Practice Being God

You Are Never More God-like Than When You Show Mercy

We are never more like God than when rivers of mercy are springing up from within and freely flowing out of our lives, drenching others in the same deep, healing, inexhaustible love and kindness of God that once flooded our lives.

The Journey: Matthew 5:6

God blesses those who are merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

When a Christian really understands and then begins to organically live as a mercy giver, he or she “practices being God”. Now don’t worry, this is not some new-age theology that I’m promoting; it is simply an apt description for what biblical mercy is, and how biblical mercy acts.

That description, “practices being God”, was first used by Clement of Alexandria, a third century leader in the early church and one of its most notable thinkers. It really is an apt description because to be merciful means to have the same attitude God has toward people, to think as God thinks about people, to feel as God feels for people, and to act as God acts toward people.

In other words, we are never more like God than when rivers of mercy are springing up from within and freely flowing out of our lives, drenching others in the same deep, healing, inexhaustible love and kindness of God that once flooded our lives.

Keep in mind that mercy goes beyond emotional waves of pity and compassion and sorrow for others in their weakness. Rather, mercy means getting right into the skin of another in order to see things through their eyes, think things through their mind, feel things with their feelings—and then, to act accordingly in redemptive kindness. Mercy is proactive, personal, practical loving-kindness that immerses us in the weakness, sin, and suffering of others in order to lift them out of it. As Andrew Murray said, “Mercy saves the sinner, not in spite of, but by means of, the very judgment that came upon his sin.”

That is the very same kind of mercy that God extended to us through Jesus when he crawled into human skin and lived as one of us. Jesus took on our flesh, experienced our weakness, knew what it was like to be tempted, disappointed, rejected, betrayed and to suffer as we do. He experienced what we were like so that we could experience what God was like. He became the Son of man so that we could become the sons of God. He endured life on earth so that we could experience heaven on earth, and some day, heaven in heaven for all eternity.

In other words, mercy is simply acting in ways that brings God close to people in order to bring people close to God. That is how showing mercy becomes our call to the practice of being God.

So how can you practice being God with the people in your world? Here are three suggestions:

  1. Practice being more understanding. That will require you to be more patient, to listen more carefully, and to be more tolerant and less condemning of weaknesses. That’s what crawling into another person’s skin will do for you, as opposed to getting under their skin!
  2. Practice being more redemptive. That will require you to be more forgiving and sacrificially committed to reconciling with those who’ve hurt, disappointed, disagreed with or angered you.
  3. Practice being more generous. That will require you to open up your life—your time, your home, and yes, your resources—to be ridiculously open-handed with others.

Just remember, you are never more like God than when demonstrating God’s mercy. You are practicing being God. And Jesus says you will be blessed!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, you have been so merciful to me. Your lovingkindness never ceases, you mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. Now give me the same grace to act no less mercifully to the people you have place in my world.

Ruthless Trust

When In Doubt, Look Up, Smile And Trust

Doubt is the number one strategy Satan uses to disrupt, weaken and ultimately destroy our faith in God. If he can get us to question the goodness and sufficiency of God and his Word, then our spirituality will be dead in the water. The number one defense against Satan’s strategy to destroy your faith is trust—ruthless, radical trust in God’s care and competence.

The Journey: Matthew 4:3

During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become loaves of bread.”

From the Word of God in general, from human experience—mine and other people I’ve witnessed over the years—and from this story in particular, I could make a pretty strong case that doubt is the number one strategy Satan uses in our lives to disrupt, weaken and ultimately destroy our faith in God. If he can get us to question the goodness and sufficiency of God and his Word, then our spirituality will be dead in the water.

Every time the devil came at Jesus with a temptation, the very first word was “if” — “if you are the Son of God…if you will kneel and worship me…” (Matthew 4:3,5,9) Behind Satan’s enticements was the goal of getting Jesus to question God’s care and competence as well as his identity as the cherished Son of God.

