The Super Word for Life

One of my favorite authors and a favorite author of thousands of others too, is Timothy Keller. Keller recently died from pancreatic cancer. Of his numerous books and recorded lectures and sermons the following quote surfaces frequently, because Keller frequently stated it. “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”

There’s an amazing word that drives what Keller wrote, though the word’s not actually in his statement. That word is GRACE. It’s not a frequently used word in everyday life, though we refer to a grace period in an insurance policy, meaning you’re given an extended time of coverage beyond what the contract says. We also use the word when stopped by a police officer for breaking a traffic law who then lets us go with only a warning, not a ticket; we say the officer showed us some grace. Otherwise, no, it’s not a common word in our daily vocabulary.

The word GRACE means undeserved favor (think extended insurance coverage or a ticketless stop by a police officer). It’s a word that appears over a hundred times in the New Testament of the Bible.

I suppose a person could argue that the word LOVE is more of a super word, but the word GRACE holds its place as a super word because grace is love in action! One clear expression of love is when we show a person grace by responding in kindness in spite of the other person having been unkind toward us.

God is great at extending grace! We don’t deserve His favor, never ever! He owes us nothing. Sometimes we’re tempted to think He does, but we’re sadly misguided. As Keller reminds us, we’re more sinful and flawed than we can imagine. The only thing we deserve from such a holy God is what we would not consider good! Thankfully, this is where God’s grace comes into play. We can have His favor, which we don’t deserve and could never earn.

Of all the religious faiths in the world the faith based on God coming to us in the form of a human being, incarnating Himself as one of us, and then, astonishingly, dying for us, is the only faith that is based completely on God’s grace. Getting right with God is all about God reaching out to us, down to us, offering us a relationship with Him, a relationship we can’t earn by our own effort or demand based on our own merit. It’s the ultimate undeserved favor!

It’s no wonder that the most popular Christian song of all time is Amazing Grace. It was written by John Newton, a former captain of a ship transporting slaves, who was converted and became a pastor. He then actively campaigned against slavery and was an encouragement to William Wilberforce, a member of Parliament who fought to abolish slave trading in England. Being a recipient of God’s grace is transformational!

God being so gracious means we don’t have to try and be good enough for God to act kindly and lovingly toward us, we never could anyway. We don’t have to count on any goodness we hope we might have or could try and conjure up; we count on God’s goodness alone! Grace is a gift, and like any gift, we don’t earn it, can’t earn it, just accept it.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

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Gotta Serve Somebody

Bob Dylan has a song titled Gotta Serve Somebody. The song includes a long list of people of all walks of life, but throughout the list there’s the reminder, “But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” If we were asked to respond to Dylan’s assertion that we all gotta serve somebody, what would be our answer?

A noble answer would be to serve others. Certainly many of the most admired and respected people are people that have found ways to serve others, many times sacrificially. I’ve noticed that more and more news programs are ending with a feel good story of someone helping someone else. So, yes, we hold in high regard those who seek to serve others, even before self.

But sometimes we end up serving someone who is manipulative, selfish, even abusive. We can feel trapped and defeated. There are times, then, when serving someone means breaking away or doing what they don’t want us to do, but that which is the right thing to do. It’s complicated.

Another common response to Dylan’s assertion is that you gotta serve yourself. You have to take care of yourself. There’s certainly some degree of truth in the idea of taking care of yourself. Most of us can and should feed, bathe, and clothe ourselves. In a crisis on an airplane you’re told to put on your own oxygen mask first and then help a child with theirs, the logic being you have to be conscious yourself in order to help someone else. But often the advice of self-care goes well beyond this, the logic being that the world’s a hurtful place and you better take care of yourself because nobody else will. You can be your own best friend, maybe even hug yourself. So, yes, some have determined to serve themselves most of all.

The reality is, it doesn’t do much for us to affirm our self as our own best friend or to hug our self; it’s sort of like a ventriloquist having his vent figure (dummy) say, “I love you.” It doesn’t hold much meaning. Putting self first ultimately puts us into the isolation of a lonely place. It’s complicated.

But there’s another possible option of who to serve. Millions upon millions have sought to live out this third option, which has helped them, they have felt, put in balance the two above mentioned options of serving others and serving self. I’m sure you already know where this is leading: the option to serve God first!

