But God

 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years, and there are yet five years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. And God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. – Genesis 45:5-8

Most people know the story of Joseph–if not from reading it, then from watching the popular musical based on it.  The favorite son of his father Israel, rejected by his jealous brothers, sold into slavery, subjected to false accusations, forgotten in prison for years, suddenly becomes an example of a classic rags to riches story as the Pharaoh not only calls Joseph out of prison but then proceeds to make him a powerful leader.  The one sold to slavery by his brothers, and thought by his father to be dead, ends up being the key to the preservation of God’s chosen people.

God used the rejected one to save a nation.

Most often the verse quoted in relation to the events of Joseph’s rollercoaster life is from Genesis 50: As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (verse 20).   Basically, many people tend to take Joseph’s story as an example of God using the bad things in our life for His glory. At least I always have.  I kind of viewed Him as a Bounty paper towel:  He was the “quicker picker-upper” able to clean up all the apparent messes of our lives to make them clean again.  That is, if we are wronged by others, we can be hopeful knowing God has a plan.  If things don’t seem to be going our way, we shouldn’t be discouraged; rather,  we should trust God. We should hold on to hope, which according to a CD cover I read this morning for one of our church ministries, “is believing that something good can come out of something bad.”

And this is all well and good.   God does indeed always have a plan. We should always have hope and be encouraged knowing all things will work out because God promises this in His Word.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”   Jeremiah 29:11 states, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Yet this morning, God opened my eyes to a different aspect of this story and of the idea of God working all things for our good and for His glory by highlighting another verse five chapters before the most famous passage:  Therefore it was not you who sent me here, but God (Genesis 45:8a).  It is one I never really contemplated before, but the more I have meditated on the latter verse throughout the day, the more God has spoken to my heart.

Think about it for a moment. Nothing on this earth happens without God knowing about it first.  Nothing.   Whatever happens in our lives passes through our Heavenly Father’s hands first. Regarding Joseph, Psalm 105 declares God “had sent a man ahead of them” (vs. 17) and “until what he had said came to pass, the word of the Lord tested him” (vs. 19). This means all the events of Joseph’s life were part of God’s plan.   Not just some of them.  Not just the good parts.  All of them.  Man didn’t choose Joseph’s journey, but God did.

Now in no way I am saying God causes bad things to happen.  God is holy.  He cannot cause or dwell with evil.  Psalm 5:4 states God is “not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with” Him.  James 1:13-14 reminds us to “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.”  Deuteronomy 32:4 proclaims “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.”

What I am saying is everything in our lives has been allowed by God for our well-being and for His ultimate glory.  Nothing happens by chance.  Before the foundation of the world, before we were ever conceived, all the days of our lives were already written in His book (Psalm 139:14).  All of them.  Nothing in our lives comes as a surprise to God.  Nothing.

Now if you peruse through previous posts, you’ll know the past several months of my life have been a bit crazy.   My family and I went through the process of preparing to move to a new state–a process which included resigning from a job I held dear, withdrawing my kids from their schools, resigning from the positions I held at those schools, putting the house up for sale, and trying to figure out how to say goodbye to friends.   Yet within one week’s time of my letting go of the last thing I was holding onto, my husband chose to return to our current location; he chose not to move.

At the time, I was devastated.   I was devastated because while my husband went right back to the job he had before our almost move as if nothing had happened, I could not get my job back and only one of my kids could get back into the school we had withdrawn them from only 4 days prior. I felt like I’d lost everything.  Of course, the key word is “felt” because I didn’t really lose everything, and I also should have known even then that if I truly wanted to find my life, I would have to lose it first anyway (Matthew 16:24-26).

