Tag Archives: image of God

It’s cold out there

Coldest Night Logo (Snowflake) Color - PNGIt’s cold out there. 

The past week, temperatures in Ottawa have been below -20°C all week long. Earlier in the week they dipped below -30°C.

Yesterday I took a break from work and went out for a walk at noon. While outside, I took off my mitts to use my phone for a very brief conversation. In less than a minute, my fingers felt almost numb. It took a long time for them to get warm again. In this weather, when I walk home from the bus at the end of the day (about a ten minute walk, quite pleasant under most circumstances) my nose and cheeks are very cold by the time I arrive home. 

Imagine how hard this cold weather must be on people who are homeless.

I seldom use this blog for fund raising purposes, but today I am making an exception. When I head out on the streets on February 22 as part of the Coldest Night of the Year walk to raise funds for Jericho Road Christian Ministries, I’m asking for your support. You can support me here. If you can’t give money, I would appreciate your prayers. Jericho Road serves broken people who would otherwise be homeless due to mental illness or addictions. Broken people matter to Jesus. They were made in God’s image and their lives are precious in His sight. He died so that they could be fully restored.

Some say that those who live on the streets do so by choice. In one sense, that may be so. For some, life on the streets may the result of a string of foolish or misguided choices. Even so, those who find themselves living on the streets usually do so because they feel they have no other remaining options. When I leave my warm house to walk to the bus to go to work on a cold winter day, I am glad I am not homeless, and my heart is moved with compassion for the men and women who feel they have no other option but to live on the streets.

Some say that in Ottawa, no-one has to live on the streets because there are places where homeless people can go for shelter. I have been in those shelters. It is true that they provide a place to sleep, and I am glad they are there, but they are not home.

Jericho Road is one ministry that offers another path for men dealing with addictions or mental illness, men who would otherwise be on the street or condemned to living at a shelter. Jericho offers a genuinely homelike atmosphere with structured living, responsibilities, medication if needed, counselling, Bible study and prayer. It’s a ministry that I am glad to support. The son of a good friend of mine was set free from years of drug addiction as a result of this wonderful ministry, and today is helping others get free. 

For a number of years, Marion and I were regulars at the weekly Jericho Road coffeehouse, where we led worship once a month, and hung out with men and women from the street who came in for a warm meal, a safe place, music and conversation. This was a challenging environment in which to lead worship, but I loved it. I remember one evening when I was sitting with a friend from the street who was admiring my leather-bound Bible. It had been a gift from valued friends. I knew the Lord was telling me to give it to him. I will never know the impact the Bible had on his life, but giving it had an impact on me. It was one of many choices that God used to soften my heart and make me more available for His purposes.

All of us make many choices daily. I want to make choices that prepare my heart to bear fruit for God. If He is moving you to support me in this walk, I’d be grateful for your support. But even if this particular endeavour is not something God is calling you to support, I want to urge you to consider your daily choices. It’s easy to condemn others for the choices they have made. But it’s far more productive to consider our own choices. Mercy, or judgment? Faith and love, or pride and fear? The presence of the Lord, or independence? Darkness, or light? 

Yes, it’s cold out there. The world is a cold, dark place, and getting colder and darker as the end of the age draws near. Even as signs of the Kingdom are increasing around the earth, and miracles, signs and wonders are being released in many places in great power, darkness is also increasing. But the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has never overcome it and never will. I want my heart and my life to be a reflection of the warmth, light, love and glory of God’s Kingdom that is coming on the earth.

That’s why I am walking on February 22. If you want to walk with me, you can join my team here. I’d be glad of your company.

God bless you.



In God’s image : destined for glory

This will be my last post on the theme of our creation in God’s image.   To see all the posts on this theme in sequence, click on the category Basic Principles.

Today I listened to a colleague at work share her pain regarding some different aspects of her family situation.  One of the greatest sources of pain was that her mother seemed unable to accept her own children.  As a result the whole family is dysfunctional, torn apart by constant strife.  Because none of the children truly feels accepted, they can’t accept each other.

The greatest emotional need in our lives is unconditional acceptance – and even the best human parents can’t provide this perfectly.  It’s really only available when we surrender to Jesus and allow Him to wash us clean and reconcile us to His  Father.