This option assumes, of course, a person believes in a personal, perfect God. If not, then you’re stuck with the two other options. The option of serving God makes sense and is logical. God’s the reason for our existence and everyone and everything around us. His perfection means He knows perfectly well how every part of His creation should work, including us. He’s also a personal God who takes personal interest in each of us` and has our best interest, along with the best interest of everyone else, at heart.

Serving God lends itself to finding an ideal balance between meeting the needs of others and having our own needs met. He’s looking out for all of us! We’ll be able to serve others wholeheartedly and persistently, even without receiving their gratitude or affirmation, because we’re doing our loving of others primarily to serve and please God, not the ones we’re loving on.

Serving God means we can take comfort in the fact that He will take care of us. I’ve often imagined God saying to me, “You look out for my best interests and I’ll look out for yours.” We need to keep in mind, of course, God doesn’t always do that in the way we’d expect or prefer, but He will always be there for us.

Dylan’s lyrics include the words, “It may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” I’ve gotta serve somebody, and so I’ve decided to go with the option of serving the Lord. Getting my priorities right brings greater clarity on how to live life. It’s not all that complicated!

“Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord” (Romans 12:11).

Our Weakness and His Strength

“You can do it!” “Believe in yourself!” “You have what it takes!” Statements like these abound in the self-help industry. Somebody should write a book in the self-help category on how to deal with the guilt that comes with the inevitable failure to live up to the promises of the self-help literature!

Feeling inadequate and weak in the face of what life throws at me has often been my personal experience. You too? It’s counter-cultural to delight in weakness, but that’s what a person can do when you switch from consuming self-help literature to God-help literature. When we factor God into our lives, there can be a paradigm shift from experiencing a sense of weakness as a negative and a liability to seeing it as a positive and an asset.

Steven Curtis Chapman, singer and songwriter, in referencing the Bible verse found in 2 Corinthians 12:9 (which will be quoted at the end of this writing) said, “When we discover God’s strength in our lives it is always in the places where we are at our weakest… It’s where His strength comes into His full glory in our lives.”

My personal experience resonates with what Chapman says. When on the rare occasion I feel qualified, smart, or strong, I tend to reach out to God less and with less intensity. When I’m tempted to pray, “God, I’ve got this!” I’m in a most dangerous position; I’ve just pushed God away and I’m in for a rude awakening to the fact that I always need God, even when I think I don’t!

Feeling weak and inadequate can be a good thing! The famous preacher and author Charles Spurgeon wrote in his November 4 devotional in his book Morning by Morning (which also uses the 2 Corinthans 12:9 verse as the key verse), “A sense of our own weakness is a main qualification for serving God with any amount of success, and for doing God’s work well and victoriously.” Later in his devotional he writes, “Are you mourning over your own weakness? Take courage, for you must be aware of your weakness before the Lord will give you victory. Your emptiness is simply the preparation for your being filled, and your being cast down is simply preparing you to be lifted up.”

Feeling weak and inadequate is not a fun feeling, and that’s okay. But even though it doesn’t feel good we can know it is good! It can prompt us to draw near to God, to pray for His encouraging presence and His much needed help.

With this in mind we could re-phrase the opening three quotes. “With God’s help you can do it!” “Believe in God!” “God will give you what it takes!”

Our weakness paired with God’s strength is an unbeatable combination. Acknowledging our weakness before God is our greatest strength!

God’s response to the apostle Paul’s request for a “thorn in my flesh” to be removed so that he could (he thought) more effectively serve God: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

God Is Glorious!

The James Webb Space Telescope is the most powerful telescope ever made, becoming operational in 2022. It’s a hundred times more powerful than the Hubble Space Telescope. Scientists are astonished, amazed, jubilant, in awe, and even giddy over what the James Webb Space Telescope is revealing about our vast cosmos. The scientists’ reactions seem similar to how people express religious experiences. You can’t blame them. What the James Webb Space Telescope is revealing is truly glorious!

King, poet, and military leader, David wrote these amazing words we have recorded in Psalm 19:1 in the Bible. Remember, he grew up as a shepherd boy, watching the family sheep many a night under the starlit sky. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” David, though inspired by God to pen these words, had a far more limited view of what the nighttime sky revealed compared to us. The James Webb Space Telescope provides wonderful additional commentary on just how glorious our universe is!