But alas, I am a slow learner at times, so during the months since our “return” from our almost move, I would comfort myself with the famous Joseph passage.    I didn’t agree with the choices others were making which affected me and I couldn’t understand why everything was happening in the manner it was, but I trusted God would use the negative things happening for His good.  I trusted God would “fix” it.  When talking to people, I’d often say something like “Although I do not think this is God’s choice, He is using it.”  This morning, however,  God showed me that by saying the events of my life were not God’s choice, I was not only blaming people for what happened to me, but also I was implying God is not in control, that He has just been working to fix the problem–that He has just been being the great “quicker picker upper” instead of the sovereign God He is.  God showed me I’ve been subconsciously doubting His sovereignty.

Furthermore, if I am completely honest, although God has done mighty things in my heart and my life since those first devastating days of our “return” to our current location, I have still harbored some hurt.  A few days ago I met a friend at a coffee shop for some fellowship.  In the midst of our conversation, I commented that I try not to think too much about the events of my “return” and my inability to get everything back because of the little bit of hurt still present.  Yes, God has done truly amazing things, and yes, He has used what I perceived as evil for good, but nevertheless there has still been a part of me that believed those with the earthly power to give me my earthly treasures back rejected me. When I found out I wasn’t moving, I fully believed those who had sent me off with glowing comments of how much they’d miss me would welcome me back, but they didn’t–at least not in the way I had expected.  And it hurt.  And although I have come a long way, I realized the other day, it still hurt.  I still couldn’t look back without a bit of “what if” or “why” crossing my mind.  I just still couldn’t fully understand how and why it all went down the way it did.

But God.  God used two words this morning to begin transforming my way of thinking.  I’ve been viewing the events of this summer and fall through human eyes and human understanding, not spiritual eyes and spiritual understanding.  It was not any particular person or group of people who sent me to this current place I am in.  It was not a rejection of me.  It was God’s plan all along.  God, who knows my heart more than I know my heart (1 Kings 8:39) has a plan for my life.  This season has indeed been part of His plan all along.  Or if I could personalize Genesis 45:8 for my situation, it would be, “Therefore it was not people who cost me the things I held dear, but God.”  God knew what I needed and what He wanted.  God knew I needed to lose the earthly things in order to gain the spiritual.

Man didn’t choose this path for me; God did.

Hallelujah!  Praise the Lord for choosing this path for me! Would I have chosen it for myself? Nope. But I’m glad God did. I believe He did because He knew what would come if it. Let me take a moment to highlight some of the results of this unexpected journey:

  • Better marriage
  • Better mother
  • Better relationships in general
  • Defined personal boundaries
  • Inner emotional balance
  • Less anxiety
  • Freedom from addiction to work
  • More confidence in who God created me to be
  • This blog
  • More intimate relationship with God (by far the best part!)

I will say it again: Hallelujah! Praise be to the One Who holds my past, present, and future in His hands.

He holds yours as well.

The story of Joseph, the story of my life, and the story of your life, are not stories about God fixing things that go wrong and miraculously using them for His glory.  No.  Rather, it is a story of God sending each of us on a journey pre-ordained by Him for His glory (Psalm 105:17).

God is sovereign, and He never makes mistakes.  Never.  God chose this path for my life.  He chose the path for your life.  He alone chose it, and He chose it because He foreknew the current path each of us is traveling–good or bad by human standards–is the path able to bring Him the most glory.  So should we waste time and energy focusing on what we once had or what we thought should be? No! Should we be anxious about people and events for which we have no control and cannot change?  No! God alone is in control.  “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases (Psalm 115:3). 

As for my story, people didn’t hurt me.  I chose to be hurt by them. People didn’t determine my current situation. God did. And my future? Well, it is in God’s hands–solely His hands.

So what about your story? Have you been hurt? Are you feeling rejected? Are things in your life right now difficult to understand? Are you asking why? Or maybe why not? Regardless of what you may be seeing or have seen with your physical eyes, I encourage you, to ask God for spiritual eyes and spiritual understanding.  As Paul prayed, may God “…give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him,  having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power to us who believe…” (Ephesians 1:17-19).

