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You don’t know me?

On Monday I will be celebrating my third wedding anniversary with my wife. It’s crazy how time flies. It’s even crazier how much has happened during those three years.

But even before we were married, we dated for 4 1/2 years. So really, we’ve been together for 7 1/2 years. We’ve been friends for 8 years.

And I would say we know each other pretty well.

We may not be able to read each other’s mind every time. And I still drop the ball on what she really wants sometimes. But she knows me better than anyone else on the planet and vice-versa.

And I definitely know her well enough to know she’s not a killer.

A couple years ago a guy known as the “Craigslist Killer” was arrested for murder, robbery, and some other charges. All the while he was living with his fiance in a small apartment in the city. They had been together for over four years, and she didn’t have a clue. She swore that he was the sweetest man she knew and that he could never hurt a fly.

She was wrong. She didn’t really know him at all.

In John 14, Philip asks Jesus to show him the Father and that would be enough for him to believe what Jesus is saying. Jesus responds, “You’ve been with me all this time and you still don’t know me?”

Philip and the disciples had been with Jesus for at least 3 years. Day in and day out — traveling, eating, witnessing miracles, listening to his teachings, attending feasts and parties. They had left everything behind so that they could follow Jesus wherever he went. They knew Jesus better than anyone else on the planet.

But they didn’t know him at all.

They still didn’t get who he was or what he came to do.

However, the same question could be asked about the reader of John’s gospel. “You have been with me for so long and you still don’t know me?”

The main purpose of John’s gospel is that people may believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that by believing they may have life in his name (John 20:31). Jesus makes 7 bold I AM statements, using his words to reveal who he is and what God is doing through him. Jesus also performs 7 miracles. John calls them “signs.” Each of these sayings and signs were meant to point the audience to the true revelation of God in Jesus.

The disciples were with Jesus for 3 years. The reader (that’s you) has been with Jesus through the length of the gospel.

Have you seen Jesus? Then you’ve seen God. Do you know Jesus? Then you know God.

Way, Truth, Life

It has become less and less P.C. to speak about anything in absolutes. Good thing I follow a man who was absolutely not politically correct. Jesus would be the first to tell you that he’s not here to tell people what they want to hear — only what they need to hear.

What do people want to hear? What’s the latest PC move when it comes to religious and spiritual matters? You know the answer. If you listen to anyone who is not actually a part of any one religion (aka “spiritual but not religious”) speak on religious matters they will tell you. All paths lead to God. Buddhism, Islam, Hindu, Shinto, Judaism, Christianity, etc., are all different paths to the same god-reality.

The problem? I can think of only one religion that would support that claim. It’s called Ba’hai. You’ve probably never heard of it.

Other than that, I’ve never heard a leader or fast follower of any other religion proclaim that all religions are equal. Show me a Muslim Imam who says Christianity and Islam are essentially the same and that either one will lead you to the same God. Show me a Buddhist monk who actually believes in a god. Show me a Hindu priest that believes Christians will go to heaven when they die instead of being reincarnated as (hopefully) a Hindu.

Jesus made the statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father if not through me.” And people are surprised?

Let’s take a step back real quick.

No one comes to the Father. I would say that is a true statement. If you look through the Torah, you will see that God almost always makes first contact. What’s more, the place where God resided was completely off limits. The Most Holy Place could only be entered once a year by the High Priest and no one else. No one could come to the Father. They always had to go through someone else — a priest, a teacher, a prophet — unless God initiated.

The same is basically true in these other religions. Allah is not a God who can be approached by just anybody, much less by an infidel. In Hindu, sacrifices are made in the presence of idols, but priests still act as mediators between the gods and men. Buddhism isn’t even about approaching God or gods.

How might things be different if Jesus had phrased this statement in the positive rather than the negative? Sometimes I wish he would have said, “Everyone can now come to the Father through me.” It’s the same idea. It’s no less true than Jesus’ original words. In fact, it may be a little more true because of the way the original statement is misunderstood, misconstrued, or misrepresented.

Through Jesus the whole world can now have access to the Father. Ordinary people can approach the throne of God with boldness (Hebrews 4:16).

Do all religions teach basically the same concepts? No. A close study of these religions will reveal some similarities, yet there are some glaring, irreconcilable differences between them.

Jesus is the only man to claim that everybody on the planet can now have free and clear access to God, the Creator of the universe, through himself.