Add to this what the angels of heaven declared, to which the prophet Isaiah was witness via a God-given vision. “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory” (Isaiah 6:3). We can all see it with our eyes (no need for a big telescope) and our other four senses too, how amazing creation is with the diversity of plants and animals, the beauty of a sunset, the aroma of a rose, the grandeur of the Grand Canyon. Yes, as the angels in heaven declared of this terrestrial ball, “The whole earth is full of his glory.”

If God’s creation, from distant galaxies billions of light years away to the planet upon which we live, is glorious then imagine how glorious God, who made it all, must be! Because God’s not material like His glorious creation, in what way or ways is He glorious?

The late pastor/writer Charles Stanley said, “There is something about the glory of God that man has no verbal ability to explain fully.” True, but what can we say that at least partially helps us grasp something of God’s glory? One of my favorite writers is John Piper and he says that God’s glory is “the public display of the infinite beauty and worth of God.”

When observing the glory of God’s creation we use our five senses, sometimes with the help of man-made instruments like telescopes, microscopes, etc. But when it comes to grasping God’s own glory our go-to instruments are our thoughtful minds, open hearts, and responsive souls.

God has many attributes such as His love, power, wisdom, holiness, eternalness, and many more. It could be said that God’s glory is the perfection of all of His attributes. His love is glorious, His power is glorious, His wisdom is glorious, everything about God is glorious!

There’s something about us that yearns to have glorious experiences. We want to be astonished, amazed, jubilant, in awe, and even giddy, like the scientists reviewing images from the James Webb Space Telescope. We can be, for there’s glory all around to behold, if we are but open to experiencing it! But the most glorious experience of all, for us now and for all of eternity, is to be open to experiencing the glory of God. There’s nothing better than to be astonished, amazed, jubilant, in awe, and even giddy over the glory of God!

Jesus’ prayer for those who follow Him, “Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world” (John 17:24).

The Faithfulness of God

Pauline Blom, my mother-in-law, lived to be 91. She was a very organized person so it’s no surprise that she planned her own funeral down to such details as to what kind of sandwiches to serve at the post-funeral meal. One of the other details she planned was that the congregation at her funeral service would sing the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness, which we did. In fact, the hymn was a favorite of all four of our parents. As a pastor who conducted hundreds of funerals I can attest to the fact that it was sung at many of those funerals as well.

The hymn was composed a hundred years ago (as of this writing), in 1923. Why such longevity? I believe it’s because the hymn reminds us of God’s attribute of faithfulness. The chorus goes like this; “Great is thy faithfulness! Great is thy faithfulness! Morning by morning new mercies I see; all I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great is thy faithfulness, Lord unto me!”

Yes, we need to be reminded of God’s faithfulness as we navigate our way through this fallen, broken, sinful, and difficult world. We need to cling to the idea that God can be relied upon!

We hold in high regard a relationship with a person who proves to be faithful, who can be counted on. Yet, people never turn out to be completely dependable, because no one’s perfect. Sooner or later they let us down, they disappoint. Not God; He’s perfect in all of His attributes, including His attribute of faithfulness. He can always be counted on!

True, there are times when we’re tempted to doubt His faithfulness, when things seem to go from bad to worse or when our prayers aren’t answered the way we’d like them to be. Yet, these are exactly the times when, more than ever, we need to reaffirm God’s faithfulness! We may not always understand what God is up to in our lives and the lives of those we love, but our lack of understanding doesn’t mean God’s not at work. He’s faithfully carrying out His good and grand purposes for us and His kingdom. Sometimes when praying, instead of praying, “Lord, get me out of this,” we should pray, “Lord, what do you want me to get out of this?” His faithfulness doesn’t always guarantee He will take away our troubles, but it does always mean He will be with us through our troubles and help us to make the most of them!

It’s when we worry, get discouraged or even angry at God, that we can know we’re losing our grip on grasping the truth that God is faithful. Author A. W. Pink reminds us that “to be full of care, to view our situation with dark forebodings, to anticipate the morrow with sad anxiety, is to reflect poorly upon the faithfulness of God.”

When we have a firm grip on the belief that God is a faithful God, that He can be counted on, depended on, then we’ll find that we’re less anxious and fearful. Grasping the idea that God is faithful also gives us peace about our future, even our ultimate future of facing death. A. W. Tozer wrote, “Only as we have complete assurance that He is faithful may we live in peace and look forward with assurance to the life to come.”

Yes, God is faithful. You can always count on Him!