Yes, it’s a great blessing to know that I am God’s child in this life.  But there’s more!  According to the Apostle John ( 1 John 3:1-3 ), I not only have the assurance of being God’s child now; I also have the assurance that when Jesus returns, I will be like Him because I will see Him as he is.

This is the truth that most inspires and motivates me to pursue God – the promise that those who belong to Christ will one day share in His glory ( Col. 1:26-28 ).   I want to be in God’s presence – to see Him as He is – to see His glory and to be like Him!

Both Lucifer and Jesus were motivated by this desire for glory.   The key difference was that Lucifer sought his own glory and was at war with God.  Jesus, on the other hand, sought his Father’s glory and was content to share in that glory.  If we are willing to have it on God’s terms, the desire for God’s glory is a powerful motivator for good.

For the sake of the joy that was set before him, Jesus endured the cross ( Hebrews 12:1-3 ).  Because he knew what lay ahead of him, he was willing to suffer, to pay the price.  And what lay ahead of him was not only his own glory, but ours – for if we endure, we will be like him, we will share in His glory, we will reign with him.  This was his reward – what He died for – the completion of His glorious bride.

Does that inspire you?  It inspires me.  When I’m tempted, discouraged or weary, the thought that I am made in God’s image, for His glory – and that Jesus died so this promise could be fulfilled – motivates me to choose what will please God.  More and more, I find that I am motivated by eternity.


In God’s image : made for intimacy

With this post I’m returning to the theme of our creation in God’s image.   As we’ve already seen, our creation in God’s image is a rich truth with many facets.  Each of these facets is of value in helping us to understand God’s purpose for our lives.   I want to close off this theme with a couple more posts before I turn to another basic principle of Christian faith and living.

HINT : If you want to see all the posts on this topic in sequence, click on the Category Basic Principles.

When God made the first man, we are told that He breathed into his nostrils the breath of life ( Genesis 2:7 ).   The first thing Adam saw was the face of God, and the first thing he felt was the breath of God in his nostrils.  The Hebrew word for spirit is the same as the word for breath.   So the creation account gives us a clear picture : from the beginning, it was God’s intent that humans would have deep, intimate fellowship with Him ~ spirit to spirit communication.   We were designed to delight ourselves in God.

When God made the first woman, we are told that He made her from the man’s rib while the man was in a deep sleep, and brought her to him.  The man immediately recognized the close bond they were intended to share.  We are also told that they were both naked, and felt no shame.  Again, this is a clear statement that man and woman were  made to delight in both physical and spiritual intimacy in a life-long one-flesh marriage bond.   The bliss of sexual union is God’s idea; properly understood, it is both physical and spiritual; and it’s an expression of His goodness!  The intimacy of marriage is so central to God’s purposes that it’s used over and over again in Scripture as an analogy for the intimate, devoted relationship that God desires to have with His people.

We were made with the capacity for intimacy – that is a crucial part of what it means to be made in God’s image.   It’s no accident that intimacy with God came first, followed by intimacy between man and woman.   And just as true intimacy between man and woman flows from intimacy with God, so sin destroys intimacy, tainting all relationships with mistrust, suspicion, selfishness, shame, and regret.  This is why we sometimes think of sexual desire as unclean.  It is part of Satan’s deception to take something that was originally good and turn it into the cause of so much pain.

But the wonderful news is that in Christ, the image of God in us can be restored in all its aspects.  As we allow the reality of God’s forgiving love to penetrate and restore our hearts, we can rediscover both the delight of true intimacy with Father and the delight of true intimacy in the one-flesh relationship of marriage.  Although Jesus tells us that after the resurrection people will no longer marry, I can only assume that the spiritual intimacy that is created in a true one-flesh marriage bond endures to eternity. And as for intimacy with God, we are told that in the new heaven and earth, when all things have been restored, His servants will see Him face to face (Revelation 22:1-5).  Shame, fear and regret will be gone forever.

To think about :

  • What gets in the way of true intimacy?
  • What fosters true intimacy?

In God’s image : of high value

In some of my recent posts I’ve been exploring what it means that we are made in God’s image.   Today I want to look at what this tells us about the value of human life.

