Thursday, June 30, 2011

Trusting a Creative God

The story of Joshua 2 is fascinating to me. First of all, things did not go well the last time Israelite spies were sent into the land to scope it out. But here Joshua is sending spies out again. Secondly, God’s plan for conquering Jericho had nothing to do with military strategy, so spying out the land was really unnecessary.

And yet, this time spying out the land goes very well. Not for military purposes, but for God’s plan. The immediate result is Joshua’s encouragement. I love how God does want to encourage us if we will listen! Joshua heard that the people of the land had melted in fear of the Israelites. What better encouragement could there be!

But, then there was a more long-term plan that none of the characters in the story would ever know during their lifetime. Spying out the land preserved the family of Rahab. Rahab is found again in Matthew 1’s genealogy of the Messiah as one of His direct ancestors.

God’s instructions often seem to fall into two categories. 1) Instructions that make sense logically but don’t always seem to have logical consequences. 2) Instructions that make absolutely no sense logically but simply require faithful obedience.

Spying out the land seemed logical to Joshua, but the results of the spying were, from an earthly perspective, irrelevant for the immediate task of conquering Jericho. But, God did work through it.

I often think that my actions are pointless if they do not produce the results I expect. I am challenged to change that view point. I am challenged to trust in God’s creativity and to remember that things don’t have to fall into a predictable pattern to be useful. My eyes may never even see exactly what it is that God is doing, but that is irrelevant in the grand scheme of His amazingly detailed and perfect plan.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


1 I will lift up my eyes to the mountains;
From where shall my help come?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
Who made heaven and earth.
3 He will not allow your foot to slip;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
4 Behold, He who keeps Israel
Will neither slumber nor sleep.

5 The LORD is your keeper;
The LORD is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun will not smite you by day,
Nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will protect you from all evil;
He will keep your soul.
8 The LORD will guard your going out and your coming in
From this time forth and forever. Psalm 121

Typically when the day’s challenge is based on more than just a few verses, I just include the reference here instead of the whole passage. But, I couldn’t help it with this Psalm. I absolutely love this one! Not long ago the kids and I memorized it as part of our school memorization, and it was so exciting to hear my sweet children proclaim these verse together.

Last night in our book study one of our topics of discussion touched on praying blessings over others. Last night I thought, “Yeah, I do that!” But as I read this Psalm this morning and felt the strength the words poured into me, I realized how little I truly do pray blessings over others. Why? Because the most beautiful words of blessing are found in Scripture, and I have declined in my faithfulness to pray Scripture over others.

So, my challenge today is to return to something I used to do faithfully: pray Scripture over others. And Psalm 121 is definitely a beautiful place to start.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Proclaim It!

Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak; and let the earth hear the words of my mouth. Let my teaching drop as the rain, my speech distill as the dew, as the droplets on the fresh grass and as the showers on the herb. For I proclaim the name of the LORD; ascribe greatness to our God! Deut 32:1-3

I don’t know about you, but this makes me want to shout! It makes me want to get up and tell the world that I love Almighty God! I want to tell how great and how wonderful He is!

But do I do it?

As I started reading this song of Moses, I came face to face with the question of my own willingness to proclaim the greatness of God. What keeps me from it?

A couple of things tend to derail me. First, neglect. I simply get so caught up in my own selfish little world that I don’t even think about making sure my every public word and deed proclaims God’s greatness. Second, my failings. It’s that old tendency to complain when the drivers with the Christian fish on their cars tend to be the worst and rudest drivers. I don’t want to be the one whose life does not back up her words. So, I say nothing.

In response to the first derailment, I am challenged to get over myself. If my life is just about me, then it is one pitiful life. But, if it’s about the eternal God, Creator of everything, then there is nothing worthless about it! I have to live and speak for Him!

In response to the second, I am challenged to let God be God. Nothing I do can lessen His greatness. None of my failings can blemish His perfection and purity. On the contrary, my worship of Him out of my inadequacies is the most beautiful worship because it highlights the incredible power of the blood of Jesus Christ.