My Life in Boxes

Well, we survived the move.


We’re making good headway at getting settled into our new house and getting familiar with a new city. Moving is always one of those strange times in life. There’s the sadness of leaving a familiar place yet the excitement of discovering someplace new. It’s leaving one part of your life behind and beginning the next part. It’s an end and a beginning all in one.

And then there are the boxes.

My entire life – my clothes, my cookware, my books & dvds, my photographs & memories – all boxed up and loaded into a 22 foot truck.

It’s inevitable. Try as I might to pack boxes of similar items from the same room in order to make unpacking that much easier, by the end we were just throwing all sorts of randomness into the next freshly taped box. Kitchen, bath, living room, and master bedroom paraphernalia all sharing a moving box together which gets marked “garage.”

We all have boxes in our lives. Psychologists call them schemas. You can think of them as habits. But we have a box for school. A box for work. A box for home life. A box for friends. We even have some boxes for random items that don’t really fit anywhere else.

This is not a bad thing. In fact, if it weren’t for my morning routine box, I wouldn’t be considered functional most days. It’s just how we live, interact, access memories and make decisions.

But most of us end up having a box for God. But what makes God – God – is his inability to be boxed. He does not fit any category other than his own and nothing else fits his category. God, by his nature, is uncategorizable. He is infinitely other. That’s called holiness.

So as I continue to unpack my life from my boxes, why don’t we all try to unpack God from that box we’ve been trying to shove him into. He’s too big for it. And it’s just better that way.


For you did not receive a Spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption, by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father!” Romans 8:15

This has been one of my favorite verses for quite some time. I love the contrast between those who cry out “Abba, Father” in this verse as opposed to those who cry out “Lord, Lord” in Matthew 25.

But I have been a father for just over 6 months now. And let me tell you (just as any new parent would) that having a child of my own has illuminated this view of God. My son cries out, I come to the rescue. He hits his head, I comfort him. He smiles at me, and my heart melts.

This is how God is with us.

Jesus repeatedly refers to God as “Father,” not just in the sense that he was literally God’s Son, but in the sense that God is the Father of all those who would be his children.

I can empathize with some of the fears, doubts, and frustrations that a new Christian might face. But God is not looking to catch them red handed when they mess up. Instead, God is there to nurture them like a Father cares for his newborn son.

I know this is nothing new in thought. But it’s a completely new experience for me.


I’ve started reading the book God’s Pursuit of Man by A.W. Tozer. The first chapter is called “The Eternal Continuum.” In it, Tozer points out something that most Christians take for granted, really to our own spiritual demise.

We get that God is the eternal I AM, as he told Moses back in the day. He was and he will be. He is self-created, self-sustained, and all-powerful. He always has been, and he always will be.

This is easy for most of us to get. We can look into the past and see what he has done. We can see how he pulled us through that struggle or that hardship. He healed a grandparent, he protected our neighbor from the storm, he provided when there seemed to be zero resources. It’s easy for us to retroactively see how God works in our lives.

It’s also easy to have faith that he will work in our lives again. He will get me that job, he will bless that mission effort, he will take us where we want to ultimately end up. We have no problem dreaming up a future in which God is an active reality.

The trouble comes when we are unable to see what God is doing in the present.

Yes, God has always been and always will be. But more than that, he always IS. He’s the I AM. God is always a present reality.

It’s a good exercise to remember the ways in which God has worked in your life previously. And it’s highly commendable and appropriate to envision God’s work in your future plans. But it’s much more critical to be able to stop for a moment and live in the present.

This moment.

This breath.

This heartbeat.

This is the only true time we have in which to experience God. Right now.

Take some time throughout your day to reflect on how God is working in the present. Through that movie. Through that book. Through this friend. Through Facebook. Through your coworker. Through the words on this screen.

Why has God brought you to this place at this moment? What is God doing right now?

God is eternal. This life is not. But the kicker is that the present is the only point at which the eternal intersects this finite world.

What is the Great I AM doing in your present? This moment is the only time in which you are guaranteed to fully experience the power of God.

Are You There, God?

[My wife and I had a conversation about this the other day. She had some really good thoughts that got me thinking more about the subject. She’s pretty amazing like that.]


It seems simple enough. I can look around at the world and the universe and know in my gut that someone had to be behind it all. I can read the Bible and believe it’s claims that the Creator of the universe wants to have a relationship with me. My heart tells me that I am loved and that I am a part of something much greater than myself.