NOTE to small group leaders : I’m including this post in the Small Groups category because this is an issue that some of you may want to discuss in your small groups.

My mother died in April 2008, having lived almost eighty-six years.   She had been an active, vital woman for most of her life, staying in vibrant good health through her seventies and into her eighties.  But early in her eighties, she began showing occasional signs of confusion and mild memory loss.  Eventually a geriatric assessment revealed that she was suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease.   My father cared for her at home until she suffered a severe stroke in September 2006, as a result of which she required a level of care that could not be offered at home.

Throughout the years of Mom’s slow decline with Alzheimers, and the year and a half that she was hospitalized after her stroke, all her loved ones did our best to keep communicating with her.  It wasn’t easy, especially for Dad, but we wanted to continue to honour her and care for her while we had the opportunity.

Even though most of my siblings would not claim Christian faith for themselves,  I believe we were in part operating out of a deep-seated conviction that Mom’s life continued to have intrinsic value despite her condition.  Certainly that was, and is, my conviction.   In that conviction, Marion and I talked to Mom about Jesus a couple of weeks after she had had her stroke and was still struggling to communicate.   We encouraged her to put her trust in Him when she seemed fearful, and noticed that she became much more peaceful after we had prayed.  Even months later, after she had become much less responsive, we continued to speak to her as if she could hear and understand.  We did this believing that her spirit was alive, even though her mind and body were failing.

Although all creatures are of value because they came from the hand of God, Jesus made it clear that people are of more value to God than sheep or  sparrows .   He did not say that only people who are well have value.  On the contrary, he healed lepers, whom most wouldn’t touch, and spent time with those that society had discarded.  By shedding his blood for our redemption, Jesus underscored the high value that God places on every human life.  God’s image in us is worth so much to God that Jesus died to see that image restored!

When Mom was close to the end of her life, her loved ones agreed that if her life began to ebb away, artificial life support would not be used to keep her alive.   I was completely at pleace with that decision because it respects the ultimate sovereignty of God.  However, I could never have agreed to either euthanasia or assisted suicide.    Her life came from the hand of God, and not being God, I lacked the wisdom and authority to say that her life was no longer worth living.

Once we accept the conviction that some human lives are of more value than others,  we are on a slippery slope that can lead to all kinds of abuse.  The thinking that justifies assisted suicide at end of life will inevitably lead to increased suicide rates for people of all ages, probably especially teens who are prone to emotional highs and lows.   After all, when you are depressed, you sometimes feel life isn’t worth living.  Time to end it all?  If your friendly purveyors of assisted suicide are available to help you on your way, why not?

Though euthanasia against the patient’s will is not officially sanctioned yet,  there is good reason to believe that it is already occurring in the Netherlands and perhaps elsewhere.   Where will this slippery slope lead?  Adolf Hitler’s evolutionary belief system, with its conviction that some forms of human life were more evolved and therefore more valuable than others, led to the Nazi holocaust and was used to justify innumerable medical experiments, some of extreme cruelty.   I don’t want to live in Hitler’s world – do you?

I am moved by the story of a South American AIDS patient who wanted to be euthanized, but changed his mind when someone took the time to become his friend.  We can’t always trust our own perception of the value of our existence – especially when we are under extreme stress.  The Bible says that the human heart is easily deceived.   Only a robust belief system that is convinced of the value and purpose of human life can withstand the assault of the culture of death.

Believing that all people are made in God’s image means that we respect human life from beginning to end.   It also affects how we treat those around us.   Our society is not only increasingly tolerant of both abortion and euthanasia, it is also increasingly given to elder abuse, bullying, hazing, sexting, putdowns as a form of humour, and various other more subtle expressions of the conviction that some human lives matter more than others.

Christ-followers are called to live according to a different set of values than the world around us.   As society gets darker and a culture of death and despair takes root, we are called to let our minds be renewed by the Word of God so that we can represent the values of the Kingdom of God and be salt and light in a world that desparately needs hope.