Today I will proclaim the Name of the Lord and ascribe greatness to Him!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Unselfish Growth

Today as I read Isaiah 58:2-12, I was struck by the realization that the Israelites did observe some semblance of appropriate religious practice. It is easy to assume from the depth of their fall that they totally gave themselves over to paganistic worship without ever thinking again of the one true God. But, in reading the prophets it appears that they did still recognize themselves as God’s chosen people. As such, they still acted as if they called on His Name and worshipped Him, even though their worship of Him was so intermingled with that of idols that they didn’t know where one ended and the other started.

But, the thing that really grabbed me was the contrast between their perception of their own worship and God’s true vision. Look at verse two:

Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways,
As a nation that has done righteousness
And has not forsaken the ordinance of their God.
They ask Me for just decisions,
They delight in the nearness of God.
Isaiah 58:2

But the following verses show that though they claimed to seek God and delight in His ways, their actions proved otherwise. Even in the midst of their so-called worship, their self-centeredness proved that they were out for personal blessing and benefit, not for intimacy with God.

I had to stop and evaluate my own quest for spiritual growth. What is my motivation? What is the true condition of my heart? Do I really want to grow and become more focused on His glory? Or do I seek my own edification?

Too often it’s the latter. I want to be well considered. I want to receive blessings. I want to overflow with joy and peace and be remembered for my confidence in the Lord. None of those are inherently bad, but my motivation in attaining them is me, me, me. It’s selfishness. True growth comes when my motivation is the glorification of God and the edification of others. It comes when I am more concerned that someone else see the hand of God than that I grow another ounce or inch spiritually.

That’s a hard concept to consider. I know I will always battle selfishness and will always hunger for my own relationship with Christ to grow, as well it should. But, I am also challenged to see an increased hunger to grow beyond myself. To make God’s glory my true motivation.  As a result, the growth I crave will come in ways more amazing than I could ever imagine!

Friday, June 24, 2011

My Portion

The Lord is my portion; I have promised to keep Your words. Psalm 119:57

This verse begins a new segment of the acrostic poem that is Psalm 119, but it fits so beautifully with some of the thoughts expressed in the previous eight verses. Psalm 119:49-56 is such an emotional passage. It discusses the hope and comfort brought from the Word. It also discusses the disgust  over those who reject and neglect the Word. And then this new section begins with the statement, “The Lord is my portion.” Is that not beautiful?

But, is it reality for me? If the Lord is my portion, then wouldn’t He be the source of greatest satisfaction in my life? Wouldn’t I be okay even if everything else were stripped from me? Would I turn to food for stress relief? Would I grow angry over petty things? Would I lack for hope in times of despair?

I want to say that the Lord is my portion. That truly is my desire. And, that is my challenge. May my life grow more and more to the point of the Lord being my portion and may everything else steadily fade in comparison.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Always Before Me

I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me. I cling to Your testimonies; Ps 119:30-31a 

Oh how I love Psalm 119! I can’t read any part of it without feeling the same passion for the Word of God. The whole Psalm is an acrostic poem (in the original Hebrew) devoted to the beauty of God’s Word.

As I read Psalm 119:25-40 today, I noticed something. There are multiple steps to truly falling in love with Scripture. It takes a combination of God’s movement and our own response. First, He provides it to us, obviously. Even the most basic study of how the Bible as we know it came to be reveals a beautifully orchestrated story of the formation and preservation of God’s Word. It excites me to no end to know that He loves us so immensely that He would go to such great lengths to make sure we could hear from Him!

But, the second step is up to us. That’s where Ps 119:30-31a comes in. We have to determine that we are going to keep His Word before us at all times! I was recently discussing Bible reading and retention with some friends, and one friend commented that she has been convicted strongly of the need to not just read but memorize Scripture. And she’s so right! It’s not enough to just daily peruse God’s Word – we have to know it! It has to be in our minds and hearts. It has to be in our faces throughout the house. It has to be on our lips as we speak to our children. It has to be active within us, through us, and around us!

But, keeping the Word in front of us is not the end. The final step is once again God’s – He is the only One who truly brings Scripture to life in us!

