comes from the two Greek words “Christ and tian.” The word Christ means “anointed” and tian means “little.” So the word “Christian” literally means “little anointed ones.” If Jesus was anointed to display the character of God, so are we.

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God

Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

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Making the Most

How often do you think about how long you have on this earth? I don’t mean to sound morbid, but I probably think about the length of my existence at least a few times a week if not almost every day. Death is something that we all will face. It’s a painful reality. However, I’m not speaking about dwelling on the end so much as how we use the time leading up to that end. Psalm 90 verse 12 is a prayer that suggests we should all be asking for a heightened awareness of the time we have. The New Living Translation says, “Teach us to realize the brevity of life so that we may grow in wisdom.” It’s a good thing to know that we are temporary. That our lives won’t go on forever. That we aren’t invincible and that life could be over in a moment. That realization is meant to give us wisdom.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

Ephesians 5:15-17 ESV (emphasis added)

Almost every night, without fail, my children try to get in some last minute play time when it’s actually time to be getting into bed. It seems like we have an identical discussion each time. I tell them that they need to be winding down and getting ready for bed and not making a mess (that they had just cleaned up not long before). They will respond with, “we didn’t get to play earlier so we really wanted to now.” I will do my best to show empathy while at the same time expressing to them that we don’t have time in a day to do everything that we would want to do. So we have to prioritize. That’s hard for kids. Many of us as adults are still learning that same skill. Our lives have only so much time allotted to them. Our years go by like a whirlwind. Before we know it, we are on to the next month. The days can be a blur. This is why it is so important to number our days. To walk carefully and thoughtfully. To be wise and to use our time the best way we can. And to do that, we need to know what the will of the Lord is for our lives.

There are many passages in the Bible that describe the brevity of life.

  • 1 Chronicles 29:15 says life is a shadow
  • Psalms 78:39 says life is a passing wind
  • James 4:14 says life is but a vapor
  • Job 9:25 says life is swifter than a runner
  • Job 14:2 says life is like a flower that comes forth and withers

How does God want us to make the most of our time? What does a life well-spent look like? I think that is a question that could take many blog posts to address. One that deserves serious contemplation and daily reflection. For now, lets look at one passage as a starting point.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:12-17 ESV (emphasis added)

So much is in these six verses but imagine how our days might be different if we memorize and meditate on being: compassionate, thankful, forgiving, kind, humble, and patient. And we spent our time singing praises, teaching others, encouraging others, and helping carry the burdens of others. Imagine the peace of mind that we would experience if, at the end of the day, we could look back and say that our lives were well spent. Too often, my days are full of “getting things done” that I miss out on more important things. Too often, I’m doing good things and miss the greater things. But our lives don’t have to be devoid of responsibilities to reflect the words of Colossians. I believe we can be about our jobs, daily requirements, parenting, and being a spouse, and still reflect all the things God has called us to. In fact, it is in our relationships and responsibilities that we have the greatest opportunities to reflect Jesus. But it does require a switch in how we approach everything and everyone. Mostly, it requires a heart surrendered to Jesus to make the most of our lives.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Because of the Grace of Christ

The Day of Atonement, or Yom Kippur, is considered to be the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is a day that bring much anxiety and anticipation for it is on this day that it is believed all sins for the previous year are wiped away. Yom Kippur comes at the end of what is referred to as the 10 days of Awe. During this time there is supposed to be sincere and devout reflection and repentance culminating in the day of cleansing or atonement. When we look in the books of Exodus and Leviticus and read about this feast, it gives us a beautiful picture of our need to be made clean. The process was quite extensive for the priests and the people. So much was wrapped up in this day, and for many, it is still is.