Please don’t choose to be hurt by others.  Please don’t look at your life as a series of messes God is trying to fix. Please don’t spend time fearing what the future holds.  Rather, trust in Him.  Trust in His sovereignty.  Rest in the knowledge your current situation is not man’s plan, but God’s.  And knowing this, knowing God is control, may you also see your life as God sees it: unique, special, and chosen. Yes, chosen. Chosen by God–the only wise God (Romans 16:27).  

” Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen” – Ephesians 3:20-21

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Freedom is Free

 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)

Salvation.   God has been reminding me of just how amazing His salvation is to those who receive Him.   Think about the key words in the above passage…

WagesWhen I think of wages, I think of something earned for a job well done.   When I taught high school, I earned a paycheck. If I hadn’t showed up to work, then they would not have paid me.   They paid me every week for doing my job.  I sow time, energy, and love into my children in prayerful hope of reaping children who love God and love people.  If I do not care about my children, if I do not daily spend time and energy pouring into their little lives, then they will in turn not care about others, maybe not even about themselves.

If we want wages on this earth, we must earn them.  No one freely receives wages. We work for them.   So in the above passage, what are the wages of sin?  What did we earn through our sinfulness?  Eternal death.  Eternal separation from God.   Our sin deserves eternal punishment.

Now before you think self-righteously, “Hey! I’m a good person!  I didn’t willfully work to earn death!” Oh yes, yes you did.  You earned it.  I earned it.  We “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  Every thought we have had and will ever think, every action we have done and will ever do, and every word we have spoken and will ever speak that goes against God’s holy, righteous character is sin.   Ugly, horrible, unrighteous, death-deserving sin.

But.

Oh, what a glorious conjunction!  ButThis simple connector links our wages to God’s free gift.  Did you catch that?  FREE GIFT.   While we may have earned eternal death, God gives us eternal life.  No matter how good (or not good) we are, we deserve death, but no matter how good (or not good) we are, God gives us salvation.

What a humbling thought.   Even though God had every right to send us away from His presence forever, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).   So not only were we (and still are!) actively sinning, but also in the midst of our sinning, God sent His own Son–His one and only Son–into this world to live a perfect life and then to lay down His perfect life as the penalty for our sins.   Jesus did not earn the wages of sin, but He paid them for us.

Again, I am humbled and in awe. Instead of us having to earn eternal life by the same method we have earned eternal death, instead of us having to work for our salvation, God chose to give it to us!   Jesus gives us eternal life freely.  All we have to do is receive it.

So have you received it yet?  Have you accepted the gift of salvation? If not, I encourage you to receive it today.   Receive the amazing gift you can never (no matter how good you think you are) earn.  Ever.

How?  How do you receive this free gift?   It is simple.  It’s a gift!  Admit you are a sinner, thank God for sending Jesus to save you from the death you deserve, and then invite Him to come into your life.

And he will come.  He will.  He promises, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).

You will be saved.   And you will be free, for “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).

Shadow of Turning

“Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Just as the weekend snow storm brought back the memory of the short story I posted yesterday, today’s sermon at church brought to mind another story I wrote years ago.  I had written it shortly after God reminded me of the power of His salvation–and the freedom that comes with knowing Him.

God Himself promises me and He promises you “if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36)So sit back, read the story, and embrace the truth it conveys–the truth of God’s love and God’s salvation for all who believe (Romans 1:16).  Yes.  All.  Including you.

Shadow of Turning by Me

 A soft tapping could be heard in the background as I relaxed on my bed. Although it was August, a cool breeze rustled the trees outside my window, causing a soft, yet soothing sound. I closed my eyes to take in the peacefulness of solitude. I always loved the days when no one but me was home. I’d always do what I was doing just then: lie on the bed, listen to the quietness, and pet my cat Teddy. I loved the feeling of his warm, soft, longhaired body leaning against mine. Even now my fingers mindlessly stroked the silky smooth black hair that overwhelmed his little body. A low rumbling could be heard deep within him, voicing his approval of the affection.