That’s where my challenge comes in. I read the Word daily, but I don’t always actively and hungrily pursue its life within me. I am challenged to not be content with simply reading. I am challenged to instead be driven with a passion to pursuit of God through His Word. I am challenged to plead with Him to bring the Bible alive, teaching me how to keep it before me at all times.

I have the deep love for God’s Word. But it’s not enough if it’s not always before me, actively at work in my life.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Bold Bragging

Then I proclaimed a fast there at the river of Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God to seek from Him a safe journey for us, our little ones, and all our possessions. For I was ashamed to request from the king troops and horsemen to protect us from the enemy on the way, because we had said to the king, “The hand of our God is favorably disposed to all those who seek Him, but His power and His anger are against all those who forsake Him.”  So we fasted and sought our God concerning this matter, and He listened to our entreaty. Ezra 8:21-23

Several times in Scripture there is an interesting order of events. First, someone brags about what God is going to do, then he prays and asks God to do it. Ezra is one of those someones, but the thing that sets Ezra apart from the other examples is his honesty about how he feels after bragging about God. He is afraid and ashamed. But, he is also desperate. Now that he’s bragged about God, there’s only one thing he can do: pray to God.

Now, keep in mind, there is a huge difference between bragging about God in a worldly sense and bragging in a Biblical sense. Ezra’s bragging was based on the truth of God’s nature. If I were to brag that tomorrow God was going to drop a brand new Saturn Outlook in my driveway, that would not be Biblically-based bragging.

But, what it comes down to is this: I don’t brag about God in any sense before His hand moves. I take the cautious route. I wait until He’s done something cool and then I brag about Him.

What does that say about my faith? It’s easy to be critical of Ezra because he’s bragged about God and then he’s turned around and become afraid and ashamed because he now has to put his money where his mouth is. He now has to trust that God is going to be “favorably disposed” to this traveling entourage. But, at least he had the faith to make those statements in advance! His faith only wavered after he was stuck standing on it! I don’t let my faith get that far. I stay “safely” noncommittal, accepting that God can choose whether or not He’s going to work.

I am challenged to stop playing it “safe.” After all, it’s not really safe. It’s weak. Even worse, it’s lacking in faith. I am challenged to boldly brag about my God, in a Biblically sound manner, of course! I am challenged to get myself stuck in situations where no matter how much my faith wavers, I still have to stand on it.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Live Like I’m Loved!

This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Ps 118:24

I absolutely love how beloved and well-known verses of encouragement like this come right in the middle of passages that talk about oppression, persecution, illness, and suffering of all kinds. Psalm 118 begins and ends with the goodness and lovingkindness of God surrounding a center of suffering.

So often I begin with my suffering and complaints. Then they take the middle portion as well. At the end, I try to close with praise, but I find it difficult because all I have done is pour out my complaints and sufferings. But my sufferings are not the reality. The reality is the goodness and love of God! The sufferings are just a temporary condition. God’s “lovingkindness is everlasting” (Ps 118:1, 2, 3, and 29)! How can my difficulties even hold a candle to that?

I’m reading the book The Fitting Room by Kelly Minter for a group Bible study I’m participating in. One of this week’s chapters talks about truly believing in and viewing our lives in light of the love of God. Not some ooey-gooey, ushy-gushy temporal perspective of love, but the Ps 118 form of love – eternal, powerful, solid. The kind that makes us stand up and rejoice in the day no matter what it brings, simply because God made it and He loves us!

Even just thinking about the challenge this brings to my heart makes me smile without restraint. God loves me! I am challenged to live like it! To realize that this day was created by a heart of incomprehensible love! To realize that I am the object of that love! How can I help but rejoice in this day?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Too Small

He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”  Isaiah 49:6

My first reaction to this verse was almost giddiness. I love it that my salvation emanates from the fact that God couldn’t do something so “small” as to just bring salvation to His chosen people. He had to bring it to the whole world!

