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My God, my God, why have you deserted me? Why are you so far away? Won’t you listen to my groans and come to my rescue? Psalms 22:1 (CEV)

There’s an old saying that ‘when a plane is going down, there are no atheists’. When death stares us in the face; when the crisis seems too big to bear; when we feel completely alone, abandoned and helpless, our thoughts turn to God, or at least to some supreme, higher power.

The words of Psalm 22 are referred to as a ‘Messianic Psalm’. This means that the words of the Psalmist, words written hundreds of years before Christ was born, look forward to his coming and to his suffering in our behalf.

While this is true, it’s important that we remember the original context of the words. This was a Psalm of confession. This was a Psalm of honesty and desperation. After all, where is God in our deepest need? It’s easy to find him when things go well. It’s easy to sense his presence when the bills are paid, our children’s grades are good and the report from the doctor is positive. But where is he when none of those things apply? Even in the midst of his despair the Psalmist acknowledged his faith in God. Even during the darkest night he reaffirmed his confidence that God would see him through.

At times God seems distant and unconcerned about our plight here on earth, but that is not true. He loves us and as any loving father desperately wants a love relationship with us. There are times however when his distance is not because he has moved but because we have moved away from him. Sin is the primary culprit when we feel God’s distance.

While Jesus had no sin in him these words were some of the final words Jesus spoke from the cross. During those final hours he addresses his father as ‘My God’. There is no other place that I can think of in scripture where Jesus addresses God as ‘My God’. Everywhere else he talks about ‘His Father’. But when sin enters the picture (not his but mine) the intimate phrase of ‘Father’ is replaced by the term ‘My God.’

It was sin that kept the fathers back turned to his own son. Not because of his lack of love but because his holiness doesn’t allow him to look on sin.

It was sin caused the feelings of utter despair and separation within the very soul of the savior. Sin drives a wedge in the relationship. Sin replaces our feelings of love with fear and emptiness, just as it did with Adam and Eve in the garden.

Sin does the same thing today. Sin, but whatever name we call it can not be a part of a healthy, secure relationship with the living God. While sin separates us from God, it doesn’t have to be that way. The feelings of separation Jesus felt in his dying moments paved the way to a deeper relationship with God.

Jesus felt the separation sin caused because he knew the Father and he knew when the Father’s presence was missing. You may remember a time in your life when God seemed real, but time and circumstances have taken that from you. There’s still hope. God hasn’t forsaken you. Sin may have clouded your vision of him. Forgiveness is still there for you. The relationship can be restored. And it’s all because of Jesus.

PRAYER: God, I remember a time in my life when you were real to me. I felt your power. I knew your presence. Like the little boy in ‘The Polar Express’, I heard the bells. But today I feel distant from you. Examine my heart. Show me where I’ve sinned. Forgive me now and restore our relationship through Jesus Christ. Amen.

The ways of God are without fault. The Lord’s words are pure. He is a shield to those who trust him. Psalm 18:30 (NCV)

We all want to believe in a God of love. Even the atheist wishes there was a God. To them the God they wish they saw simply doesn’t exist based on the perception of how they want the world to operate. In order to ‘not believe in God’ they have a picture in their minds of the God they don’t believe in, a God they wish they had.

The agnostic doubts the existence of the God in their mind. They, like the atheist, evaluate the ‘evidence’ they have gathered in their minds. Their ‘God-picture’ is too fuzzy to know for sure if it exists. They may hope there is a God, but the God of their own definition.

When God doesn’t do what we want him to do it’s never easy to handle. It never has been. When that happens we can react by getting angry with God and give up on this thing we call faith. We can question his actions, his existence, his love for us, or the truth of his word. That doesn’t change who God is, it changes who we are.

We can get angry with ourselves or give up on us. We can tell ourselves God’s demands are too great. We convince ourselves that his ways are irrelevant, or rationalize our way through life by saying things like: “I’m better than they are; I can worship him on my own (which usually means not at all); If he really did love me he would….” But getting angry with ourselves only robs us of the joy we can have through Jesus.

We can blame others. Take God out of the picture completely. If they hadn’t done this, I’d be okay. I get no respect here, I can’t [do my job; get good grades; be the parent I should be; succeed] in this environment because of they way ‘they’ treat me.

But when God doesn’t act the way we want there is one more thing we can do. It’s the hardest of all to do because it can go against everything our finite, human minds tell us to do. When God doesn’t do things the way we want him to we may have to admit the maybe, just maybe, he knows more about this journey called life than we do.

He’s walked the road you’ve walked. He’s prepared the way for you. He never promised a care-free life here on earth, but he promised to walk with you through illness, divorce, financial collapse, natural disasters, and even your own failures and mistakes.