In God’s image: made for community

After God had created Adam and placed him in the garden, his work of creation was still not complete.   God had given Adam a beautiful place to live and work to do, but Adam still was not fulfilled.  God determined to provide a helper, a companion, a partner for Adam.  God brought each of the animals to Adam and he gave them all names, but none of them proved to be a suitable companion for Adam.   That was when God made Eve, the first woman, from Adam’s rib.

This beautiful story conveys several profound truths about our created nature as humans.

First, we are distinct from animals even though we share certain characteristics with them.   In my previous post I looked at the uniquely human trait of creativity.   Some evolutionary biologists and philosophers would have us believe that there is no difference in value or significance between a person and an animal, but the Bible declares without apology the unique nature and value of human life.   I’ll develop this point mure fully in a future post.

Second, man and woman are designed and intended for each other.  It is abundantly clear from the Genesis account that the partnership between man and woman, including sexuality, is an essential feature of God’s plan for creation.   More on this in a future post as well.

Third, we are made for community in a more general sense.  Although the statement “it is not good for the man to be alone” applies first to Adam’s need for his partner Eve, it also has a broader reference.  Throughout the Bible we can see that God places people in families, communities, tribes and nations.  This is no accident – it reflects the way His Kingdom is ordered, along relational lines.

Anyone can see that we need others for all kinds of practical reasons.  Other people possess skills and abilities on which our life depends.  Doctors, nurses, teachers, gas station attendants, grocery clerks, computer programmers and many others all perform functions that I can’t do without.   This has always been true, even in the simplest forms of human society.

But our need for community goes deeper than this.  We need community for more than just survival.  We can’t discover our true identity or destiny on our own.  We need others to complete us, to help us grow, to force us to grow up.   Where did I learn how to forgive, how to conquer sin, how to love, how to pray?   In community.

Then God said “Let us make man in our image, in  our likeness” (Genesis 1:26).   The Hebrew word for God (Elohim) is a plural word.   This is no accident!  God is one, but God is also a community – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.   The Father loves the Son and shows him all he does.   The Son honours the Father and willingly gives his life to accomplish the Father’s purposes.   The Spirit exists to brings glory to the Son.   Our need for community is a reflection of our creation in the image of God.   That’s why growth in love is one of the key evidences that we are truly reborn.

Father, may it be so in my life.   May my life increasingly reflect your love and goodness.  Help me to appreciate the people around me and to see, honour and call forth Your image in each one.


In God’s image : creativity

My friend Frank MacDougall is the CTO and co-founder of GestureTek, a pioneer in camera-enabled gesture-recognition technology for presentation and entertainment systems.   To develop this new technology he had to be a visionary – he had to be able to imagine something that did not currently exist, that he could not see, feel or touch, and then bring it into being.

I am currently reading Stone of Farewell, a fantasy novel by Tad Williams.   One of the things I love about the book is its vivid descriptions of a world that is entirely imaginary.   To write this series of novels, the author had to conceive a universe that no-one but the readers of his books would ever see, then breathe life into it with his words.

My wife Marion tutors children who have trouble learning.  Part of her task is to help them to see themselves differently.  She has to be able to see potential that they might not see in themselves, convince them that they do indeed have this potential, then motivate them to make it a reality.

Creativity – it’s part of what makes us human, part of what it means to be made in the image of God.  Although animals display varying degrees of intelligence and skill, they do not appear to possess this ability to imagine a complex reality that never existed, and then bring it into being.  Alone on the earth, humans possess this attribute of creativity in abundance.

Of course, there is a basic difference between God’s creativity and ours.  We work with materials and potentialities that are provided to us in the already-created world into which we are born.  God started from nothing.

Another difference between God’s creativity and ours is that our human creative capacities can be used for good or for evil.  Along with great works of art, music, medical breakthroughs, and various other beneficial discoveries, under the influence of the Evil One our race has also spawned computer viruses, concentration camps, and torture chambers.

What God creates, on the other hand, is always good.   It’s true that God’s creation has been marred by sin and suffering – but that was not His original intent or plan.  All manner of misery can be traced back to the malicious thief who has invaded God’s world to steal, kill and destroy what God has made.  But that’s not the end of the story!   The great rebellion set the stage for God’s most creative act.