But, then I stopped to think about how the Israelites might have responded to this. Probably the same way I tend to respond when my personal relief seems to be delayed…I don’t care about the “big picture”! I’m miserable now and need Your hand to relieve me!

I am challenged to break free of that self-centered attitude when my misery is not immediately relieved. God doesn’t find my little issues too small to  contemplate. On the contrary, He loves to show Himself even in the smallest of details. But, His glory is too great to limit His work to one little issue. When He works, He works grandly. I might never see the full scope of His grand plan, but He still works grandly nonetheless.

May I have the patience in my little, temporary, minor issues to wait for God’s grand plan. May I be more delighted with the prospect of His glory than with my own relief. After all, my intimate and personal relationship with Him is all the result of His refusal to limit His work to “too small a thing.”

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Remember the Praise

As I read Psalm 108 this morning, I felt such a joy and delight in the words and the praise that flowed from David’s pen. But then I read D.A. Carson’s commentary on the psalm, and I discovered that it is actually a combination of two others penned by David, Psalm 57 and Psalm 60. The second half of each one was cut out and then they were combined to form Psalm 108.

So, what was cut out? Well, mainly the complaints – the part that told of the pressure David was under in each situation. What was left? The praise. David frequently went from expression of extreme frustration and pain to heights of beautiful praise in his songs. Psalm 108 is the remembrance of the praise.

It was that remembrance that really struck me this morning. When I look back over my life, what do I see? What do I remember? Is it the pain? The frustration? The hurt? The anger? Or is it the praise? The work of God, no matter what the situation?

When I look back at times of past frustration, it can be so easy to feel that pain and anger rise inside me again. It sometimes seems almost inescapable. But, with Christ, it is escapable. David, the man after God’s own heart, discovered the secret. When he was in each situation, his heart inevitably turned to praise. When he looked back on each situation, it was the praise he chose to remember.

I am challenged in two ways: 1) to turn my heart to praise, even in the midst of pressure and 2) to remember the praise above the pain. The work of God’s hand is always, always, always beautiful, no matter how ugly the circumstances. That is what I long to remember. Always.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


When you go out to battle against your enemies and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you, do not be afraid of them; for the LORD your God, who brought you up from the land of Egypt, is with you. Deut. 20:1

This seems to be a logical verse. God is with us. He fights our battles. Stay in line with Him, and we’re good, right?

But then the next few verses come along. In Deut 20:5-7, the officers are instructed to go through the soldiers and dismiss those who might miss out on enjoying a new house, vineyard, or bride if they die in battle. So, God is with us and we shouldn’t be afraid, but some of us still might die? Is that not the point of being afraid in battle – being afraid of death?

First of all, I love that God wants us to enjoy life on this earth. He wants these men to enjoy at least a little time in their new homes, some of the fruit of their vineyards, and the pleasure of their wives. In fact, a new husband was not supposed to go to war until he had spent a year making his bride happy first.

But secondly, I see here that there are worse things than death. Even in the Old Testament, before Christ, there was the indication that death was not to be feared. Defeat, maybe. But not death. And defeat was only possible when the people were not in line with the will of God.

All of this challenged me in a couple of ways. First of all, it challenged me to remember to enjoy what God has placed before me. It is His gift, and He meant for my joy to be full with the combination of Him and what He’s given me. Secondly, though, I’m challenged to keep my attitudes in line with an eternal perspective. My fears, my joys, my successes, and my failures are not going to look the same from an earthly perspective as from an eternal one. May I see them with God’s eyes and remember that He is always victorious!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Today I am challenged to persevere.

As you can see, there’s no verse starting off today’s challenge. I could probably go hunt one down, but that’s not really the point today. The point today is that I’m dry. I’m tired. I’m reading God’s Word every morning and I’m journaling and praying. But, I’m going through one of those “I’ve read this before” phases. There is no exciting newness right now. l feel a bit stagnant and useless, and I can’t seem to truly connect with the truth of Scripture.

As I prayed about it all this morning, I was reminded to persevere. To take this time to review what I’ve already learned, to be reminded that God hasn’t changed, and to trust His hand in my life. He’s taught me so much. If He were to never teach me another thing in my earthly life, I could still spend a hundred years and more digesting the wealth He has already taught me!