But what happens when the love I have for my Creator doesn’t feel requited.

What are we to do when everything around us is darkness and chaos, yet God is silent?

“If God would just speak to me like He used to speak to people, it would all be better. I would be able to fully trust and believe Him. Since I would know exactly what He wants me to do, I could better follow and serve Him. Just talk to me, God!”

I think most of God’s people think something like this sooner or later. It seems like a legit complaint. There are times when God seems distant and all we want is to hear His voice. If He would just speak to us, then everything would somehow get magically better.

But would it?

Humanity doesn’t have a very good track record when it comes to direct contact with our Creator.

Adam and Eve lived and walked with God in the garden. They still ate the fruit.

Noah was saved directly by the hand of God. He still passed out drunk and naked.

Abraham was God’s chosen man through whom He would bless all peoples of the earth. He still lied…twice.

Moses was in almost constant contact with YHWH for 40 years. He still had an anger problem.

David was anointed by God to be king. He still became a murderer, adulterer, and a liar.

Elijah was God’s chosen prophet by whom Ba’al was defeated. He still battled depression.

God told Jonah exactly what he was supposed to do. He still ran in the opposite direction.

Are you noticing a trend? Whether or not God speaks directly to you, that won’t make you any less human. It won’t make you any less angry, or afraid, or stubborn. It won’t magically make all your problems disappear.

Let’s look at one more example.

At the end of John’s gospel, we get to listen in on a conversation between Peter and the resurrected Christ.

Peter, do you love me unconditionally? [agapao]

Yes, Lord, I love you like a brother. [phileo]

Peter, do you love me unconditionally? [agapao]

Yes, Lord, I love you like a brother. [phileo]

Peter, do you [even] love me like a brother? [phileo]

Yes, Lord, you know I love you like a brother. [phileo] (John 21:15-17; my translation)

Peter was staring God in the face, looking into the very eyes of the Creator of the universe, and could not bring himself to say that he loved him unconditionally. He could only say that he loved him like a brother.

Fast forward a few decades. Peter is now writing a letter to Christians scattered across Asia minor. They were most likely 2nd generation Christians by now, far removed from Jerusalem and the time of Jesus. All they have to go on is the stories and testimonies of others. They haven’t seen Jesus or heard the voice of God. Look what Peter writes:

You love him unconditionally [agapao] though you have not seen him. And though not seeing him now, you believe in him and rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy…” 1 Peter 1:8

Talk about swallowing your pride. I can bet that Peter never forgot that conversation with Jesus on the shoreline. He was looking right at the resurrected Christ and couldn’t say that he loved him unconditionally. But now he is commending these Christians on their faith. They love him unconditionally even though they never even saw Jesus.

I can imagine some tears welling up as he pens those words.

Peter would be the first to tell us that hearing God’s voice directly doesn’t make it all better. It doesn’t take away our faults and our frustrations. It doesn’t replace heartache with happiness.

Only full submission can do that.

Peter wrote a few verses earlier that through God’s power, we have already been given everything we need for life and godliness. We just have to listen.

Merciful Punishment: Reflections on the Good Judge

It’s sad but true. To the average person, even the average Christian, YHWH of the Old Testament and Theos of the New seem to be two completely different persons. Most associate the God of the OT with rules and regulations who dished out wrath and punishment if disobeyed. Meanwhile, they view the God of the NT as a God of love and forgiveness who tosses grace and mercy like candy flung from a float in the Independence Day Parade.

I will grant that God’s dealings with humans seems to be a bit more direct and immediate in the days of Moses and Elijah. But is His character really that different? Some of His punishments do seem a bit harsh, but is there more to them than just the surface level understanding?

The teacher of the adult class on Sunday morning briefly mentioned the infamous Bathsheba incident. David rapes and impregnates the wife of his friend and officer. To cover it up, he has him sent to the front lines and killed, thus freeing himself to take Bathsheba as his own wife. Adultery, murder, lies–doesn’t he know the Big 10?

Anyway, God calls David out through Nathan the prophet. Caught red handed. Nowhere to run; nowhere to hide. David said it himself that he deserves to die. So God strikes him dead then and there.

Wait…no he doesn’t. The punishment is carried out on the child. This is enough to get most people stirring in their seats. Is God really a baby killer? Egyptians, sure. King Herod, of course. But God?