That is exactly what Satan will do to you—most likely even today. He will cause a question to arise in your mind as to the reliability of God’s Word, the dependability of God’s love, the sufficiency of God’s supply, and the truthfulness of your unmovable place as a cherished child of God. Just like clockwork, the “if” question will be sown as a seed of doubt in your spirit before the day is out.

The number one defense against Satan’s strategy to destroy your faith is trust—ruthless trust. Each occasion in which Jesus was hit with the big “if” was met with a return to what was unquestionable, unshakable and immovable—the Word of God. Jesus’ answer to the assault on his faith? “Scripture says…” (Matthew 4:4,7,10) Jesus stood on the promises of Scripture, knowing that obedience to it was the only way to God’s provision (“man shall not live by bread alone”), true spiritual muscle (“jump off” and prove your divine power), and ceaseless kingdom authority (“all the kingdoms of the world will be yours”).

Trust—ruthless trust. No assault from the enemy can penetrate it, and no temptation, regardless of the power of its enticement, can hold a candle against it. So no matter what, lean into God’s Word today—there is nothing in all creation as reliable. Trust in God’s character—his care and competence have never been proven impotent. Wait patiently for his provision—it will never lack the satisfaction you truly need.

And by the way, when you respond to temptation with ruthless trust, not only do you punch Satan in the nose, but you give a priceless gift to God. I love what Brennan Manning says in his book, Ruthless Trust,

The splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it…Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic.

So throughout the day today, look up, smile, and trust!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, today I simply offer you my trust. I don’t understand how you will use everything that I am facing for my good, but I will go with your care and competence. I trust that you will care for me, and that you will carry me.

Temptation: Our Masters of Divinity

Never Let Satan Weaken Your Confidence In God

Masters in Divinity—that’s what Martin Luther called his temptations. No believer enjoys facing them, but within each temptation resides the very real potential of a faith-strengthening, character-refining, sin-crushing victory. Truly temptation is, or should be, the Christian’s Masters of Divinity.

The Journey: Matthew 4:1-3

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted there by the devil. For forty days and forty nights he fasted and became very hungry. During that time the devil came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God…”

Masters in Divinity—that’s what Martin Luther called his temptations. No believer enjoys facing them, but within each temptation resides the very real potential of a faith-strengthening, character-refining, sin-crushing victory. Truly temptation is, or should be, the Christian’s Masters of Divinity. John Quincy Adams said it well, “Every temptation is an opportunity of our getting nearer to God.”

Even Jesus faced temptation. It’s interesting, profound really, when you think about it, that Satan knew who Jesus was—God the Son—yet tempted him anyway. Satan once resided as Lucifer, one of the chief angels, in the presence of the Holy Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. So when Jesus became God the incarnate Son, Satan, knowing perfectly well of his divine nature, unleashed a torrent of enticements anyway that were designed to derail God’s plan of salvation by knocking Jesus irremediably off course. Now, to be certain, if the very Son of God had to endure an onslaught of Satanic temptation, you and I will too.

It is also of interest that Satan didn’t tempt Jesus with obvious evil. Three times he attempted to entice Jesus to sin with subtle, sane, and spiritual sounding goodies. That’s because the devil is the master of subtlety. He didn’t come to Jesus dressed in a red suit and pointed tail, pitchfork in hand, luring him to commit murder or to steal a bag full of money. These temptations were to gain what seemed good by sacrificing what was best. Likewise, when Satan tempts you, the bait he sets in front of you will be subtle, sane, and seemingly spiritual.

Subtle: Expect the temptations you face today to be quite subtle. Satan’s stock-in-trade is deception, which is what makes temptation so effective. Jesus called him “the father of lies”, and he has gotten pretty good at it over the millennia. That’s why the bible calls us to constant alertness. So watch and be on guard for enticements that will be just slightly off center from God’s will.

