The West is on fire. We have numerous fires burning in Idaho, Oregon, Washington and California. Every day the skies are obscured by smoke, and coupled with astonishing heat, it has been a hard summer. Many people may lose their homes, we have had one firefighter killed ( a young woman who died when a tree fell on her) and it’s been very traumatizing to look at satellite pictures and see the flames and smoke marching across the West like invading armies.
The valley below our ridge has been so full of smoke it’s been hard to see anything below. The air is thick and it is hard to breathe, especially for those residents who have respiratory problems. Very thankfully, the fire near our valley has been contained, and I am so grateful for our gallant firefighters who have worked so diligently and continue to risk life and limb to bring these wildfires under control.
The sunrise is an interesting study in how the smoke distorts the sun. It rises blood red, and its shape is a bit distorted along with its light being diffused oddly through the smoke. I can’t help think about how sin’s presence in our lives distorts the Son and His light.
We think that we are past forgiveness and have a distorted view that His wrath is greater than His love. In reading the Book of Revelation, it is true that there will come a time when His wrath will be poured out on the earth, but what’s interesting is after the various seals are broken, and different judgments are hurled to the earth by the angels, the people will still not repent of their evil. God’s wrath is not just for its own sake: it is to lead humanity to repentance. It is to so dominate our attention that we see Him in a new light: the Holy One Who does not tolerate sin, but Who also wants us to come back and be restored.
Sin distorts our view of God so we think He is punishing us and is abusive and angry at us. Perhaps we have just transferred our father’s image over to His image. Or perhaps we see Him as One Who will abandon us—especially in our time of need. Why wouldn’t He, we think, everyone else has.
Or we think He’s not there. That somehow even if He’s involved, it’s limited and somewhat capricious—we can’t count on Him, for He is ultimately unreliable.
Like the smoke that hangs in our skies these days, our view of God is distorted not only by our sin but by our sinful nature. Perhaps you have confessed your sin and are walking in Him by faith. Bravo! But our nature is very prone to seek everything but God, or to view Him with our own personal beliefs about authority figures, love (or the lack thereof) and our own limitations. In other words, we see God as a big “us.”
How do we clear the smoke away and get clear blue sky’s view of God? Philip, one of Jesus’ disciples, had the same question. He has some views of God distorted by the teachings of the religious leaders and his own limitations of Who God was. Let’s set the scene.
Jesus has predicted Peter’s denial as the Last Supper is in progress. Jesus talks of going to His Father’s house, and how He will return to His own. He says to His disciples that “You know the way to the place where I am going.” And Thomas (dubbed the Doubter—unfairly, I think—he just asks the questions others are afraid to) says that the disciples don’t know where He is going, and they don’t know the way. Jesus then tells them that “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Then He says that by really knowing Me, you will know the Father.
Then Philip (bless his heart!) jumps in and kindly asks for Jesus to show them the Father, and “that will be enough for us.” Go Philip. Just show us, Jesus, and all our questions will be answered. We’re hands-on kind of guys, Jesus: fishermen who handled nets and fish and know what kind of catch we have after we count the fish.
Then Jesus, in His infinite patience, settles it for them: “Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father.”
Do you want to have a smoke-free view of God? Fight the fire with His Word: read Matthew, Mark, Luke and John . Each of these portraits of Jesus clears the air for us. Matthew writes of Jesus as the Messiah long ago promised by God’s prophets, the Hope of Israel and the One Who fulfills Scripture. Mark was Peter’s travelling companion, and Mark’s words are Peter’s: standing and listening to Peter tell of His Teacher, Marks’ portrait is one of a Teacher, Healer and ultimately, the One Who is God’s very own.
Luke, being a Gentile, places Jesus in a larger picture: He is the true fulfillment of the Jews’ longing for their Messiah, but He is also for the world: everyone can come to God through His Son. Finally, we have John, who steps into an even larger picture, and sees Jesus as not only Prophet, Priest and King, but God Himself Who dwelt in the flesh among us.
Wow! Read these inspired works of God and you will see the face of God Himself: clear and undistorted. If your skies start filling up…confess your sin and move into His Word. Gaze on the face of Jesus and you will work away with a life-changing view of God.
Precious Jesus: You are the Way that we can see our Father in a beautiful way. We need clarity to see You without our own smoke. Thank You for such a wonderful portrait of Who You are as we read Your Gospels. In Jesus’ Name, amen.