The peace overwhelmed my soul with the feeling I was alone in the universe—no one to perform for—no one to be responsible for—no one—no one but me. I focused on my breathing as I developed and contemplated this thought.

In and out. In and out. In. Out.

I sensed a sudden heat on my face and opened my eyes to catch a glimpse of a beam of sunlight protruding through the trees, shining through the window, and shedding its light on the opposite wall. My once dull crayon yellow walls became a soft yellow like that of a newly blossomed daffodil. Intrigued by this streak of light’s ability to dispel darkness, I sat up and took notice of what I saw.

A shadow. Although the light had removed much of the darkness occupying my room, it also revealed a shadow. As I stood up, facing the shadow, it too appeared to reluctantly rise from its position of concealment behind my dresser. Was that my shadow? It was a person with whom I had never openly conversed or met, yet it was one of my height, size, stature—nevertheless different.

I slowly, cautiously, like a child approaching a relative her family says she should trust but she is not quite sure she should, drew closer to the shadow. The closer I got to the blemish on the otherwise spotless wall, the more its enormity revealed itself.

I stopped a few feet from the shadow. It had no eyes, yet I sensed I was peering deep into the invisible—yet so real—soul of this shadow—this person.

A gasp escaped my throat, cutting through the ghostly silence that had invaded the room. I had seen the shadow’s soul. She was fierce. Angry. Melancholy. Alone. Her eyes looked similar to those of an unloved basset hound. Yet I only saw the eyes for a moment, for her insecurity forced them toward the floor. She was hurting.

She was I.

My inner self, with all its hurts, anger, sadness, pain, was staring back at me. She was exposed in the light, no longer hidden within. I stared helplessly back in awe. Was that really all within me? What would I do now that I was facing my inner—the real—me?

My shadow left me no chance to answer, for she moved. I stood for a moment in shock as my shadow moved toward the door of my room. She slid along the wall behind the bureau, around the corner toward the entryway, and, right when she reached the doorway, she stopped. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, she seemed to turn. I saw the silhouette of a finger beckon me to follow. As if to refuse would be to deny myself, I followed.

I followed my shadow down the hallway that led to the living room. The pictures of my family were still scattered along the walls. I smiled as I saw my favorite of my mom sleeping on the couch as George, our first family cat, a main coon, slept stretched out beside her. I loved that picture because it showed how gargantuan George was; he was almost as long as my mother as she lay on her side. I took notice of the changes evident in the hallway, however. Instead of the two doors that opened to my sisters’ rooms and the door that led to the bathroom, the hallway was all wall; it had ceased to have doors. The end—that end that I would expect to lead to the living room—was only a speck of light that seemed interminably distant from my room.

Nevertheless, my shadow and I proceeded, drawing nearer to the light. The light actually forced me to squint, for its very presence pierced the darkness, leaving my eyes fighting to adjust. It was like someone was waking me up from a deep sleep by shining a flashlight in my eyes.

When we reached the doorway, my shadow took a step behind me. All that was between me and the light on the other side was the threshold. Unsure of whether I should continue, I turned to see what my shadow was going to do; yet she was gone. All that was behind me was darkness. I stood motionless for a moment, contemplating whether to enter back into the darkness or proceed forward into the light. Deciding that I had come this far, and out of sheer curiosity, I shielded my eyes and entered.

Once my eyes adjusted, I found myself standing in a meadow. I was alone, yet loneliness did not envelop me. My feet, bare, were hidden in a lush, green field of grass. The cool, tickling feeling of freshly cut grass on my skin sent a childlike joy throughout my body. The music of spring birds also began to take note. I closed my eyes for a moment and opened my ears to drink in the beautiful songs of spring. When I opened my eyes, a monarch butterfly, with magnificent colors fluttered just in front of me and gracefully set itself down on a honeysuckle. I breathed in deeply the scent of wildflowers and honey.