This bothered me. It still bothers me. But God is God and I am not. His ways are higher than my ways.

Let’s take a deeper look into this punishment. Is there any mercy in it?


If God had killed David instead of the baby:

  • Israel would be without a leader. Division would run rampant and would certainly tear the country to pieces. That happens later, but Israel wouldn’t come close to the golden era of Solomon.
  • Bathsheba would be a widowed single mother. She would have nothing. Begging or prostitution would likely be her only options to support herself and her child.
  • The child would have grown up with the label of the king’s bastard child and the son of a whore. Any hope of having a normal childhood and making any sort of living for himself would be a long shot to say the least.
But God, in His infinite wisdom, chose to spare David’s life and take the child. So the baby got to go directly to heaven (I believe baby’s are innocent, so when they die, their souls are automatically taken to be with God). Bathsheba became a queen instead of a widow. The nation of Israel continued thrive under their greatest king to date. Bathsheba gave David even more sons, one of whom became heir to the throne and ushered in Israel’s golden age.
Okay, so this is one example in which God’s punishment is also infused with mercy. But there are many, many more.
  • God could have struck Adam and Eve dead on the spot and started all over. But He killed animals in their place to make proper clothing to cover their shame and nakedness. They still lived a long life outside of the garden, started a family, and still remained close to God.
  • Cain killed his brother in cold blood. Rather than taking a life for a life, God put a mark on Cain and sent him away. But further reading reveals that Cain eventually got married, started a family, and established his own city.
  • When Israel began its conquest into the promised land, God was essentially using them as a tool for carrying out His punishment against the Canaanites. Yet if the land’s inhabitants would simply believe in the power of YHWH and repent, God was more than willing to spare their lives. Hence, Rahab and her family were the only Jericho survivors.
God is called the righteous judge because His sentences, His punishments, are naturally infused with mercy. Next time you read through the Law and the Prophets, look for the mercy within the narratives of wrath and punishment. You’ll be surprised by what you find.

God hates….?

I’m sure most of you have heard of the Westoboro Baptist Church, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the last decade or so. In which case, stop it! There are much more comfortable places to live.

This small group of mostly relatives “worships” in Topeka, Kansas, and protests, well, just about everywhere else. There is a documentary I watched recently, Fall From Grace, which follows and interviews members of this church. The travel around the country protesting and picketing at different events (including military funerals) and places (including synagogues and other churches). One of their most common three-word-signs is “God Hates Fags.” And I hate using that word. It pains me to type it.

That’s a strong accusation. They blame homosexuality for most of the catastrophes and hardships that befall the US, such as Katrina and 9/11.

The most unfortunate thing is that these people are not the only so-called Christians who have bought into the lie that God hates homosexuals. I have heard the same rhetoric from televangelists, evangelical pastors, even some of my own brothers in Christ.

But does God really hate homosexuals? In fact, does God hate anybody?

Not according to the Bible.

I did a search for any passage in which God specifically says that He hates something/someone. I could only find the phrase “I hate” spoken by God in the prophets. And who are the prophets mostly railing against? The corrupt religious leaders and complacent followers.

Most of the things God hates include festivals, worship assemblies, and sacrifices which are carried out by people who mistreat, oppress, and exploit their fellow man. One thing we can be sure of is that God hates the worship of those who practice injustice.

The only other thing I could find that God specifically says that he hates is…divorce. God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16). He hates it when men mistreat their wives. They are unpleased by their wives, so they dump them on the side of the road without a penny to their name and no way of making a living. God hates divorce.

He doesn’t hate people who are divorced. He simply hates to see His covenant taken lightly and then broken.

If the Westboro Baptist Church wanted to picket and protest divorce court, I think they would have a more biblical basis for their actions. But only if they preached and worshiped while practicing justice and righteousness, which I don’t see them doing any time soon.

God loves covenental relationships. Marriage is the first covenant established between God and man. And God hates to see his covenants tossed aside as if they didn’t matter.

On Creation

Right from the start of Genesis, we see that God is a creator, a craftsman. He made the earth with purpose and intentionality. Therefore, everything He creates has meaning and value.

Next, we see that God does not rule from afar. He enters the darkness and faces the chaos head on. Redemption is embedded in the very fabric of creation.