Sane: When Satan tempted Jesus, the Lord had just come off a forty day fast. He was at the limit of what the human body could endure. He was hungry, he was physically weak and emotionally depleted. Satan was simply suggesting that Jesus ought to use his God-prerogatives to satisfy a legitimate physical necessity—and he was dangling Scripture in front of him as justification. Your temptations today will likely be quite easy to justify, which is exactly why they are so dangerous. Be careful, be prayerful, and be armed with God’s Word on the matter.

Seemingly Spiritual: Jesus was called to be the Messiah of the Jews, and what better way to jumpstart his ministry than by hang-gliding from highest point of the temple in Jerusalem—without the hang-glider! What a great way to show off his God-powers and impress the people he was called to lead. Ultimately, Jesus was called to be the Lord and Savior of the world. Why not fast-track that plan by allowing Satan to hand deliver all the nations of the world to him in an instant? No fuss, no muss! The problem was, however, that each of these temptations would have meant depending on himself to get his needs met rather than trusting in God’s provision, timing and plan. That is perhaps the most foundational and most common temptation of all—to trust in anything or anyone other than God to get your needs and wants met.

You will be hit with temptation in the same way today—just count on it! It will be subtle, it will seem sane, and probably, it will sound incredibly spiritual. So be on guard—sin is crouching at your door. But it is not inevitable that you will succumb to it. Jesus didn’t—which means that you don’t have to either. Jesus knew the Word and will of God better than Satan, and so do you. That’s one of the blessings of reading and praying through the Gospels this year, as you are doing.

Likewise, since Jesus overcame his battle with temptation, he stands at the ready to help you in your battle. Just ask him for his help—he is more than willing to come alongside you. Hebrews 2:17-18 reminds us,

For this reason Jesus had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

So when sin comes knocking at your door today, just send Jesus to answer it.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

Jesus, you taught me to pray, “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from the Evil One. So that is the prayer I offer up to you. Make me victorious over sin today.[/callout

There’s So Much More!

Jesus Came To Baptize You With The Holy Spirit And Fire

God wants to do so much more in and through our lives than just forgive us and remove our guilt – as wonderful as that it. Don’t be content to live just righteously enough to stay out of hell. If that is what you are doing, then you are living on the edge of the promised land of power in the holding pen of pardon. Jesus came to baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire so that you could do God’s work on Planet Earth. And that’s just the beginning!

The Journey: Matthew 3:11

I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

Some people get stuck at pardon and never move beyond it. God wants us to move forward in power and join him in the great reclamation project of redeeming mankind and restoring creation to his rule.

Now don’t get me wrong, forgiveness is a wonderful thing. What a gift of mercy and grace to be cleansed from sin and pardoned from guilt, but that is just the beginning! God wants to do so much more in us and through our lives than just forgive us and remove our guilt.

Unfortunately, some Christian’s don’t get that and are content to live just righteously enough to stay out of hell. In a sense, they live on the edge of the promised land of power in the holding pen of pardon. What low expectations!

John the Baptist’s work in preparation for the arrival of Jesus was simply to call people to repentance of sins. To prove their willingness and demonstrate their obedience, John baptized them in water. That was a very significant marker in the life of the believer; a public statement to the initial commitment they had made in response to God’s invitation to salvation. So important was this act that Jesus himself submitted to it (Matthew 3:15, NLT), and then told his disciples that their commission was to lead other people into it (Matthew 28:19, NLT).

But John didn’t stop with baptism unto repentance. He preached that Jesus would take people to the next step; Jesus would take them way beyond by baptizing them with the Holy Spirit and with fire. In other words, Jesus would baptize his followers with the very same power that enabled him to be the Agent of creation, the Lord of life, the Savior of the world, the Master over sin, sickness, death, all the powers of the unseen realm and all of the physical elements of the seen world, and the King of Kings for all eternity. Yes, Jesus would impart to all who would follow him that very same power in the Person of the Holy Spirit.