As I looked around to take in more of these Eden-like surroundings, I noticed a figure walking toward me. He drew closer, and I could see the figure was a man. He looked about a six feet tall with a medium build. I could tell he was in shape, but he was not overly muscular. His hair was a sandy brown color, straight, and loosely fell at his shoulders. Something about the sight of him forced me to desire a closer look, so I began to draw near to him.

At the sight of his eyes I stopped. I was mesmerized. They were blue, yet like none I’d ever seen. When I peered into his eyes, I saw this peace, this love, this inexplicable well-being. Compassion seemed to emanate from his eyes. I felt transparent, like there was nothing hidden from the man—from his eyes. I tried to look away, but I couldn’t.

When he was a few feet away, he reached out his hand. In the same way I followed the shadow and left the hallway, I took his hand and allowed him to lead me. As we walked I noticed the strength of his hands. They looked soothing and felt like satin, yet his grip was firm, controlled, sturdy. It was like he was bold, yet gentle; a contradiction, yet one.

We stopped at the base of a small hill. While one hand was still holding mine, the man lifted his other hand and pointed to the top of a hill. On the hill stood a solitary cross. At first I didn’t see the significance of the cross, but then I caught the sight of slight, almost imperceptible, movement.

My shadow.

My shadow was hanging—dying—on the cross. Watching my shadow gasp for breath, I myself began to gasp for breath. Yet, as I attempted to take in, I felt myself becoming more and more empty. I was pouring myself out, yet making room for more. My body began to tremble and I collapsed, landing on my knees in the grass.

The smell of the grass refreshed my senses, and I realized that I had lost touch with the man’s hand. I lifted my head to seek an answer for what was happening, but he was gone. I immediately looked up to the cross, horrified at what my eyes were now witnessing.

My shadow was gone. Yet the cross was not empty. The man, the man with the strong yet soft hands—the man with the piercing blue eyes of love—the man who saw right through me—was on the cross. He was dying.

I couldn’t move. I just kneeled there on the ground unable to change position, yet unable to take my eyes off the man on the cross. I watched him as he struggled to push up with his legs in order to gain a pinch of air. I watched as blood trickled down his face. I watched as his chest heaved in exhaustion, starved of precious life-giving oxygen. I watched when he looked at me with those eyes—those compassionate, piercing eyes—and gasped, “I love you.”

I watched him, as he died.

I continued to stare in disbelief at what I was witnessing, but then I noticed a group of men approaching the cross. They proceeded to take the man from the cross and carry him away. I was horrified at the thought of what the men were possibly going to do with the stranger who having never met me seemed to love me, so I ran after them.

“Stop!” I tried to yell as loud as I could, yet my cry seemed to go no further than my lips. The men continued to take the unknown man and place him in a tomb, rolling a rock in front of it.

I hid behind a tree until they left, then attempted to roll the rock away. I just wanted to get another glimpse of the man—of his hands—of his eyes. If only I could have what he had. It was to no avail, though. The rock would not move.

Exhaustion finally overwhelmed my body and I collapsed at the foot of the rock. I had been poured out, emptied of so much, yet I needed something. I knew that man had it, yet he was dead in the tomb, and I was out here. The thought of being so close to an answer yet so far devastated me, and I wept. Once I started, I couldn’t stop. It was like someone had released the dam that held back the tears of my entire life—and a flood was coming.

I don’t know how long I was there on the ground, my face buried in my hands. Yet, in the midst of my weeping, I felt something touch my shoulder. A hand. This hand, however, seemed familiar. The hand conveyed strength, but the hand poured out tender loving kindness as well. The realization of the only hand this could be sent chills throughout my body. I whipped around in joy to see the man I had been mourning and longing for. I gazed into his eyes—and they were still eyes of love, of peace, of care, of strength.