For believers in Jesus, Yom Kippur is every bit as significant and a powerful reminder of what Jesus did for you and me on the cross. Because of the grace of Christ, we are clean. Because of the grace of Christ, we no longer need to wait in anxiety for a future day of atonement. Because of the grace of Christ, we are free. But the grace of Christ should not lead us to forgo repentance, it should give us the desire to do it all the more. When I see my failures and shortcomings in light of the perfection of Christ, and then grip the reality that this perfection hung on a cross in my place and suffered tremendous pain for me, how could I help but to fall to my knees in awe, gratitude, and repentance? We are all broken, but have been made whole through Jesus. We have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but because of the grace of Christ, we can taste and experience that glory. Because of the grace of Christ we can repent and have full assurance that we are forgiven.

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53:4-6

Today, we repent and we rejoice. Thank you Jesus for all you’ve done and all you still do. Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Giving Big Thanks for Little Things

Why is it that it’s easiest to pray when we face struggles? Do you face that same predicament? I have felt guilty of late that I don’t pray as much when things are going well in my life. I lose a little fervor…a little zeal. But I am trying to change that. Or perhaps I should say, that I am asking God to change that in me.

My Nissan Xterra has had some issues over the last 18 months. It’s my work vehicle and I use it a lot. So there’s no surprise that it requires extra TLC. Around three weeks ago it decided to stall on me while driving to a job. In moments like that, it is easy to drift to worst-case scenarios that include repairs amounting to thousands of dollars. It has generally been the story of my life when it comes to auto repairs. However, this time around was different. After a trip to the parts store, and literally a dozen prayers, it turned out to be a sensor that I was personally able to fix myself. This repair only cost me $60 and a couple hours of my time. I couldn’t have been more relieved. I found myself praying every time I was in the Xterra. Asking God that the repair would be the final solution and that nothing else would go wrong. Many of my jobs are early in the morning, before most of the community is stirring. So a breakdown could be extremely problematic. I would praise the Lord every successful trip I made without the check engine light coming on or the car stalling out. That, however, only lasted a week or so. After I became confident that the car was fixed, my praise and prayer moments decreased somewhat. And then, I felt the conviction.

I couldn’t believe what had happened. How could I allow myself to be so distracted? Why did I lose touch with the reality that I have so many reasons to praise God every moment of every day? Why do I seek Him more in times of distress or need? Aren’t I always in need of His good graces? Why don’t I give thanks more often for the little things in my life, which after thinking about it, many of those little things are actually great big things. We come to expect that our cars will start. We don’t give it a second thought that our hearts are going to continue beating. We rarely wake up and praise God that we have been given one more day. There are so many beautiful mercies that we are given all day and every day. Why do we let so many of them go by without a single word of thanks to the one who gave them to us. We all owe Him a big thanks even for the little things in life. But, a lot of the time, the prayers don’t come until those little things become big things in our eyes.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Faith and Fruit

God will never allow our faithfulness to be fruitless. There is power in simply being available. We never know who we might notice when we aren’t busy looking at the to-do list for the day or hustling from one place to another.

It starts with making the next right choice; seeking to honor God in the mundane as well as in the extravagant. We also have to be willing to see the hurting people around us and then do what we can to meet their needs. It might be as simple as being a listening ear or shoulder to cry on. And because everyone is met with discouraging messages day in and day out, we should never underestimate the power of encouraging words.

If we love as followers of Christ are meant to, our world becomes a much bigger place. Full of life giving energy, empowered by the Holy Spirit. To have that we need to be open to dialogue, willing to pray for and over others, ready to share why we believe the things we believe, and looking for ways to lend a hand. We can know that every encouraging word, every prayer, every act of service, and every time we make time for others, will be used for other’s good and God’s glory.

Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit…” Who do you know that needs to hear they’re loved? Who could use a helping hand? Who needs to be noticed? Who needs to see Jesus?

Being Still

Can I stand still in the face of uncertainty? In the face of possible tragedy? If there was a good chance that my world was about to fall apart, could I be still? Most of my life so far has answered with a resounding no. But that doesn’t have to continue to be my story. Nor does it have to be yours.

When the people of Israel faced the looming annihilation from Pharaoh at the sea, they were told to stand and see the salvation of the Lord. When the disciples were falling apart in the middle of a raging sea, Jesus awoke and questioned their little faith.