Just typing this out helps me see all that God has done in my life. I am challenged to remember that, to persevere through it, and to continue to learn from it. If I can do that, I will continue to grow and be useful, even in the dry times.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

No More Neglect

Yet you have not called on Me, O Jacob; but you have become weary of Me, O Israel. Isaiah 43:22

I’m not even sure I want to type this challenge, but this verse literally reached out and burned my heart as I read it.

There are times when I just do not call upon the Lord.

Ouch! I don’t think it’s a conscious decision that states, “No, I’m not going to pray about this.” I think it’s more of a neglect. I’m not sure which is worse, to be honest: consciously stating that I’m just not going to pray about something or living in such a way as to allow me to lapse into a habit of spiritual neglect. I think the latter is more harmful to me. Why? Because with the former it is a continual, conscious battle ever before me. And, the battle always leads me back to my knees. I can’t avoid it! But, the gradual growth of neglect is easier to ignore.

I am challenged to put this tendency behind me.
I am challenged to never neglect to call upon the Lord! I want to call on Him for every little thing, even if it means being mocked for being so extreme in my dependency. I want to create such a habit of calling on Him that becoming neglectful takes intentional work – work that is never worth the effort. That’s where I want to be. That’s where I am challenged to be. It won’t happen overnight, I’m sure, but I hunger to begin work today. May I become a child who never neglects to call on my God.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Delight of Sacrifice

You may spend the money for whatever your heart desires: for oxen, or sheep, or wine, or strong drink, or whatever your heart desires; and there you shall eat in the presence of the Lord your God and rejoice, you and your household. Deut 14:26

The money in this verse comes from the sale of the person’s tithe. When someone lived too far from the tabernacle/temple to transport his tithe, he could sell it, carry the money with him, and purchase a suitable replacement once he got there.

What struck me the most was the pure delight that was to surround the offering of the tithe. It wasn’t just the fulfillment of an obligation, it was literally party time! The tithe was taken to the central location of worship, others were invited (a trip to Jerusalem wouldn’t have been done alone), the Levites were included, and everyone celebrated. Yes, the tithe was given for the purpose of providing for the Levites, but the tither was not excluded. He wasn’t just supposed to hand over his sacrifice and be done. He was supposed to delight in it as well. He was supposed to rejoice. He got to be a part of the party!

I have this grand notion of sacrifice for God. But, how much do I truly participate in it? How much do I truly rejoice in my sacrifices with communal celebration? I don’t. I don’t even have a concept of this!

God is not a God of heartless demands. He is a God who wants our hearts to be full of pleasure and delight in our service to Him. I am challenged to set aside the notion of sacrifice as a somber thing. That doesn’t mean if will become natural or easy. Sacrifice is sacrifice, and it takes intentional effort. It is, by nature, hard. But, it can and should also be a thing of great rejoicing. And that is how I want it to be in my life.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Completed Joy

These things we write, so that our joy may be made complete 1 John 1:4

As I read 1 John 1:1-4 this morning, I began to ponder my own pursuit of joy. I do chase after joy. I do hunger for it. But, just as there is a difference between the pursuit of happiness and the pursuit of joy, I think there is also a difference between the pursuit of joy and the completion thereof.

I’m trying to wrap my head around what it would me to have my joy be made complete. What does completed joy look like? How does it differ from the level of joy I pursue?

To be honest, many of my pursuits are still very temporal. At the very least, they are a mixture of the eternal and the temporal. But, the bottom line is that they are bound up in the things of this earth – the things that will pass away. If my joy is even partially bound to the perishable, then what will happen to that joy when the perishable perishes? It will be incomplete. In fact, it frequently is incomplete because the perishable is continually in the process of perishing.

Completed joy, at least according to my understanding, is joy that is not affixed even partially to the temporal and perishable things of this world. There is nothing in it that will ever pass away. Therefore, there is nothing that can rob even a morsel of that joy from my heart and soul.