Just as he had done before, he held his hand for me to grasp. I immediately gripped his hand, and he pulled me up from the ground and began leading me to the tomb. The tomb no longer had the rock covering it, and I wondered how I never heard the rock being rolled away. It didn’t matter now, though, for the man I thought was dead was indeed alive.

When we reached the opening of the tomb, I peered inside expecting to see nothing but an empty space, for the man was now with me outside. My eyes widened, however, as I lay hold of a figure in the tomb. My shadow. My shadow was in the tomb, lifeless, dead. The man had risen, but my shadow remained dead.

I was beginning to piece things together in my mind that something in me had died today, but I was still unsure, and I still felt like something—a piece of me—was still missing. The man, most likely understanding my confusion, pointed to the far corner of the tomb. There, standing behind and to the right of my dead shadow, was another shadow. This one, however, was different. Actually, it did not shade the tomb; it brightened it. This new shadow illuminated light instead of hiding it. I again peered into the soul of this new shadow, yet I didn’t see anger or hurt or pain; I saw love, peace, compassion, joy, freedom.

“Is that my shadow?” I asked the man beside me, hoping it was indeed.

“It is My Spirit,” the man, whose voice was a spiritual elixir, replied. “All you have to do is invite Him in.”

Shocked yet ecstatic at the simplicity of it, I beckoned His Spirit to come, and I began walking toward Him, He drew closer to me. As I reached out and embraced Him, the Spirit disappeared. Immediately I sensed a warm feeling within me, a newness, a refreshing. I sensed His Spirit. I sensed completion. What had been poured out on the cross with the death of my shadow and that man had been filled back up with the risen man and my new shadow—the new spirit within me.

I was whole.

I opened my eyes to the sound of trees scraping against wood. I was in my room. The soft purr of a blissful cat reminded me that Teddy was also by my side. Groggily, I sat up, contemplating what I had just witnessed. Was it a dream? Yet it was so real. I looked at my wall where the shadow once was. I looked at the door to the hallway. And I wondered. My curiosity piqued, I rose to my feet, headed to my door and started down the hallway. This time the hallway had doors, and I could see clearly the living room at the end. I began to walk towards the living room, glancing at the pictures that hung on the wall. Again, I smiled at the picture of my mom and George. I stopped, however, at the sight of one that I had never really paid attention to before. It wasn’t a picture really, but a painting. It was the man from my vision. I knew it because of the eyes and the hands, but also because of the cross. He was on it; he was dying.

My eyes then fell to the verse written below the portrait: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16)

At that moment I knew that my vision was real. The man was real. The shadow was real. My salvation was real.

 

In His Steps

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left (Isaiah 30:21).

As the kids and I played in the snow today, and as my youngest tried to follow in my boot prints to avoid the extra deep snow, God reminded me of a story I wrote over 10 years ago regarding following in His steps.  I thought I’d go ahead and post it today.  What I find especially awesome is I wrote this story before meeting my husband, who himself is a farmer, who grew up on a farm, and who loves his children dearly.  To God be the glory, the honor, and the praise forever.

In His Steps by me

“Let me know if you need anything,” Stacy whispered as she gave Sarah a hug and left with the last group of mourners. “You have my number and you know where I live.”

“Thanks,” Sarah uttered back. As she shut the door behind Stacy, she turned around and faced the interior of the farmhouse. This was her house now, yet she felt so distant from it. The stairs that led upstairs seemed unfamiliar. Are those the stairs she used to slide down on a sofa mattress only to fall into the arms of her father? To her right she saw on the hall table a picture. Was that family really hers? Her mother had died shortly after she turned 6. Her Dad had raised her. Now he was gone, too.

At that thought Sarah realized how exhausted she was and headed toward the couch. Since her father had died three days ago, her life had been a constant circus—only without the humor. It was bad enough to lose her father; funeral arrangements, expenses, and the actual funeral only compounded the misery.