The Bible verse that inspired the hymn Great Is Thy Faithfulness: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

The Compassion of God

Manufacturers list the limits for their products. Tires have stamped into the sidewall the maximum air pressure they’re designed to take. Car and truck manufacturers list the amount of weight they can carry and tow.

We humans have limits too, and our Creator, our Manufacturer, in His infinite wisdom knows our limits and limitations! And in His infinite mercy He will not let us exceed those limits! I know, it often seems that we’re being pushed beyond our limits; we want to cry out to God, “Enough already!” That’s why we all need this reminder that God will not give us more than we can bear, but, with His help, we will be able to endure. He is merciful!

God’s mercy is defined by theologian Wayne Grudem this way: “God’s mercy means goodness toward those in misery and distress.” A. W. Tozer, in his classic book, Knowledge of the Holy, writes, “Mercy disposes God to be actively compassionate.” When we’re miserable and in distress we’re in an ideal position to reaffirm the belief that God is full of goodness, is compassionate, and therefore is merciful!

A good and loving parent (or grandparent) will not require more of a child than they know the child is capable of. My grandchildren often come alongside me when I’m building something in my workshop, and they want to build too. They know they can use the scraps of wood I have. I give them a small hammer and some nails. But they have to ask me to cut the wood with my table saw. (They’ve been sternly warned not to come near the saw.) I help them a lot with what they build, and therefore, get interrupted a lot! Then, when they finish, I praise them for their rather crudely built project. I’ve shown them compassion, mercy, all the way!

King David, a great military leader, king, and poet who, the Biblical record shows, received a lot of help from God through the years, wrote, “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:13-14). God made us, He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows we are made of dust and to dust our physical bodies will return so, yes, He knows our limitations, and He is there for us! The attribute of God that we need to embrace when times are difficult is that God is merciful!

King David gives us another image of God’s mercy, in addition to the imagery of a compassionate parent, in a prayer He uttered to God. “Have mercy on me, my God have mercy on me, for in you I take refuge in the shadow of wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1). I’ve raised chickens for over 40 years and have witnessed a number of times the protective action of a mother hen huddling her chicks under her wings. The chicks also know that under the mother’s wings is the safest place to be. You don’t mess with a mother hen! God is like a mother hen; in our difficult situations we are mercifully under the wings of His care.

When life’s a struggle and we picture God as distant, disinterested, unresponsive, and uncaring, we greatly misunderstand what God is like. He is the very opposite of this. He is compassionate. He is merciful!

Here’s another prayer of King David, one we can pray in our own time of need: “Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief” (Psalm 143:1).

What Do We Do with Easter?

Easter conjures up different images. One that’s popular is the Easter bunny, particularly for children, who look forward to finding the bunny’s hidden colored eggs. But another image that comes to mind for many is that of an empty tomb, Jesus’ tomb, symbolizing His resurrection. Looking at the origins of each story, the Easter bunny and the resurrected Jesus, can prompt some thoughtful reflection.

According to the Smithsonian on-line magazine the idea of the Easter bunny originated in German folklore in the 1600s with the Easter hare hiding colored eggs for children. The article goes into some detail on the hare, or rabbit, having been a symbol of fertility from prehistoric times. That’s some of the history of the Easter bunny.

We have a lot more information about the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The four gospels in the New Testament seek to give accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus. One of the four, Luke, specifically indicates at the beginning of his gospel that he has carefully investigated everything that’s in his account. All four records give details about Jesus appearing to people after His crucifixion and burial. Scholars agree that the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, were all written by the end of the 80s. That’s within 50 years of the events recorded, including their resurrection accounts. As of this writing, it’s been about 50 years since we first landed on the moon. Many of us are still around who remember that amazing event. The gospels’ recordings of Jesus’ resurrection are, by historians’ standards, very close to the time of the events they record.

Actually, the Apostle Paul’s references to Jesus’ resurrection in his first letter to the church at Corinth was written in the 50s, within 25 years of the resurrection of Jesus! He references a list of people who were eyewitnesses, including over 500 people at one time, most of whom, he said, were still alive at the time of his writing of the letter.

Such a large number of witnesses that the gospel writers and Paul reference would be difficult to dispute. Plus, what the gospel writers record of people witnessing Jesus alive again, ring true.

One amazing fact is that the first eyewitnesses of Jesus being alive again were the women who came to the tomb, saw it was empty, then encountered the resurrected Jesus. In Jewish culture of the first century women were not allowed to testify in a court of law. Their testimony was worthless. If the story were a fabrication no one would have chosen women as the first witnesses; the fact that they were is strong evidence of its validity.