That’s what I am challenged to chase after. I want the things that I do to be done in the pursuit of a completed joy. I honestly don’t understand with clarity what that means or how I need to change my behavior to get to that point. But, I am challenged to seek the Lord intentionally for those answers. The very thought that I could have my joy made complete just delights my very soul!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Straight to God

In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die, and not live.’ ” Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord. Isaiah 38:1-2

I realized something as I read this story again today. I wouldn’t have turned straight to the Lord. Instead, I would have argued with Isaiah a little bit. I would have complained and cried and asked him if he was sure about all of this. I would have talked it out a bit and gotten a few things off my chest. Then I would have prayed.

Not Hezekiah. I honestly don’t know what he said to Isaiah at this point, but the Bible indicates that he turned his back on Isaiah and responded directly to God. God didn’t speak directly to Hezekiah – He sent His messages through Isaiah. But, that didn’t stop Hezekiah from speaking directly to God. It didn’t stop him from taking his plea straight to the only One who could really do anything about it. Isaiah was just a messenger, and Hezekiah realized that. So, he went to God.

I have something more than Hezekiah did. Not only can I talk to God directly, but I can listen to Him, too. But I still talk the ears off of my husband or my friends, letting out my frustrations before I take my case before the only One who can truly do anything about it.

I am challenged to learn from Hezekiah and go straight to God. Hezekiah’s right choice gave him fifteen more years of life. My choice to go straight to God will give me the phenomenal blessing of an intimate relationship with Almighty God. I think it’s worth it!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

His Work

Hear, O Israel! You are crossing over the Jordan today to go in to dispossess nations great and mightier than you, great cities fortified to heaven, a people great and tall, the sons of the Anakim, whom you know and of whom you have heard it said, “Who can stand before the sons of Anak?” Deut 9:1-2

Encouraging, right? The Israelites are already nervous, and here Moses is adding to it by reminding them just how impossible it is to defeat the sons of Anak. This would be a horrible motivating speech were it not for the next verse.

Know therefore today that it is the Lord your God who is crossing over before you as a consuming fire. He will destroy them and He will subdue them before you, so that you may drive them out and destroy them quickly, just as the Lord has spoken to you. Deut 9:3

There are a couple of ways to face very challenging situations. 1) Downplay the challenge such that it seems like it’s a piece of cake. 2) Stress and worry to no end, determined that failure is inevitable and hoping that such a truth will somehow get us out of the challenge before we have to truly face it. I’ve done both. Neither one has worked very well for me.

There is only one right way to face a challenge, and that is to stand on the truth of verses like Deut. 9:1-3. The challenges are too great for us. We cannot succeed. But God is powerful, and He will succeed.

Then, of course, there’s the rest of the chapter where Moses reminds the people to also not get the big head after the defeat of their enemies. They have to remember that it was God’s doing, not theirs.

My challenge is to step up to difficult and fearful situations with these truths in mind: 1) I can’t do it. 2) God can do it. 3) He did it for His glory. No downplaying the situation. No fretting because it’s overwhelming. And no taking credit where credit is not due. Just rejoicing in the fact that I’m His child and therefore I’m on the winning side of every battle.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

His Hand

He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Dt. 8:3

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments and His ordinances and His statutes which I am commanding you today, otherwise…your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. Dt 8:11 & 14

There seems to be no middle ground. Either things are bad and I am whining or things are great and I grow spiritually lax, succumbing to the idolatry of relying on earthly things instead of God.

My immediate response to Deuteronomy 8 has always been to state that there are two things I need to practice: 1) quick learning so I can speed through each trial and 2) steadfastness in my dependence on God in the good times. But, as I ponder these verses more today, I think there is actually only one thing I need to practice: a hunger to learn and grow through every circumstance, embracing it as the evidence of God’s hand in my life.

The hunger told of in verse three is because of God’s loving hand. The abundance promised in later verses is also because of God’s loving hand. Discipline and provision. Teaching and supply. Whether it’s want or plenty, it is God’s lavish hand granting just what He knows we need.

