“God looks at the heart”

Derek & Geoff

It’s Thursday. Or, as they say on facebook, “Throwback Thursday.”

Throwback Thursday is not typically a game I play, but this photograph with my brother seemed to jump out at me when I noticed it in my parents’ living room yesterday, so I thought I’d share.

The image was captured when Geoff and I were both in our early 30’s. I remember there was some debate as to appropriate “family portrait attire.” Rebekah and I instructed everyone to dress casually and wear “soft” colors; but then there was, “That’s not how we usually do this…” and so we ran into a little resistance!

WHO WE ARE: In the end, everyone was pleased with the results. And, looking back at the studio portraits over the years, I think this particular sitting told a more accurate story of who we were. Of course, the whole notion of “who we were”, and “who we are” turns out to be an interesting concept, because while in some respects I’m exactly the same person you see in that old photograph (but without the hair), in others I have changed radically, and grown into so much more of a complete person.

The story of who we are can be grossly distorted in the fraction-of-a-second pinpoint of light captured via the opening and closing of a shutter in front of a lens. Not surprisingly, Jesus was all over this idea, and he demonstrated the ability to see deep into the soul. He saw beauty and promise where others could only see what affronted them. And he saw filth and decay where truth was covered by the appearance of following the law.

I love the way God advised Samuel, when he was looking for the right person to lead Israel:

When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)


CHANGE: It’s been almost three decades since that photograph was taken, and God has watched my outward appearance go through some fairly dramatic changes during that time! I guess I could work out more, get a stylist, and buy some expensive Italian clothes before the next photo-op; but none of that would change the way God sees me, loving me fiercely and looking all the way into my heart and soul.

My brother Geoff, who is now resting in the loving arms of God, finally knows and understands himself in the way that God always has. As for me, I’m still learning how to respond to God’s restorative love with more and more honesty, and with increasing humility.

BOTTOM LINE: So here’s my essential message (once again, for those who can’t seem to get the “outward appearance” thing out of their line of sight):

  • The Lord looks at the heart, not the outward appearance;
  • Jesus came, quite simply, to restore the possibility of relationship with God;
  • I’m simply here to encourage everyone to trust Jesus and to – joyfully – live as Followers of the Living Way.

This is a beautiful truth: “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” (1 John 2:1-2)

– DEREK MAUL (sinner; friend of Jesus; child of God)

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