His ways are without fault, but sometimes they are also without understanding. That doesn’t change who he is, it only offers you an opportunity to grow in faith that he will do what he says he’ll do.

PRAYER: Father God, help me to grow in faith during those times I don’t understand your ways. Keep me from anger towards you, myself or others when things don’t go as I wish. Help me to lean on your words and trust you for my protection. In your name, Amen.

In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16

What is God like? Is he an old man who’s completely lost touch with the new things of the world? Is he some irrelevant being or concept that has no real bearing on life in the twenty-first century? Perhaps he’s an angry, vindictive being set on making our lives fearful, miserable and guilt-ridden? Or a God of feeble love, making demands and then changing his mind because he wants everyone to be happy. Maybe, as some think, he’s dead!

There have been many scholars, smart men and women, who have devoted the better part of their lives to proving God’s existence, or his demise; who’ve tried to prove he’s involved in everything, or in nothing at all. But when Jesus walked on earth, he never spent any of his time trying to prove his Father’s existence. Instead his whole life on earth was filled with proving what God is like.

How did Jesus do that? By giving the blind man sight; telling the woman guilty of adultery she was forgiven and not condemned; by pleading with those who were set in their sinful ways or depending on religion to get them through, to come to a relationship of love with God. The list goes on. Healing of the little girl; the raising of his best friend from the dead; reaching out to the homeless; showing kindness to the leper and the widow. Jesus didn’t prove the existence of God, he lived it.

As Christ-followers we shouldn’t waste our time in silly arguments over the existence of God or what he is like. Stop telling the people around you what God likes or dislikes; hates or loves or accepts or rejects. Instead show them what God is like.

Show kindness and acceptance of the person who is of a different sexual orientation. Spend some time in jail (your choice, not the judicial departments!) sharing the love of Christ with those who are there; be kind and polite to the server at the restraint who still hasn’t brought your coffee; be faithful to your spouse; speak without criticism or cussing and swearing; act in love when others react in hate; accept those who reject you; pray for the person you hate more than anyone in the world; stay away from ‘questionable jokes’ and the porn sites.

We weren’t sent here to prove that God exists. He doesn’t need our help in that regard. We were sent here to make such a difference in our world that even the atheist will praise God for our existence!

PRAYER: Father God, Thank you for the example Jesus left us of your love, acceptance and character. As I walk my way today, I ask that the actions I take and the interactions I have with people would leave them in an attitude that says “He/she is what God is like!” And when I get opportunity, empower me to speak your words of love and acceptance when I’d rather spew judgment and criticism. Amen.

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fool.  Romans 1:21-22

Relationship is an interesting thing. The more one puts into it, the more they get out of it. First of all, we need to define ‘relationship.’ In a relationship, both parties benefit from being together. If only one person’s needs are being met it’s not a relationship. It’s an arrangement.

It’s sad to say, but many marriages never get to the ‘relationship’ stage. As a result one person feels like they give and give and give with nothing in return. Eventually the stress is too much and divorce (either emotional or physical) happens.

The same is true in our spiritual lives with God. Many people believe in God or a god of some sort. But knowing God or about God and being in relationship with God are completely different. Compare it to a physical love relationship.

What does a perfect love relationship look like to you? Don’t you think constantly about the other person? You go to work. You go about the mundane tasks of life. You hang with friends, deliver the kids to soccer practice and fold the laundry. But in the back of your mind there is always that thought of the person you love.

The same is true in our spiritual lives. The God of the universe earnestly desires a passionate love relationship with you. But relationship with God, like any relationship is a two-way street. Our Father God has given everything for us, even his only Son, Jesus. What does he want in return? Our love. Love shown through obedience to the things we know we should do. Love that is shown through avoiding the things we know are wrong.

When love is given and not returned we call it being ungrateful. When we are ungrateful to God for his blessings it makes our hearts insensitive to his desire to draw us to himself. We show ingratitude by compartmentalizing our lives. God is good on Sundays. God is looked to in the face of adversity or severe trial. As one pundit remarked, “When a jetliner is going down, there are no atheists on board!”

The longer we live lives that are ungrateful to God, the more our hearts grow insensitive to God and his leading. Will God still bless us? Sometimes, but those blessings may not satisfy. We can receive outward blessing and still harbor inner turmoil. Turmoil that we seek to fill with other gods like financial security, new ‘relationships’, social action, or religion.

Your Father God in heaven is real. He earnestly desires to have a relationship, not an arrangement with you. Part of that process is showing him living gratitude in your thoughts, words and actions.

PRAYER: Father God. I don’t want to be one of those who never shows my gratitude for all you’ve done for me. Forgive me for following my own way and expecting your blessing when I’m really being ungrateful.  Empower me with your Spirit to enter into a passionate love relationship with you. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

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July 2022
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