Consider that the apostles were hesitant to believe Jesus was alive again. It doesn’t show the first leaders of the Christian movement in a very good light, and the story would never have been written that way, unless that’s the way it happened.

Then there’s the amazing change in the followers of Jesus. What transformed them from a fearful, timid group who hid in rooms behind closed doors to the bold, joyous group who went around proclaiming Jesus? Only something of the magnitude of the resurrection of Jesus could have done that.

Canon Westcott, a scholar from Cambridge, said, “Indeed, taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is no historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.” (Know Why You Believe, Paul Little, p.49).

The Easter bunny is an interesting fable. The resurrection of Jesus is a reported event that we can have faith actually happened!

The logic is simple: either Jesus rose from the dead or He didn’t. If Jesus didn’t, then go with the Easter bunny story. If Jesus rose from the dead, then it authenticates that He was who He said He was: the Son of God who had come to Earth, God in the flesh, to save sinners and to be Lord of all, now and forever. The evidence may not be enough to compel belief, but there’s plenty enough evidence to make belief compelling!

“Then Jesus told him [Thomas, who doubted Jesus had been raised from the dead], ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’” John 20:29

The Jealous Protection of What Is Important

“Mom always liked you best,” was what Tommy Smothers often said to his brother Dick. The Smothers Brothers comedy team was popular in the later part of the 1960s and beyond. Tommy, expressing his jealousy toward his brother Dick, always got laughs. But most often jealousy is no laughing matter.

Jealousy has major negative connotations for most of us, and for good reasons. Being jealous is not a fun feeling. It’s a feeling of hostility, bitterness, or resentment toward someone who has what we want or think we deserve. It can also be expressed as anger when we feel a valued relationship is threatened by the intrusion of another person. Jealousy can lead to fights, broken relationships, people causing harm to each other, or even murder!

Jealousy can erupt in all kinds of relationships. A friend can be jealous of a friend who treats someone else as a closer friend. A worker can be jealous of a co-worker. Pastors can be jealous of other pastors. Jealousy can ruin a marriage where one mate is insecure and jealous when the partner is having what would be considered normal and appropriate social interaction with others. No doubt about it, jealousy is often harmful and sinful!

But jealousy can also be good and healthy. In a marriage if one of the partners is showing interest or acting in ways toward another person that should be reserved for the marriage partner, then it’s appropriate for the mate to be jealous. Healthy jealousy wants to protect a valued relationship. Jealousy can be a good thing!

This is why one of God’s attributes is that He’s a jealous God. This can often strike people as wrong, that God shouldn’t be jealous. Doesn’t it seem that this would mean God is giving in to insecurities or envy? No, because God’s perfect; He’s not insecure, He does not envy. His is a good jealousy!

It’s interesting that one of the common metaphors God uses in the Bible for His relationship with people is that of a groom and bride, of a husband and wife. Just as a groom and bride promise to forsake all others in an intimate relationship and a husband and wife seek to carry out that promise of exclusivity, so God wants His relationship with us to be the most intimate and ultimate relationship we have.

The covenant that God seeks to have with His people is very much like a marriage covenant. Often, in the Bible, God refers to His people as being unfaithful, breaking this covenant, frequently expressing the idea that they are committing adultery against Him!

Our greatest satisfaction in life is to be found in Him. When we try to substitute something else for the number one place in our lives that is to be exclusively for God, it only brings harm to us and hurts our relationship with God. We can replace the number one position in life that’s to be reserved for God with almost anything we can imagine – money, achievement, fame, power, pleasure, another person, or even our self.

God is jealous of our love affair with anything else in this life! His is a healthy jealousy, wanting to protect His relationship with us. As pastor and theologian John Piper said, “The jealousy of God is the measure of His zeal for our happiness in Him.”

“For you shall worship no other god, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.” (Exodus 34:14)

The Cosmic Creator’s Love

Diann and I were married over 50 years ago. It was June 2, 1972, in Leota, Minnesota, at the church in which Diann grew up. Just minutes before the ceremony, when Diann was ready, all the women cleared out of the bridal dressing room, and according to plan I was invited to go in and see my bride for the first time in her wedding dress, alone with her. Wow! This was my bride! How I delighted in her at that moment, and still do over 50 years later!

