The Likeness of Christ

s“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” Genesis 1:26a (NIV)

I love this verse! Let US make man in OUR image, in OUR likeness. God is the creator of the universe, of everything in it and He, the Father, Son and Spirit, decide to make people. And not just any people, but people who are made in His image, who are created to be “like” Him.

Everything in the Bible is based on two things: relationships and love. They are at the center of every story. How we live together and how well we love in the process. This isn’t just between us as people, but between us and God as well.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) The very first image of God’s love for us is found in the first chapter when He makes man and then woman so he wouldn’t be alone. We don’t know what it’s like to be God, so we have each other to relate to and live with in a different way than we live with God. Genesis 2 goes into more detail on the making of both man and woman and then finishes up with a picture of how we are to live together and love as men and women.

“For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24

So if we are made in his likeness, we should be doing things like He does them. Ultimately, we should be loving Him and each other as He first loved us. Our relationship matters to God. They should matter to us as well!

My husband and I, with a group of friends, recently completed a marriage study titled The Art of Marriage. We were excited to learn what it really looked like to have a God-centered, God-honoring marriage. Not that we haven’t considered it or done other studies on marriage before. We are just in a new place in our walk with Jesus and we really hadn’t been intentional about it for some time.

We went to the first session and got so much out of the teaching, had great group discussion and really felt like we were moving forward. Then, we had to actually talk to each other about the topic and lesson…

This shouldn’t have come as any surprise to us; I just don’t think we thought that far ahead. Maybe we were in denial. Maybe we thought all the years of communication issues (one of our friends had actually nick-named us The Bickerson’s) would just disappear because we wanted to do it God’s way. Maybe we just hoped this time it would be different.

In our group, we had decided that each week a different couple would lead the discussion. Since we had already done session 1, there were 5 sessions remaining and 5 couples in the group, we would have the couple who had been married the longest lead the next lesson, second longest the next and so on. As it turned out, we had been married the third longest so we got the lesson on, of all things, communication and conflict. God definitely has a sense of humor.

And God knows what He’s doing. In everything, He loves, teaches, corrects, and encourages. We did have some difficult times communicating and may even have had some conflicts come up. But this time, we focused on God’s desire for us to love each other and His purpose for our marriage. We made it through with barely a hint of a scratch! We discovered some new ways to communicate and are set on trusting each other for good first!

Something to Consider…

God created you to be in relationship with Him. He loves you deeply and cares about you. How well do you nurture and care for your relationship with Him? Do you love Him first before all things? Consider what you can do to love Him well and keep Him first in your life.

Marriage reflects Gods love for each of us to our spouse. We are Christ in flesh for each other. If you are married, how well do you nurture and care for relationship with your spouse? Does what you do or how well you love depend on the other persons willingness to do the same? Choose to do your part well so your spouse knows they can trust you for good.

If you’re not married, you still live in relationship with many other people. We all do. How well do you nurture and care for the other relationships in your life? Family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, people with whom you volunteer, clients you serve, the stranger on the street all need encouragement and love. While we shouldn’t give to get, we do reap what we sow, so be sure to love others well. We don’t need to be married to be the likeness of Christ to others!

Time Well Spent

It’s been a while since I’ve written…well, since I’ve written a post. I’ve actually been doing quite a bit of writing the past two months. I am almost finished with my third Bible Study!

Living in the Light of God’s Love: Walk This Way is based on the book of 1 John. I knew this book was about love, but I originally saw it as God’s love for us. After digging in and doing a bit of research and study, I realized it’s as much about our love for Him and each other. The key verse that caught my attention is “Whoever claims to live in Him must walk as Jesus did.” 1 John 2:6.

How did Jesus walk?

He spent time in fellowship with His disciples and anyone who wanted to know His truth. He spoke His truth and shined His light into every situation.

He was obedient to His Father always doing and only doing those things His Father was doing. God can be in everything you do whether it’s praying for healing or taking a nap.

He was humble, so humble. I think of all He faced while here for 33 short years: resentment, mocking, scorn, anger, hatred, temptation and of course, physical suffering and death on a cross. And these challenges didn’t only come from those you would expect to hate Him but from His own family and those who claimed to know and love God.  Our own pride is often a bigger problem than anything else that can come at us.