Now it’s time for a bit of a side note. If you were like me, you probably sang as a child some little song about the days of creation. “Day one, day one, God made light when there was none…”

But then something happened. As I grew older, I started learning more about the “science” behind “creation.” Apparently, sometime in the last hundred years or so, believing in a young earth and the literal 24 hour days of creation became a major tenant of the Christian faith. For some, at least.

I was taught that the 6 days of creation were exactly 144 hours. No more. No less. To suggest otherwise was borderline heresy. I was also taught that the earth was not any more than 6,000 years old, and science could prove it. Carbon dating and the fossil record just had to be wrong because they didn’t support what the Bible obviously claims to be fact.

Before you go grabbing your torches and pitchforks, let me just say that I truly believe the God absolutely has the power to create an entire universe in 144 hours. He very well could have created the earth to look older than it actually is, just as he created Adam and Eve as adults and not babies.

Here’s my word of caution: Genesis 1 is a poem.

Let me say it again so it sinks in. The opening chapter of the Bible is POETRY. It’s not historical narrative like the rest of Genesis. It’s not a section of the Law, like Leviticus. It’s poetry, like the Psalms.

I think it’s really cool how Rob Bell breaks down this poem in his video Everything is Spiritual.

Is my faith threatened by the theory of evolution? Nope. Do I feel the need to take up arms against proponents of the big bang? Not at all.

Here’s why: I look around and I see how much science has changed over the last thousand years. We went from thinking the earth was flat and the center of the universe to putting men on the moon. Every year, scientists and researchers are discovering new and better information than we previously had. Scientific “facts” are always changing and evolving. Things we took for granted 100 years ago have shifted and taken on new forms. How much more so in the next 100, 500, or 1000 years?

And yet Genesis 1 will always say, “Let there be light.”

God has given human beings the capacity to explore our world and the universe around us. If he made it all, then why would he be threatened by anything we discover or by any new theories we might develop along the way?

Genesis 1 is a poem, the true depth of which is far greater than 144 hours of creation or the young earth theory. It is a poem about power, community, empowerment, and love.


It is my general understanding that almost everything we need to know about God can be discovered within the opening chapters of the Bible. Genesis 1-11 are some of the most controversial, most hotly debated chapters in Scripture. Are they literal 24 hour days during creation? Was there really a Garden in Eden? Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? How could Noah fit all the animals on the ark? Could there really have been a global flood?

Many of these narratives have been passed off as Sunday school flannel board stories. Rarely do we revisit these chapters as adults to try and figure out why are they in the Bible? Why did God choose to open the most important book in all of human history with such outrageous sounding stories? Or maybe they’re not so outrageous if we just tweak our own modern/postmodern worldview a bit.

So let’s begin in the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 — “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Thus begins the greatest story ever told.

Now for a little English lesson. The verb in this sentence is “created.” The subject of the sentence is “God.” The Bible begins by letting us know that God’s first act in history was creating. Now, I can go outside, nail some wood together, and build a birdhouse. Then I can come inside, mix up some flour, sugar, etc. and bake a cake. I can then proceed to pick up and clean up around the house to get things in order. But at the end of the day I have not “created” anything.

When God creates, He is intentional, He is purposeful, and His creation is perfect. God’s act of creating brings to mind an artist who slaves over mixing just the right color and using just the right brush stroke until his masterpiece is completed. Hours upon hours may be spent in the tedious labor, but the end result is a priceless work of art that can never be replicated.

If you look back into other creation stories at the time this was written, you’ll see a themes of chaos (roaring oceans and terrible storms) or battles between other gods or some other way in which the earth was simply an accidental by-product of some disaster.

But in this story, a singular God took his own time to create, purposefully and intentionally, the heavens and the earth and everything between and within.

Just reflect on this verse for a moment.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

In the beginning

God created

the heavens and the earth.

Our God is not a god to be feared and appeased but one to be worshiped and embraced. He is not up there somewhere looking for an excuse to strike us down or destroy the world. That would be as absurd as Leonardo da Vinci throwing darts at the Mona Lisa or Michaelangelo taking a jackhammer to David.

In Ephesians 2:10, Paul tells us that we are God’s poiema, from which we get our word poem. We are his workmanship, his creation, his masterpiece. Every single person is God’s creation. That means that you and I and everyone of the 6 billion people on this earth has value, has meaning, has a purpose.

If that’s not good news, I don’t know what is. All I know is that in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and you and me.