When my son was a little boy, he would bring me a broken toy and say “Daddy, fix it”.  And this is what our God has done with the gift of creativity that He originally imparted to us.   When our first parents chose independence and went their own way, choosing to resist God’s influence, gradually our creativity became corrupted and all manner of evil began to emerge.   But just when things were at their worst and all hope seemed lost, God sent His Son – the perfect reflection of His goodness and glory – to initiate a new beginning on planet Earth, a new creation.

As a result, those who live under Jesus’ Lordship are promised that one day His image in us will be fully restored and we will be like Him.   I am so grateful that God is able to fix what we have messed up – and not only fix it, but work even our mistakes and sins into His redemptive pattern, so that the end result incorporates what we did and looks even better than it would have if we had never gotten involved.   We see this supremely in the cross – an instrument of the worst kind of evil, yet chosen and used by God for His good purposes and made into the means of our redemption.

The great apostle Paul said it best ( Romans 11:33-36 ) :

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments,
and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
that God should repay him?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.


In God’s image : different gifts

One of the aspects of the way God has created us that can be either frustrating or rewarding is the fact that everyone is different.   You may find some people frustrating to deal with because they don’t respond to situations the way you would.   But this may be just an expression of the way they are “wired”.

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, the Apostle Paul listed different gifts – called motivational gifts by some,  Life Languages  by others – that are built in to the way we are designed by the Creator.    Part of being made in God’s image is that each of us reflects a different facet of God’s character.   This can be frustrating if we let the differences irritate us – but it can be very rewarding if we learn to recognize that the people in our lives all have their own gift to offer.

One of the keys to learning to live in community – for that matter, one of the keys to being happy and having a productive life – is learning to accept the way God has made you and the way He has made others.   There is a reason why we don’t all have the same strengths.   This is not a mistake!  We were not created to be independent of each other – we were created for community (more on this in a future post).

Of course, one might use this legitimate insight as an excuse for being obnoxious and selfish, claiming “that’s just the way God made me”.   But if you and I are honest with ourselves, we know that’s a cop-out.  We can’t use our created differences as an excuse to rationalize our selfishness, stubbornness, pride, or any of the other forms of sin.   We’re called by God to use our different gifts to serve others – not to justify our own self-interest.   But as someone who genuinely wants to serve God, I have found it very liberating to realize that it is OK to be different from others.  I find that I am much more effective, and my life is much more satisfying, when I stop trying to be like someone else, and learn to make the most of the way God has made me.

That doesn’t mean I can’t acquire new skills or cultivate new strengths.  I’ve grown and changed in many ways during the course of my life and I expect this to continue.  But the basic truth of the way God has made me is still there, and I find it much easier to work with this basic set of gifts rather than trying to change it.   In any team or community, I believe we will find that we function more effectively together if we allow the members of the team to be who they are, and learn to harness each person’s strengths.   This isn’t just common sense – it’s a recognition of the grace of God reflected in the way we are made.


In God’s image : made for a purpose

This is one of a series of posts exploring the topic of our human nature.   In this series I want to take a look at the concept that we are made in God’s image, and explore some implications of that belief.  For small group leaders – these topics could be good discussion starters in your small groups.

Today I’d like to think about the fact that we are made for a purpose.

Even people who don’t believe in God desire to find meaning, purpose and order in their lives.  That is an intrinsic part of human nature and is increasingly recognized as a key to mental health.   Some might argue that this desire for order, meaning and purpose just evolved by chance, but I don’t buy that argument.   All around us we see that order, design and purpose are always the result of the application of an intelligent, creative and purposeful will.   How can a random process with no intelligence, design or purpose result in an intelligent, incredibly complex being that is motivated to seek order and purpose?  This is a logical fallacy – even a child can see that it makes no sense.

People desire order, meaning and purpose in their lives because we were made that way by God.   One of the characteristics of God in Scripture is that God has a purpose, He has a redemptive plan.   The pagan nations around Israel saw their gods as arbitrary, capricious and sometimes cruel.   Not having any knowledge of the true God, they created gods as an explanation for the circumstances of life, and since life includes events that are random and unpredictable, they concluded that the gods – or some of them, anyway – must be cruel and not very dependable.  But the God of the Bible is different.   He is not the author of confusion or chaos.  These come from his Enemy who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.   The God of the Bible has a purpose.  That purpose is to redeem the creation which has been marred by sin, to overcome and finally destroy all evil powers, and to make all things new.