He knew God’s Word. Yes, He is God’s Word but still, He studied it, knew it and used it. We are to do the same. And through reading the Bible and participating in studies such as this one, we grown in wisdom and our understanding of Him.

And finally, He prayed. He drew close to His loving Father and lived a life of purpose for Him. Can anything else we do here on this earth even compare with living a life of purpose for our God?

These are the five disciplines we will be discussing during this study: Fellowship, Obedience, Humility, Meditation and Prayer.

I would love to have you join me for the study this summer. Workbooks are $10 and we meet in Ramsey, MN in both the morning and evening. You can either register or just purchase the workbook online through Northgate Church.

I’m in the process of the final edits and I am completely blessed as I read through the material one more time remembering all God has done and revealed to me this spring!

Slow to Anger, Rich in Love

“But you, O Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.” Psalm 86:15

I’ve been reading and re-reading this verse and others like it this past week. It doesn’t seem to be an overly complex verse and yet it is so deep, so loving and so profound. I am not always slow to anger. It is who I want to be, yet I am continually challenged.

Anger comes from a feeling of injury and is often accompanied by a desire to seek revenge. We have been wronged and we need to be right. Even in my “pet peeves”, I want the other person to feel my pain (irritation, frustration and inconvenience might be more accurate) because then they will understand and stop doing what bothers me. I want them to care about me.

When the Bible talks about God being slow to anger, it is often accompanied by other traits such as compassionate and gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness, and ready to forgive. God is slow to anger because of who He is, not because of who we are, what we’ve done or what we deserve. God is not slow to anger because He wants us to care about Him, but because He cares about us.

Of course, God does want us to care, He does long for us to love Him and be in relationship with Him; but who He is does not depend on who we are.

God is compassionate – He offers empathy and understanding. Jesus lived this life and understands every trial, temptation and trouble that comes our way.

God is gracious – He is kind, merciful and generous. God knows our weaknesses. Our situations, circumstances and choices change when we rely on Him rather than on ourselves; when we receive the Grace He so generously gives.

God is love – He abounds in love. God so loved that He gave His one and only Son. Love sums up everything He does and says. When we do what He does and say what He says, His love fills us to overflowing.

God is faithful– He is believable, trustworthy and reliable. He never leads us astray and His promises are always true. Being slow to anger does not mean there are no consequences for our actions. His warnings are as true as His promises.

God is ready to forgive – He waits for us to come to Him. He has provided a way that cannot be changed, challenged or revoked.

God is slow to anger – He is patient with each of us wanting none to perish. Out of His love and faithfulness, compassion and grace, He has made a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to Him.

Something to Consider…

God could make us prove ourselves worthy, trying to climb the ladder to get to Him. He could be angry every time we miss the mark. Instead, He lets us stop, admit our failings, and meet Him at the foot of the cross.

As you consider God’s compassionate, gracious, loving, faithful and forgiving character, which of these traits do you want to understand and exhibit more in your own life? How can your patience with others grow and deepen your relationship with God?

Ask Him to show you how you can make a difference in the lives of those around you when you are slow to anger and rich in His love.

If You Love Me

I have two daughters and one thing I’ve always told them is to not give in to the “If you love me, you will…” line. Know your boundaries, where you stand on certain activities and behaviors and don’t let anyone pressure you into doing something you know you shouldn’t.

This, of course, is based on the idea that people will take advantage of them with this line and the things they ask be done will be wrong and hurt them in the long run.

The removal of the word “obey” from marriage vows follows this thinking. We may believe that if we say we will obey, our spouse will take advantage of that vow and expect us to do things we don’t want to do. They will use it to manipulate, control and guilt us into giving up our dreams, desires and freedom for them. They will simply boss us around, expect us to work and they will take it easy.

Yet, we marry them anyway.

Think about that! We don’t want to obey because we don’t trust that they truly care enough about us to not misuse this vow and yet we are willing to spend the rest of our life with them and raise children together.

With this warped sense of trust, love and obedience, is there any wonder so many marriages end in divorce? The truth is people do sometimes take advantage of others, even spouses. We hurt each other because we are at some level selfish even when we love.