It’s so easy, even for the heart devoted to Jesus, to be overwhelmed in the face of very real danger. It’s in those moments we either need others to remind us, or we need to remind ourselves, that Jesus is in the midst of the danger. He’s there in the pillar of fire. He’s there in the boat. He’s there. You’re not alone, and most likely you don’t need to do anything other than be still. He’s still the same God that parts the sea and calms the sea.

“fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Our Darling Sin Must Die

The Bible talks a lot about sin. I think that may be one reason some avoid reading it. It’s a mirror into the soul. Before entering the temple or tabernacle, priests or levites would wash in a basin at the entrance. They could see their reflection in the water as their filth wash away before walking through the veil. The word of God is a lot like that. Sometimes referred to as a double edged sword, it cuts deep at our imperfections in order to show us just how much we are in need of grace.

In Romans chapter eight, Paul talks about life in the Spirit. He paints the picture of these two warring powers: the flesh and the spirit. When our minds are set on the flesh, trying to please the flesh, we cannot please God. Sin becomes the dominant force. The sin of pride, lust, coveting, stinginess, selfishness, gossip, people pleasing, deceitfulness, and all the like. These things produce death. They have stench and rottenness that spill over to others and infect them with the like. Sin is idolatry, and it needs to be rooted out and destroyed before it destroys us.

Our darling sin must die. Spare it not for its much crying. Strike, though it be as dear as an Isaac. Strike, for God struck at sin when it was laid upon his own Son. With stern unflinching purpose must you condemn to death that sin which was once the idol of your heart. Do you ask how you are to accomplish this? Jesus will be your power. You have grace to overcome sin given you in the covenant of grace; you have strength to win the victory in the crusade against inward lusts, because Christ Jesus has promised to be with you even unto the end. If you would triumph over darkness, set yourself in the presence of the Sun of Righteousness. There is no place so well adapted for the discovery of sin, and recovery from its power and guilt, as the immediate presence of God.

Charles Spurgeon

Life in Jesus is the only response to our sin. He is the cure and the sanctifier. He leads us towards truth. He gives us a glimpse of our deepest needs and then He fills them. In the presence of Jesus we see our sin all the more clearly and then we see them washed away by the overwhelming love He shows us. As Spurgeon said, our darling sin must die. So lets allow Jesus to remake us and cast the death blow to each and every one.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Provided For

The story of Jesus feeding the five thousand appears in all four of the gospel renditions. It had to be an event that all four authors wanted to empathize. No doubt it was a miracle of epic proportions.

In giving the people physical bread, Jesus showed that he was the compassionate provider that his people needed. By doing such a miraculous feet, Jesus showed that nothing was too big for Him to provide. Through this miracle, Jesus fulfilled more than physical needs, he demonstrated the expectation of those looking forward to a new prophet after Moses. Thinking back to the journey from Egypt to promised land, while Moses was their prophet-leader, the Israelites received manna from heaven. Jesus’ provision of bread here parallels the miracle that the Israelites experienced under Moses. The major contrast: Jesus Himself provides the bread.

Jesus can tell us to ask for our daily bread to be provided, because He is the source. And this is much more than an application to our physical needs. Jesus said that “man shall not live on bread alone but by every word that comes from the word of God. (Matt 4:4).” Not only is Jesus referred to as the bread of life (John 6:48), but he is also called the word of God become flesh (John 1:1-14). As the Bread and as the Word, Jesus is all we need for life itself both physically and spiritually.

In reading Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus reminds us that God’s care for His creation is steadfast. Flowers are arrayed in beauty and birds and fed. His desire is for us to have all we need as well. He knows how to provide for us. We just need to open up our eyes and hearts to receive it. Not only can Jesus multiply anything to provide for our needs, He may just ask for our basket of bread and fish to multiply for the needs of others.

Peace in Christ brothers and sisters.

