Author Archives: Tim Thomas

About Tim Thomas

I am a husband, father, author, pastor, speaker, and economist, but foremost, I am loved by God, and I love my God as my greatest treasure. I love sharing with people that God is incredibly in love with them, and that He is calling them to a deep fulfilling friendship with Himself.

How to Look Like Jesus without Growing a Beard (2 Corinthians 3:18)

by Pastor Tim Thomas

We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit. –2 Corinthians 3:18 (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I want people to look at me and see Jesus. I want them to see me and recognize the very presence of God, not because of who I am, but because of how I’ve been changed by God. This verse has the key to being transformed, and the way to be transformed is very different than most of us have been taught.

This chapter in Second Corinthians began talking about the glory that shone from Moses’s face and how with a better covenant we believers now have a greater glory than Moses had. And in this verse, it seems that the idea is picked up once again, this time suggesting that the way that glory is increased – and the way that we are transformed into the image of Christ – is through beholding the glory of the Lord.

Beholding means to gaze upon something or someone, and this passage talks about gazing upon the glory of the Lord. Recall that when Moses reflected the glory of the Lord, his face glowed. If glory was revealed from Moses’s face, it seems reasonable to think that the glory is revealed from the Lord’s face. This verse seems to be the New Testament version of Psalms 27:8, where we are invited here not just to seek God’s face but to gaze upon God’s face.

This verse seems to say that if we follow a strategy of regularly spending time in God’s presence, gazing upon his face, people will be able to see Christ in us as we are transformed by his glory. The passage talks about the transformation being from glory to glory, which implies a progressive transformation as we pursue his face. That is, the effect is cumulative, and the more times we behold Him, the more we are transformed.

Should we take this idea of gazing upon the face of God literally or metaphorically? I think most people take it metaphorically, but that might have a lot to do with the fact that not many people know how to engage their spiritual senses to interact with God. You “hear” God speak to you in your spirit. You can also “see” God in your spirit. We believers have the Holy Spirit within us, so he can help us develop these abilities. I find it easier to hear in the Spirit than to see in the Spirit, but as I thought about it recently, some of the most significant events in my life came about because I could see in the Spirit as well. If you are open to it, you can experiment with this. Ask God to help you!

P.S. Mark and Patti Virkler write about learning to see spiritually in their book “Dialog with God” if you are interested in learning about this in more detail.

This was first posted on the sister website, devotedheart.org.

Get in the Dance (Ephesians 3:19)

by Pastor Tim Thomas

May you… know [practically, through personal experience] the love of Christ which far surpasses [mere] knowledge [without experience], that you may be filled up… to all the fullness of God [so that you may have the richest experience of God’s presence in your lives, completely filled and flooded with God Himself]. — Ephesians 3:19 (AMPL)

This is my favorite verse in the Bible. The verse implies that if you get a deeper revelation of how incredibly in love with you that God is, it will open up the door for you to be totally transformed by God. That revelation of love will open up the door for you to have such an awareness of God’s presence with you, and that presence will spill over to touch the lives of others.

While this passage doesn’t address how this will all come about, I would like to suggest how I think it works. Jesus once said that whoever is forgiven little loves little, but whoever is forgiven much loves much (Luke 7). I would like to suggest something similar from this passage: whoever is loved much loves much, and whoever is loved just a little, loves just a little. More truthfully, it is not simply a matter of how much one is loved, but how much one believes he is loved. We don’t have the capacity to love God greatly without first understanding how greatly God loves us. And we can’t respond deeply to God’s love if we only see it abstractly (i.e., God loving humanity, rather than God knowing me and loving me for who I am). But a revelation of God’s specific love for me – well that’s life changing!

A revelation of how much God loves me opens up the pathway for me to draw close to God – for me to come right into God’s very presence. And it is in God’s very presence that we are able to receive an ever-deepening revelation of how much we are loved. This is a positive feedback loop. In God’s presence, I get a revelation of how much He loves me, and once I have an increased level of understanding how much He loves me, I can draw closer to Him, because His love for me overcomes the obstacles that I previously face in drawing close.

Unfortunately, a positive feedback loop can lock us out unless something initiates the loop. That is why we pray for one another – and for ourselves – to get a revelation of God’s love. And why, ultimately, it is God Himself who must act to initiate this feedback loop. But it is up to us to respond to the revelation that God gives, and to keep the positive feedback loop going. It is like an eternal dance where God moves, and we follow.