So whose love can we trust?

Jesus, of all people, uses this line.

“If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth… He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” John 14:15-17a, 24a

He not only uses this line but combines it with the word “obey”. You will do what I say because of your love for me. Why?

When we obey, we walk with God. When we obey Jesus, we follow God’s lead in our life. He gives us His Spirit of truth who will never lead us to do anything outside of God’s will. He never takes advantage of our love because He helps us in all He asks us to do.

If we say we love Him but won’t go where He goes, do we really love Him? Maybe we just like the idea of Him.

God has loved you before you have ever chosen to love Him and He shows His love through His Son, Jesus, and the shedding of His blood. The only way we can go where He goes, do what He does and be with Him is to follow His lead.

We don’t earn His love in obedience; we follow because of our love for Him. He leads us in truth and His is truly a love we can trust.

Something to Consider…

If you knew someone’s instruction would save your life, would you listen to them? Would you obey and do what they say?

Jesus, God’s Word, saves and gives life. He has overcome the world and anyone who loves Him and follows overcomes as well. Is there an area of your life where you are seeking guidance and direction? Ask God to lead you His way and choose to do what He says because you love Him and trust His love for you.

Inspire and Respond

I started out my day reading Psalm 119. It speaks of God’s unfailing love, truth and promises. And throughout all 176 verses, the author responds to God’s goodness with love and obedience.

God gives and I receive. How do I respond? I obey out of love. Or at least, that’s the goal.

I began thinking about my wedding vows and wondered if I was really doing what I said I would. We didn’t use the traditional vows, no obey to be found, but I could remember that I was “to inspire and to respond.”

I kept a copy of our vows, along with a copy of the program, invitation and the like so I would just find them and review what I agreed to 20 years ago.

I was on a scavenger hunt for just over one hour. Found my dress, shoes and bouquet. I also found an unfinished wedding album with our invitation and response card. I found journals, notes, cards and pictures from our courting years. Prom items, newspapers, Sports Illustrated magazines, report cards, and yearbooks fill one of the heaviest bins in our home. But, our vows were nowhere to be found!

Then I remembered, we have it on tape! Yes, I said tape – VHS to be exact. And the hunt began again! I only had to look three places before finding it. Luckily, we still have a VHS player hooked up to our TV so I was all set. Do you know how bad good quality VHS plays on a high-definition TV?

The video begins with beautiful music and our guests entering the sanctuary. Oh my! It may have been 1991 but we were definitely living in the 80’s. Big hair and mullets, shoulder pads and tapered pants. There were family members who have passed away: my dad, Craig’s mom, all of our grandparents and many aunts and uncles; some good friends, too. And so many friends! We truly enjoyed our day!

Our wedding was all about love. We had the traditional 1 Corinthians 13 “Love never fails” reading. The message was about true love, not balloon and teddy bear love but self-sacrificing love. And the songs expressed that the foundation of our love was planted in God’s love.

So what words did we choose to express how we would love each other?

“I take you to be my husband/wife from this time onward, to join with you and to share all that is to come, to give and to receive, to speak and to listen, to inspire and to respond, and in all circumstances of our life together, to be loyal to you with my whole life and with all my being until death parts us.”

I admit I have given – I’ve also dished it, threatened it, and taken it back. I’ve done a lot of talking but have not always listened with a desire to understand. I’ve responded quite often and it has not been pretty. There are times I have not been loyal with my whole being, desiring my will more than his, or God’s, and bad talking him for it.

In all of this, could I have possibly inspired or encouraged? Is he better today for having been with me?

 “The union of your spirits here has caused Him to remain, for whenever two or more of you are gathered in His name, there is love.” Wedding Song (There is Love)

As I think about where we’ve come from compared to where we are today, it could only be because of God’s great love for us. He has inspired us to be more than we could’ve been without Him or each other.

Something to Consider…

“We love because He first loved us.” 1 John 4:19 (ESV)

Love is an action. God gives, speaks and inspires. How do you respond to God’s love for you? Do you receive His love with a willing heart? Do you listen with a heart set on understanding His truth? Do you respond with obedience out of love for Him and others?