So, my challenge is to start seeing God’s lavish hand behind every moment of my life, whether easy or hard. In turn, the more I see His hand, the more I must respond not with complaint or laxity, but with rejoicing in the knowledge that He loves me so much that His hand will always be upon me.

Friday, June 3, 2011

He Will

There are days when I read Biblical descriptions of the wicked and feel so very convicted. It isn’t so much that I reject God and His ways in the same way they do, but I can’t help but see some of my behaviors and attitudes mirrored in their blatant rebellion.

Take 2 Peter 3:3-9, for example. This passage talks about mockers who insist that because Christ has not yet returned, and really nothing in the world has changed to show that He will, that it’s all just a fairy tale. Why should they worry about His return when all the signs, at least according to their perspective, say it’s a farce?

Now, I do not doubt the return of Jesus Christ. It will happen, and I hunger to be ready…at least, that’s what I say. But, two thoughts emerge.

  1. If I believe that Jesus Christ will return and that it can be at any moment, do I live out that belief? Does it affect my daily life, or do I in reality live more like the mockers who don’t see evidence and therefore don’t worry about Christ’s return?
  2. If I truly believe the overall promise that the unseen is reliable, no matter how long it is delayed, do I show the same trust in smaller matters? If I can trust that Christ is returning as He said He will, then I can trust that in today’s problem He will be faithful as well.

2 Peter 3:9 sums it all up: God has a reason for every delay. I can trust Him. My challenge is to show that trust in my every thought, action, and response. My challenge is to not see myself reflected in the behavior of the mockers but to instead stand firm as a trusting believer. His promises are true, whether related to my little daily challenges or to the grander difficulty of awaiting His return. Yes, His promises are true.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Living in Grace

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord’s Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Discipleship

I usually like to base my challenges on what I read in Scripture alone, but this quote has been mulling around in my head since yesterday. As I read Bonhoeffer’s distinction between cheap grace and costly grace, I realized just how much I fall into the habit of embracing cheap grace. Later in the discussion, Bonhoeffer offers his ideas about exactly what ways grace is both costly and free, but never cheap.

I am challenged to adjust my way of thinking. I am challenged to live out the amazing reality of costly grace. The cost to me is my life, wholly and completely. I hold so much back from God, but the more I hold the more I truly lose to death. When I live in His grace, I give my life, but I receive real and eternal life in return. That is how I want to learn to live. That is how I must learn to live. I must live a life in full obedience and abandonment to the costly grace of God. Only then will I truly live life.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Covenant with Me

The Lord our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. The Lord did not make this covenant with our fathers, but with us, with all those of us alive here today. Dt. 5:2-3

The fascinating thing about these verses is that Moses is speaking to the generation that will enter the promised land. These are the children of those who were at Horeb forty years before. They were not physically there, yet Moses is stating here that they are actually the recipients of the covenant. In fact, as the chapter continues, Moses talks like they were the ones standing at Horeb! It all seems contradictory, as if Moses is lying or even trying to brainwash the people into believing they were there when God made the covenant at Horeb. But, if we truly contemplate what is being said here, I think Moses’ point is a very relevant one to us – to me.

God’s covenant transcends time and physical presence. It was presented through a mediator: in this case through Moses, and then fulfilled through Jesus Christ. As presented through the mediator, it is mine, whether I was physically standing in a temporally bound moment in time or not. It is made with me.

It’s easy sometimes for me to read the books of Moses and think, “Wow, God did wonderful things back then.” It’s easy to read through the Psalms and envy David’s God-given comfort. I read the prophets and think that we are free from such dire consequences even though our world is eerily similar to the Old Testament world. I look at God’s powerful hand in the New Testament church and relegate such acts to the fact that He was building His church from scratch.

In all of it, I neglect the reality that His Word is alive and it is spoken to me. I hold this book in my hands today because God’s communication and covenant is with me.

I am challenged to receive His Word in light of God’s covenant with me. It is not simply a history of the Israelites and the early church. It is not just a book. It is His interaction with me. It is personal. It is alive. And it is for me.