I have spent most of a lifetime reflecting on God, relating to Him, studying about Him, and teaching and preaching about Him. Although I have yet so much to learn and apply, what amazes me is how often God (in the Bible) uses the analogy of a groom and bride, a husband and wife, to portray the kind of relationship He wants with us. Human love stories have captivated people ever since we’ve been telling stories. But the greatest love story of all is of God’s love for the people He’s created!

As a groom I promised to be a husband who would love, honor, and cherish my bride. This is the kind of love, but raised to an infinite level, that God has for us. Wayne Grudem, a theologian, writes, “God’s love means that God eternally gives of Himself to others.”

When we think of a relationship with God we often think about what we have to do for Him, how we have to work at connecting with Him, thinking we have to take the initiative. It’s the other way around! He’s taken the initiative at reaching out to us. The great Christian thinker C.S. Lewis wrote of God, “He loved us not because we are lovable but because He is love.” Love is one of God’s wonderful attributes, it’s just who He is.

Many believe that God created and sustains our universe. But what if God is more than creator, sustainer? What if He is also personal, with the intention of wanting the best for what He has created, including the best for us, who, the Biblical accounts say, He’s created in His own image? This means that this world and the vast cosmos is awash in His love!

It was the English theologian John Owen, in the 1600s, who wrote, “The greatest sorrow and burden you can lay upon the Father, the greatest unkindness you can do to Him, is not to believe that He loves you.”

There is no more important paradigm shift to make in life than to shift from seeing existence as “sound and fury, signifying nothing,” to use Shakespeare’s words, to instead embracing the belief as expressed in the words of song writer William Cowper (1731-1880), “Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.”

This universe and all of existence can be seen as being here by chance, mindless, with no purpose or meaning. Or the universe and all of existence can be seen as being here by choice, God’s choice, for His purposes, His good intentions for us, ablaze with His glorious love!

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (Isaiah 62:5b)

Dusting Where Only God Sees

Cabinets in our home the tops of which I dusted

Our kitchen cabinets don’t go all the way to the ceiling. On a positive note: the top of the cabinets provide a good location to place interesting knickknacks. On a negative note: the cabinet tops are dust collectors. In the division of domestic duties one of my tasks is dusting. I tried to convince myself that because no one ever sees the top of the cabinets I could restrict my dusting to below cabinet level.

I was reminded of an old legend of a stone carver who was crafting a beautiful bird high up in a spire of a cathedral. Someone asked him why he was putting so much work into a little sculpture that no one looking upward from the cathedral floor would ever see. The sculptor replied, “Because God sees.” I decided I should dust where only God sees!

My doing due diligence with the dusting because of God seeing where people don’t isn’t the real issue. I don’t think God really cares all that much about the dust on the top of the cabinets. But dusting the tops of the cabinets did get me to thinking about other areas hidden from public view that do concern God. Those hidden areas include my thoughts, attitudes, and private activities.

It’s rather easy to convince one’s self that private thoughts, attitudes, and activities that are questionable or wrong and sinful aren’t all that bad as long as we keep them to ourselves. But if we seek to live daily with the reality of God in our lives, then this no longer applies. Our private lives impact our personal relationship to God.

Do we allow ourselves to watch something on media that we wouldn’t if others were sitting next to us? Would we want our fantasies displayed on a big screen TV? Note: everyone has tempting thoughts, even Jesus did; these are not wrong or sinful in and of themselves, not until we start enjoying them, turning them into fantasies! Do we treat a mate, children, parents, close friends, or co-workers differently when no one else is around to observe? It’s been said that character is measured by what one does when no one is watching.

We may resist seeing the positive in the concept of God watching us because it was used to keep us in line as a child. We were also told as a child not to run out into the street without looking both ways, and most of us still abide by the principle as adults. The fact that God is watching is not at all a negative concept that limits life; it can be a powerful concept that makes life better.

God, after all, is a loving God and only wants what is best for us. A great deal of what we’re tempted to engage in privately that we would not want to go public eventually does go public, to our embarrassment, harm and to the harm of others. Who hasn’t entertained persistent negative and judgmental thoughts of someone, expecting to keep them private, but in an unguarded moment letting loose with them?

I’ll continue to schedule the dusting of the top of our kitchen cabinets, where only God sees. It’ll be sort of a sacramental act, a reminder that God sees more than the dust on the top of the cabinets!

You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” Psalm 139:1-3