Studies consistently show that older people living alone are happier and healthier if they have a pet or even some plants to care for.  Why is this?  There are probably several reasons, but surely one reason is that when we have someone or something to  care for, we feel needed and valued.  All of us have a deep need for significance – to feel that our lives count for something.  In other words, we want to know that our life, and what we are doing, has some lasting value –  that it has some purpose.   That’s because we are made in God’s image.   God assigned a high purpose to our first parents – they were God’s representatives, charged with governing the earth on His behalf, and called to live their lives as God’s friends, in close relationship with Him.   He made each of us for a specific purpose too.   Each of us reflects some aspect of His creative, purposeful nature.

In a future post I’ll talk more about how our various abilities and gifts reflect God’s creative purpose.   For now let me close with a bit of my own testimony.  When I surrendered control of my life to Jesus Christ at age 34, I found a peace I had never known before.   It was good to know that I was forgiven and accepted and loved by God.  But I still wanted to know that God had something significant for me to do!   Was this just pride?  I don’t think so.   No doubt there was some pride mixed into my makeup at that time – I was a mixture of good and bad motives, and getting it all sorted out has been a lifelong process – but fundamentally, the desire to do something significant with our lives is part of the way we are made.  It is part of God’s plan, part of what it means to be made in His image.  That’s why Jesus treated His disciples as partners and entrusted His work to them.   That’s also why U.S. President Barack Obama’s campaign slogan – Yes, we can – held such powerful appeal : because people want to know that they can make a difference.

Yes, we can – not all by ourselves, not on our own – but we can make a difference.  We are made in God’s image, made for a purpose, and we can represent God’s purposes on earth.  First we need to come to Jesus for cleansing and forgiveness – we need to let Him put our pride and self-will to death, not once but over and over again – but as He forms His character in us, restores and remakes us, and empowers us to do His works, we can play our part in seeing God’s good purposes fulfilled on the earth.

To think about :

  • What difference does it make to the way you live your life to know that you were made for a purpose, and that God finds delight in you?

Made in God’s image

In my next few posts I want to expore the topic of our human nature.   Since people are usually interested in themselves, these topics could be good discussion starters for small groups.

Let’s start with the concept that we are made in God’s image.   This is a basic Biblical principle.  But what does it really mean?

In the ancient world, kings would erect little statues of themselves at the borders of their realm.  The image looked enough like the king that everyone who saw it would recognize it.  It represented the king’s authority and power – it was a way of saying “This territory belongs to the King”.   So when the book of Genesis says that God made humankind in his image, this is very significant.  Genesis goes on to say that God assigned us the task of governing the created world.  This means we are put in charge of the earth on His behalf, and that we represent His rule and authority on earth.

Being made in God’s image also means that we are intended to be like God.   I’ll explore some implications of this idea in my next few posts.  God’s original intent was that we would have unbroken fellowship with Him, and that our lives would reflect His glory and goodness on earth.  We see this only imperfectly because the original couple gave into the snake’s deception and chose independence, turning against God.   If we had never sinned, this likeness would be far more evident and complete.

Even so, there is a nobility in the human spirit that reflects our origins.   St. Augustine, one of the greatest writers and thinkers in all of Christian history, said that human nature is like a ruined palace.  Although it is in ruins, you can still see the outlines of the glory that was originally intended by its creator.  Although human beings have become capable of much evil, we have many capacities that distinguish us from the animal kingdom and reflect our unique place as carriers of God’s image.   We’ll look at some of these in the next few posts.

The image of God in us is also a clue to where we are headed.  The New Testament tells us that tells us that Jesus our Lord is a perfect reflection of God’s glory, and that the destiny of those who belong to Jesus is to be made like Him.

For discussion and reflection :

  • What difference does it make in the way you live your life to know that you were made in God’s image, and are destined to reflect Christ’s glory?
  • What difference does it make in the way you treat others or think about them to realize that they, too, are made in his image, no matter how damaged they may be?