Let’s get in the dance! Let’s ask God to give us a deeper revelation of his love for us, and let’s do our best to draw close to Him. Over time, we will become marinated in His Spirit, taking on His likeness as we continue in this path.

This was first posted on the sister website, devotedheart.org.

I Will Seek Your Face! (Psalms 27:8)

by Pastor Tim Thomas

You have said, “Seek my face.” My heart says to you, “Your face, Lord, do I seek.” — Psalms 27:8 (ESV)

Something leaps in me when I read how the heart responds! In this passage, the first thing we see is the Psalmist acknowledging that the idea of seeking God’s face originated not with us but with God. God extends the invitation to all, but who will hear the cry of His heart and respond? My observation has been that while many acknowledge God, few take time to wait for His presence and to listen to His voice.

Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “’Seek and keep on seeking and you will find’” (Matthew 7:7, AMPL), which echoes the word of the prophet Jeremiah to the Israelites, “You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13, ESV). God wants to be found, and even guarantees our success, as long as we don’t give up.

I’ve often felt that God wants to be pursued by us, because that is a sign of our genuine love, so he doesn’t always make it easy to sense his presence and hear his voice. And it is not simply a matter of being a genuine sign of our love – there is something in the pursuit of God’s face that stirs our hearts to greater love, as long as we don’t let discouragement come in.

In Psalm 27, however, we see the reply of a willing soul, who responds from the depth of his or her being — from the heart. And from the heart arises the cry, “I am seeking, and will continue to seek until I find.” After such a pledge, the Psalmist struggles with some doubt, but eventually concludes that he will be successful, if he doesn’t give up: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the Lord!” (Psalms 27:13-14, ESV).

Let us join with the Psalmist in his pursuit, not giving up until we have seen the face of God!

This was first posted on the sister website, devotedheart.org.

An Expression of Sin in Our Culture is to Judge Others

I read an op-ed this week by one of my favorite opinion writers, David Brooks of the New York Times. He was talking about how many people thought that becoming unmoored from religion would lead to a less judgmental society. Yet the opposite seems to be true — people are getting more concerned about morality rather than less — just that there is no longer a standard, agreed-upon code that the Judeo-Christian ethic once provided. And so the conflict level has risen as people seem to be debating from a multitude of standards, unable to find resolution since the standards differ.

David goes off in a direction with his article that I don’t want to focus on here, but his identification of the problem I thought was very insightful and spurred a thought or two of my own.

Why didn’t society settle out at a “you do you and I’ll do me” framework? I suppose that at some level of interaction, we did. But the problem is that this only can work in the personal sphere (if it can work at all), and even in that sphere seems to result in distant relationships because people relating on this basis have trouble doing anything together except when it is in each person’s self-interest. Fundamentally, intimacy is about doing things for the sake of the other person, out of love.

However, in the public and political sphere, to accomplish anything at all there has to be a way to make joint decisions since there are limited resources and since the biggest issues require some kind of agreement as to how we are going to do things.
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Let Jesus be Your Valentine

heartValentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the significant love of your life. For some, this is a husband or wife; for others, a boyfriend or girlfriend; and some are without a Valentine for Valentine’s Day. I know I had quite a few years like that. Yet I wasn’t truly without a Valentine, because ever since I came to know Jesus in a personal way, I have considered him to be my First Love!

I’m not here to suggest that you don’t celebrate the significant other that you have in your life on Valentine’s Day, but what I would like to suggest is that you not forget Jesus as your most significant other. In Revelations 2, Jesus is talking to the church in Ephesus, and he tells them that he is upset with them, because they have forsaken their first love, who is Jesus. I have taken that phrase “first love” to mean “highest, most important, preeminent love”. That is, Jesus wants to have the status as the one we love the most. Yet when we are honest with ourselves, a lot of us recognize that the flame that once burned bright in our hearts due to the passion we had for him has now become weak and dim.

