One of the great things about most cameras today is the automatic focusing feature. I’m old enough to remember using a camera that required fiddling with a bunch of dials before snapping the picture. Most of the time, those waiting to be photographed weren’t very patient about this process, and, oftentimes, after all that effort, the photo turned out to be out of focus after all.
As children of God, it would be nice to have this automatic focusing mechanism built into our daily lives. Then, the moment our lives became blurry around the edges–from partaking of all the world has to offer, from neglecting Bible study, from participating in non-glorying-God activities–then our focus would automatically be returned to our Father, to concentrating on His plan for our lives, to living out Christ in us, “the hope of Glory” (Colossians 1:27).
However, none of us has an automatic focusing mechanism. What we do have, though, is something even better–the Word of God. Whereas something working in the background and automatically redirecting one’s focus towards God sounds good, in reality, such a device would ultimately lead to apathy and to taking God for granted. It would not adhere to the command “work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12).
God’s Word redirects our focus to Him in numerous passages of Scripture throughout the Old and New Testament. One of my favorite such verses is 2 Thessalonians 3:5: “May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.”
Have you lost your focus? Direct your heart today to the love of God. “The love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him” (1 John 4:9).
Direct your heart also to the steadfastness of Christ. “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:24).
Spending time with the Lord in daily Bible study and prayer brings clarity to our lives. It sharpens an otherwise blurry picture.
Do you remember any of the items you threw in the trash last week? Do you recall what you tied up in a plastic garbage sack, put inside a garbage can, and rolled to the curb a month ago? Probably not. They aren’t important now. That stuff is yesterday’s garbage.
That’s exactly how God treats the sins of His children. Those sins are yesterday’s garbage. Hebrews 8:12 “I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Since God is . . . well, God, it’s hard to believe He’s just going to forget this trash. As human beings, we remember our failures, our transgressions, our sins, our disobedience. Not so with God. Hebrews 10:17: “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
As difficult it is for us to accept God’s forgetfulness, one look at Scripture proves that God is both a God of forgiveness and a God of forgetfulness. Were it not so, He would have crushed Adam and Eve from the moment they believed Satan’s lie, not bothering to go looking for them, inquiring, “Adam, Where are you?” Were it not so, He would never have given the Ceremonial Law, providing cleansing from sin or the Mercy Seat for the atoning of sins. Were it not so, He would never have sent His only Son who said he was going to die an excruciating death, “for the forgiveness of sins.” Matthew 26:28.
Putting away the sin in one’s own life, is just like getting rid of any other refuse. First, it must be brought to the trash can. Bring your sins to God. Proverbs 28:15: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”
Second, it must be left there. Leave your sins with God. Hebrews 11:10-23: “. . . hold fast the confession of our faith, without wavering. . .”
Lastly, walk away. Walk away in God. 2 Peter 1:3: “His divine power has granted to us all that pertain to life and godliness.”
“I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake.” Isaiah 43:25. Why not allow Him take out the trash for you.
No one does a better job of it.
From what I could observe, none of the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness—were in evidence in their talk or in their walk.
If these characteristics were part of who they were, I didn’t see it.
For me to believe a person is truly born again, like the plant that suddenly burst forth from my flowerbed last week, these Spirit-filled qualities need to make an appearance.
Sometimes, similar to the way the plant that was hidden beneath the soil of my garden all summer, certain conditions need to be met before a person’s true godly nature can be known.
In like manner, unless God had chosen to reveal His love—an intrinsic component of who He truly is—then, we would not and, indeed, could not, have known Him. If God’s love, mercy, compassion, kindness, goodness, had stayed within God and not appeared in the form of His Son, none of us would have ever benefitted.
Without this revelation of God’s nature, all of us would be lost forever.
“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us . . . through Jesus Christ our Savior . . .” (Titus 3:4-6).
As a Spirit-filled child of God, allow the fruit of His Spirit to burst forth from you today. May those around you see what is hidden within you.
I often play a word game on my iPad called Words With Friends. It’s very much like playing Scrabble, but, unlike Scrabble, you can try as many combinations of the letter tiles as you want until your word is accepted. Sometimes, you randomly arrange the tiles, and a word you never knew existed is accepted. (Out of curiosity, I often look up the definitions of these words, thus justifying the “educational value” of playing this game.)
But, there are many other times when I arrange the tiles into a nice-sounding word and discover that it’s not a real word. When that happens, I’m frustrated and sometimes think, “But this should be a word,” or “That’s such a descriptive-looking word, it should stand for something.”
When I’m reading the Bible, I come across a slightly different frustration, but it still involves a word describing a concept.
It happens when I’m reading about what God did for me in sending His only son to suffer the punishment I deserve. The Bible calls this “love.” Romans 5:8 “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Yes, this definitely encompasses the definition of love, but it’s so much more than this. That’s why I long for a better word, a more descriptive word, a word that is not used every day, a word that is exclusive for such an act as this.
Paul often uses a variety of words to expand on God’s “love” for us in such a sacrificial act. Titus 3:4-5 says, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us . . . according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Emphasis mine)
After some meditation, I decided there is an all-encompassing word for God’s love after all, and it goes beyond “love” or any other related word.
It’s the word, “JESUS.”
The following question was posed by a young child to his grandmother when she allowed him to hold my recently released Christian fiction novel, One Night in Tehran. He quickly thumbed through the pages, handed it back to her with a note of disgust in his voice, and asked, “How can it be a real book if it doesn’t have any pictures?”
My book is full of words. There are no pictures. Can it be a real book then?
Authors who write books for young children use more images than words in their story because a child hasn’t learned to associate the printed letters on a page with objects, events, people, or emotions,. By “reading” such a book, the maturing child will gradually make the transition to fewer images and more words, eventually ending up with a book with no pictures, just words.
However, more mature readers still enjoy having pictures to help them visualize what they’re reading. I believe Jesus fully understood our innate desire to “picture” a concept through common objects. In fact, he constantly used “word pictures” to illustrate his teachings.
His word pictures—a desperate woman looking for a lost coin, a hungry boy eating corn husks, an ordinary field hiding a buried treasure—all served to mesmerize his listeners, drawing them into a story where, in the end, he could present them with Kingdom truth.
What is true for books—with or without pictures—is also true for the words we speak to one another every day. Our words serve to paint a picture, showing everyone around us, who we are and whom we serve. As we paint ourselves anew every morning, may we be like the Christ we serve and, in the end, present our listeners with Kingdom truth.
Proverbs 25:11 “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances.”