It would be through the person of the Holy Spirit, fully dwelling in the believer that Jesus would empower his followers to do the same works he performed and proclaim the same words he preached, calling the rest of un-redeemed mankind to repentance and restoration as God’s very own children. Furthermore, through the same empowering of the Spirit, Jesus would baptize with fire. Fire represented cleansing, purity and judgment in the Bible. The baptism of fire that Jesus would bring would purify God’s people to be his very own family, and would bring those who refused under the righteous judgment of God at the proper time.

Now isn’t that so much more than just forgiveness? Isn’t that far better than simply living in the holding pen of pardon? Jesus has a life of purpose for you far beyond what your university degree or your current career or your bank account or anything else can give you. Through the Holy Spirit, he will empower you to do God’s work on Planet Earth!

That sounds so much more exciting to me than merely living my life just so I avoid hell. I don’t know about you, but I want Jesus to baptize me again today in the Holy Spirit’s power and fire. I want to be emboldened and purified to do God’s work for him today on this planet.

How about you?

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

Jesus, you directly challenged me to ask the Father for the same Holy Spirit that empowered you to do your mighty works. And you promised, “how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.” So I ask you for a fresh baptism today: drench me with the Holy Spirit!

When Saying You’re Sorry Isn’t Enough

True Repentance Leaves No Regret

True repentance is more than saying “sorry”, feeling guilty about failure, or fearing the wrath to come. The kind of repentance that produces the fruit of righteousness requires that we understand our actions and attitudes have offended a holy God, that we experience a corresponding godly sorrow, and that we take action that leads to a 180 degree change in our sinful behavior. That’s the kind of repentance that “leads to salvation and leaves no regret.”

The Journey: Matthew 3:8

Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.

Repentance is one of those double-edged swords in the Christian’s life. The fact that we need to repent reveals the unfortunate presence of ongoing sin in our lives, yet at the same time it reveals the fortunate grace of a righteous God who has made it possible for us to repent of what should rightly bring down his punishment upon us.

Repentance, however, is a highly misunderstood concept, especially in our day. I have a sense that many people feel sorry for their sins simply out of the guilt that doing wrong naturally produces or the pain of sin’s consequence or even the fear of impending punishment. But that kind of incomplete repentance runs the risk, as John Bunyan warned, “that makes the heart yet harder and harder.”

Now don’t get me wrong, guilt, pain and fear are good motivators—if they lead us to true repentance. But true repentance is more than saying “sorry”, feeling guilty about failure, or fearing the wrath to come. Authentic Biblical repentance, the kind that produces fruit, as John the Baptist preached, requires that we understand that our actions and attitudes have offended a holy God, that we experience a corresponding godly sorrow, and that we take action that leads to a 180 degree change in our sinful behavior.

I think Paul captured the essence of true repentance when he wrote,

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. See what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what concern, what readiness to see justice done. (2 Corinthians 7:10-11)

Perhaps a good assignment for today’s reading would be to think about any recent “repentance” you have offered to God, and run it through the filter of Paul’s words. See if the confession of your sin can stand the test of true repentance.

If it does, congratulations—spiritual fruit will be the result. If it doesn’t, I think you know what to do.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I often feel guilty for the wrong I have done, sorry that I made a mistake, and fearful of the consequences of my sin. Thank you for the gift of conscience. But I want to go beyond that; I want to offer you a truly repentant heart. In your mercy, give me the gift of godly sorrow that leads to repentance.

What God Has Birthed

No Disappointment Can Stop What God Has Started

King Herod couldn’t destroy the infant Jesus 2,000 years ago, and right now, no ruler, no person, no force, no circumstance, no disappointment can stop the cause that God has birthed in you! God is committed to giving you “a rich and satisfying life”, both now and for all eternity! Therefore, as Philip James Bailey encouraged, “Walk boldly and wisely…there is a Hand above that will help you on”.

The Journey: Matthew 2:13

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and his mother,” the angel said. “Stay there until I tell you to return, because Herod is going to search for the child to kill him”.

The renowned 19th century Bible expositor J. C. Ryle said, “The rulers of this world are seldom friendly to the cause of God”.