Let’s take the occasion of Valentine’s Day to renew our passion for Jesus! Even if we feel we are in love with Jesus, there is always more to be had. I’m not suggesting we beat ourselves up about our failures, or even rev ourselves up so that we get hyped on adrenalin. Rather, what I’m suggesting is that we do the things that make our hearts come alive when we are with our love: we take walks where our focus is on our love; we sing to our love; we speak words of gratitude to our love. And we don’t do this just one day out of the year — we use that one special day, Valentine’s Day, as a way of re-establishing patterns for cultivating love for our Beloved year round.

Let us stir up the passion as Song of Solomon teaches us, recalling that “I am my Beloved’s and He is mine” (Song of Solomon 2:16, 6:3) and even embracing the truth that “I am my Beloved’s and His desire is for me” (Song of Solomon 7:10)! Yes, as hard as some of us may find it to believe, Jesus’ passion for us is great — and no matter how much passion we stir up for him, his passion for us is even greater!

Here’s hoping that you and your Beloved have an unforgettable Valentine’s Day this year!

Asking from a Place of Intimacy (Part 2)

dawn-1868418_1920cropIn Part 1 of Asking from a Place of Intimacy, we saw two bold requests Moses made of God in Exodus 33:12-17, and how God granted those requests. Here, we will see Moses ask for something really outrageous. We read in Exodus 33:18-23,

Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The LORD.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” And the LORD said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”

Moses asked to see God’s glory! No person had ever asked for that before in part because people getting that close to God expected to die from the experience. Yet Moses was at the place of intimacy with God that he wanted to go deeper than he had gone before, and his request, if granted, would take him to that depth.
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Asking from a Place of Intimacy (Part 1)

pinky-swear-329329_1280We have been taking a close look at the interaction between Moses and God recorded in Exodus 33. The chapter began with God telling Moses that He isn’t going to go with Israel into the Promised Land, because the nation is stubborn and unwilling to walk in faith with God. Then we read about Moses establishing the Tent of Meeting where he regularly meets with God, and how the nation responds with admiration for Moses and reverence for God when he goes to the Tent. In this article, we will focus on the unbelievable requests Moses makes of God, and the more surprising favorable answers God gives him.

You can change God’s mind from a place of intimacy

As we begin with Exodus 33:12-14, we find the first exchange between Moses and God.

Moses said to the Lord, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favor with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. Remember that this nation is your people.”

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (NIV)

To understand in context what Moses seems to be asking, we have to refer back to verses 1 to 3 in which God said that he would not go with Israel into the Promised Land, but would send an angel to lead them instead. Moses is now asking God whether He had reconsidered what he said about not going with Israel Himself. Moses reminds God that He had told Moses that Moses had found favor with Him. And Moses asks directly for God to show Moses ways that are pleasing to God, so that Moses can know God better, and can continue to please God.
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Do You Need Your Own Established Place to Meet with God?

“It was Moses’ custom to set up the tent known as the Tent of Meeting far outside the camp. Everyone who wanted to consult with the LORD would go there.” — Exodus 33:7 (NLT)

True confession. I’ve been going through a season in which it has been hard to connect with God, and I can tell you that it’s not God’s fault. I’ve been busy and distracted by many things, and the older, more leisurely ways that I used to use to connect with God aren’t working for me now. I’m not happy with my situation. Far from it! The problem is that I have been stumped as to what to do about it. Just recently, however, as I was talking to God about my struggle, I felt like He suggested that I take a closer look at the life of Moses to see if I might find some ideas that would help me. So as I began looking at an old familiar passage, I found some real gems that I believe will make a difference in my life. Perhaps you also are not satisfied with how your walk with God has been going, so perhaps there are things that might help you, as well.
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Right from the first verse gems of truth started jumping off the page. Exodus 33:7 is meant as an introduction to the passage, and as an introduction, such gems are not expected. But here we see something special that Moses did. He set up a place for people to meet with God. It is referred to as the Tent of Meeting. This tent was meant to be a place where anyone could go, yet many commentators believe that it was only ever used by Moses and his faithful assistant Joshua. How sad if this is true! Yet the fact that Moses established this place with not only himself but others in mind speaks clearly about his heart that everyone be invited to have intimacy with God.

I realize that one hindrance I experienced in connecting with God is noise and distraction. I think God likes it when we are able to focus on him alone, and so the idea of establishing a place where I can focus — my own Tent of Meeting — is a powerful one. If you are wondering how to do this, perhaps there is a room in your home that can be set aside for meeting with God? I know that many of us don’t have a separate space we can use, so maybe it would be possible to repurpose a space that you are already using for something else? Maybe a desk generally used for other purposes might transform nicely into a place of prayer, Bible reading, and journal writing. Even a kitchen table could be transformed. You could help to make it special by placing a candle or cross on it, or changing the lighting in the space, or turning on worship music. You just need to be creative!