Don’t Forfeit the Priesthood

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

‬‬ ‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭2:9‬ ‭ESV

The Dictionary definition of a priest is one especially consecrated to the service of a divinity and through whom worship, prayer, sacrifice, or other service is offered to the object of worship. He acts as an ambassador, a chosen vehicle through whom Yahweh God has chosen to serve the people and represent Him, on His behalf. It may be hard to think of yourself (if you’re a follower of Jesus) as a priest. For many, a priest is a specific position held within the church. That’s not how Jesus commissioned it. Everyone who claims allegiance to Christ is a member of the royal priesthood. Just quoting the bible like that could have gotten you executed 500 years ago, by none other than church leadership. And that’s because people have distorted and forfeited the priesthood since the beginning.

Here are a few examples from history of forfeited priesthoods:

1-Adam and Eve in the garden. The two were the first ordained priests in God’s created order. However, they took knowledge for themselves rather than relying on God’s wisdom to govern their decisions. The result was sin and exile.

2-Moses at the burning bush and at the rock. He allowed insecurities to keep him from the call of God. Moses argued with God when he first received the mission to return to Egypt. So Aaron became the voice. During the wandering in the desert, at the rock, Moses failed to give God credit for bringing forth water so he lost out on the promised land.

3-Aaron and the golden calf. He allowed the people to sway him rather than trusting in God. He didn’t lead in faithfulness, instead he followed in the peoples unfaithfulness.

4-David with Bathsheba. David was not exactly a priest but he was one who was to reflect the priestly king. However, he allowed his own selfish and lustful desires to cloud his judgement which led him into sin. He and Israel both paid the price for it.

5-The Pharisees as white washed tombs full of dead men’s bones. Jesus’ rebuked the Pharisees for failing at leading Israel. They were blind guides, led by their own self promotion and control. Jesus pointed out how they clothes themselves with godliness but inward they were corrupt.

So what does it mean for us as Christians to be a part of a royal priesthood?

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16 ESV

We can fill the role of priest through doing good. Good works, while not a means of salvation, do act as a means of demonstrating salvation. Without goodness and kindness, one should definitely question the genuineness of their faith.

Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Philippians 2:14-16 ESV

We can also be faithful to the priesthood through godly speech. Circumstances don’t dictate a Christians sense of peace. Complaining is what the world does. Speaking hope and love and peace and truth is what followers of Jesus do. Oswald Chambers said that you could measure one’s faith by how content they are. Contentment and complaining cannot coexist.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 ESV

One great way to be a priest, and often overlooked, is through purity. The world is perverted. So much so that purity is a foreign concept. Since our bodies are His temple, we should be very careful how we use it. Imagine getting drunk in God’s temple, or being sexually immoral in God’s temple. It’s un fathomable. We should be looking at ourselves in the same fashion.

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

The one overarching thing we can do is to make it all about Jesus. If He is our mission, then our words, actions, and decisions will follow suit.

As a royal priesthood, we should learn the lessons from those who have gone before us. You and I have a holy calling on our lives. Parents are priests of their home. Employees are priests of their workplace. We are all priests in the world. No one can fill your role as priest. Nor should we want that. The world needs to be led and worship. It needs to see people fully surrendered to a higher calling.

Don’t forfeit your calling brothers and sisters!

Withering or full?

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

John 15:5 ESV

When the irritation of others causes irritation in ourselves, we know the connection with the vine isn’t what it should be. We feel and act like withering grapes. I speak from experience. And this applies, obviously, to far more than irritability. When the sin of others causes us to stumble we have left the source of life in Jesus, to steer us on course. When the worldly goals and passions become our own, where is the heart of Jesus? Just as the fruit of the vine cannot receive necessary nutrition from any source other than the vine, so it is with us.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.

Colossians 1:15-16 ESV

We were made by Him and for Him. When we live outside the source of our life and purpose, we wither. Fortunately, the vine can restore the most withered of fruits in an instant. There are days when I feel dried up and in a moment, He can speak life and my heart is filled again. Be filled in Christ anew brothers and sisters!

Go in His peace.