How true! And nowhere is that truth more evident than in Matthew 2 when King Herod tried to kill God’s greatest cause, the infant Jesus. This is the original story of the real Grinch who didn’t just try to steal Christmas, he tried to kill Christmas.

It’s a bizarre story when you think about it; it doesn’t seem to belong in the Christmas account. I’ll bet you won’t get a card next Christmas depicting Herod killing the babies of Bethlehem. While you might see the “Nutcracker Suite”, you’re not likely to attend the “Slaughter of the Innocents”. Your music director will likely lead the congregation to sing “Away In A Manger”, but not “Away With the Baby Jesus!”

It is a part of the story we would just as soon forget, but there it is, tucked into the Christmas story by God’s design for our benefit and encouragement. I think it’s there, in part, because Herod was just the first of a long line of Grinches right up to this day that are always trying to kill our Christmas and steal our joy and destroy the incarnational plan of God in our lives. Jesus, who was obviously and personally familiar with “the Grinch”, said in John 10:10,

The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.

Here is one of the things I believe the Holy Spirit, who inspired Matthew’s account, wanted you to know from this story: Back then, Herod couldn’t destroy Jesus, and right now, no ruler, no person, no force, no circumstance, no disappointment can stop the cause that God has birthed in you! God is committed to giving you “a rich and satisfying life”, both now and for all eternity! Therefore, as Philip James Bailey encouraged, “Walk boldly and wisely…there is a Hand above that will help you on”.

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, you have birthed a great purpose for my life, And while I don’t understand it all, I completely trust that you know what you are doing—and will perfect it. I also know that there are real world Grinches that show up in form of circumstances, people and spiritual forces in the unseen realm, that try to steal my joy in you and kill your incarnational plan for me. So I lift this concern to you, and in trust, I declare, “The Lord will perfect that which concerns me!”

Your Confidence in the Un-Random God

Your Heavenly Father Leaves Nothing Up To Chance

There is nothing random about God; nothing is left up to chance. The God of the Bible is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and is ruling over the details of history to bring about his perfect plan. What may seem like happenstance or coincidence, God has foreordained, caused, or permitted in his perfect will. Coincidence is simply a sovereign act of God for which he chooses to remain unseen, a miracle for which he prefers anonymity. God is in control of all things, and that includes your life.

The Journey: Matthew 2:5,15,18,23

For thus it is written in the prophets…

The birth and life of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world, was not the product of random events. It was the direct result of prophetic fulfillment. Thus, the phrase linking Christ’s life to Old Testament prophecy is repeated four times here in this second chapter of Matthew’s Gospel.

Those details of Jesus’ life had been laid out in the mind of God from eternity past and had been written down in the inspired utterances of the prophets of old hundreds of years before Christ was born. The fulfillment of scores of prophecies in minute detail of the birth, life, death, and resurrection Jesus leaves us with a pretty amazing track record of prophetic accuracy…leaving no doubt that those prophecies detailing his second coming will most certainly be fulfilled, too.

There is nothing random about God; nothing is left up to chance. The God of the Bible is the sovereign Lord of the universe, and is ruling over the details of history to bring about his perfect plan. What may seem like happenstance or coincidence, God has foreordained, caused, or permitted in his perfect will. Coincidence is simply a sovereign act of God for which he chooses to remain unseen, a miracle for which he prefers anonymity.

God is in control of all things, and that includes your life. David wrote in Psalm 139:16,

You saw me before I was born.
Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
before a single day had passed.

God’s Word invites you to live with amazing confidence today, knowing that he is in control of all things, including even the smallest details of your life. Therefore, you can say, “all things will work together for my good and his glory.”

As John Newton said, “We serve a gracious Master who knows how to overrule even our mistakes to His glory and our own advantage.” You can take that to the bank!

A Simple Prayer To Be More Like Jesus:

God, I will live confidently and expectantly this day, and this year, knowing that my life is a part of your greater plan. Take over my life completely, and may every detail of my existence serve your purposes perfectly and bring great glory to your name.