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God’s Visible Presence in Our Lives

One of my heroes of faith is Moses. The first thing that attracted me to Moses is that he set up a tent of meeting, where he would go to meet with God. And apparently God liked it, because God showed up and talked to Moses like a person talks to a close friend, face-to-face (Exodus 33:7-11). Then I like the fact that Moses knew that he needed God so much that he told God that if God didn’t go with he and the Israelites, then it would be better not to go to the Promised Land, because no one would know that they had that special relationship with God. And Moses wanted others to know God’s presence (Exodus 33:14-16).
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God seemed to answer Moses’ prayer for letting others know about God’s favor and presence in a most unusual way. It appears that not long after Moses prayed that prayer, God called him up on the mountain to receive the Law once again. And when Moses came down from the mountain, his face glowed so much that it actually scared the people, and Moses had to put a veil on his face to calm them down (Exodus 34:29-33). While it’s not my goal or purpose to scare people, one of my goals in life is to have such a level of intimacy with God that I glow. I want the presence of God to be so strong in me and with me that people will see a testimony of the love and nearness of God, with the hope that they too will draw near to God.

One important thing to note from Moses’s example was that he didn’t know he had any tangible sign of God’s presence. Others had to tell him. The only time that he was aware of God’s presence is when he set aside time to devote to God. Then God showed up in a way that was tangible to Moses. That might just be a general principle for all of us. We won’t often be aware of God’s presence as we go about our day, and if we want to be aware of God’s presence, then we need to come aside to a private place to meet with God face-to-face.

Unfortunately, because we don’t see what others see in us, we can fall into discouragement, because we aren’t aware of how God has transformed us, and we can feel like we are failures because we don’t see much fruit in our lives from our faith. So we need to speak positively to ourselves about God’s work in our lives – even if we can’t see it, speaking it out is an act of faith. But this is also a call to action for each of us to encourage one another in a very particular way: we call out the good and Godly things we see in others. We actually “reflect back” to them what we see in them. This is a powerful way to build up another person, and as we built up part of the Body of Christ, we build up the whole body of Christ.

It is easy to think that the glowing face of Moses was because he spent 40 days and nights in God’s presence. Certainly it is true that Moses first glowed after that experience. But he also spent much time before that in the Tent of Meeting, during which he built an intimate relationship with God. And Moses did not settle for this one mountaintop experience, thinking that he had somehow “arrived” because he got his credentials with God and that he had street cred with his people because he glowed. No, Exodus 34:34-35 tells us that Moses continued to meet with God, and that his face glowed after every meeting. His desire for intimacy with God and for God’s presence did not stop with the mountaintop experience. He kept up his intentional meeting with God, and God’s presence in his life was consistently the result.

May we all set apart time to focus on God, and may that lead us to become thoroughly saturated in His wonderful presence!

How not to Be a Jerk on Facebook, and Still Express Yourself

At the time of writing this article near the end of 2016, Facebook has 1.71 billion monthly users. That’s a lot of potential friends! But unfortunately, not all interaction on Facebook is friendly, especially in this election cycle in the U.S. In fact, many people have pulled themselves back from using Facebook, because of all of the angry exchanges that seem to permeate their newsfeeds. Reading all the angry comments can really wear out the softer-hearted people (and I think most of us, at the core, have soft hearts).

Truth is, there are a lot of jerks on Facebook! Yet these Facebook jerks generally seem to be nice enough people if you meet them off the internet. I have to say that it would be fair to say that I have been a Facebook jerk, and so I’m not coming from the perspective of being an angel telling transgressors how to repent, but from the perspective of someone who has not behaved well, but is learning all the time how do better.

I never set out to be a jerk, it just happened. I think the main problem for me is that I was new to expressing ideas in what is essentially a public venue in which multiple people can jump in, and so I didn’t have a clear idea how to have boundaries and rules that kept me safe from saying things in ways that were not wise, resulting in angry exchanges, not just by me but by teams of people going back and forth yelling at each other in writing.
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