“Why?” Sarah whispered, pleaded out loud as she lay down on the couch. “First my Mom, and now my Dad. Why not me?!” Sarah wanted to cry, but her eyes were dry—she’d wept herself dry in the days prior, and it had done no good; it had been no consolation.

How could she go on? She thought. Who did she have? No one.

“I’m all alone,” Sarah sullenly voiced with resigned acceptance. “I have no one.”

As she said this, Sarah blankly scanned the room. Pictures of friends and family were scattered here and there on the walls. She saw the pictures, yet the more she gazed, the more loneliness enveloped her.

Her eyes suddenly focused, however, when she saw a familiar picture, one that had always brought her joy. It was one her mother had taken when Sarah had been 5. It had been the coldest, snowiest winter in all her memory; the weatherman had labeled it a “Winter Wonderland.” The picture was of Sarah playing her favorite game: walk in Daddy’s steps. Her dad, being the faithful farmer, daily walked to the barn to feed the animals and milk the cows. Snow never stopped her father from performing his tasks. Many days Sarah remained in the house or at play while her father went about his business, but on that day—like many snowy days—Sarah followed him—followed in his steps. She loved to see if she could make it to the barn without stepping in new snow. She would wait until her father got a little ways off and then she’d begin to follow. She’d stand in a boot print, count to three, and then leap to the next print. If successful, she’d land with both feet safe in the print; if she missed, then she’d land in the soft snow and get wet—which was in itself loads of fun for her. Nevertheless, victory was always sweetest when she’d arrive at the barn dry.

Sarah loved those days. Of course, years ago her father had sold the animals and the extra land. The house and a few acres were all that remained now. Sarah longed to be in that year again. Not only was her father still alive, but her mother was there too. Now she was alone—with no one.

Again sighing with resigned acceptance at her sheer loneliness, Sarah got up from the couch and headed toward her bed. Sleep had always helped her; maybe a new day would bring better things.

After washing her face, clearing away the tearstains that seemed to be ingrained in her skin, Sarah pulled down the covers of her bed and then slipped under the sheets. She leaned over to turn out the light when her eyes caught glimpse of her father’s Bible. He had been on his way home from church when a drunk driver had hit him. The emergency personnel had given it to her when she arrived at the hospital. It was all they could salvage from the wreck.

Only recently had her Dad begun going to church again. They had stopped going soon after her mother had died. She, too, had begun to go again with him. He seemed to be more “in to it” then she was, though. That religious stuff was just hard for her to comprehend. How could God leave her and her father alone all those years? How could God leave her alone now?

She was about to put it down when a picture fell out of it—it was the same picture she had looked at downstairs. Why would her father keep that picture in his Bible? As she turned it over, she saw a simple phrase written on it: walk in His steps. It was then that she realized why that day in particular had always been so special to her. . . .

“One, two, three, jump!”

With that, a feisty five-year old with shoulder length brown curly hair, leaped from where she was and landed right in the middle of another hole.

“Daddy! Look at me! I’m walking in your steps!”

“Good job, honey!” a six-foot, medium build man replied as he continued his walk a little distance from the girl. He turned around and smiled, his eyes emanating a deep love for the little princess who followed him. “You are sure good at keeping dry!”

At this compliment the little girl’s eyes sparkled with pride. “Thanks!”

Only a few minutes later the two of them sat together on some hay inside the barn. The little girl, Sarah, with brown eyes as wide as saucers and glittering with excitement, looked up at her Dad, saying, “That was fun!”

“It sure was, cutie,” John replied, tickling Sarah for a few minutes while she screamed and giggled and pretended to try to get away. “You know what, honey,” John stopped tickling her and placed her on his lap.

“What?” Sarah peered into her father’s eyes with curiosity.

“You can learn an important lesson from your game—what do you call it again?”

“Walk in Daddy’s steps” Sarah replied triumphantly.

“Right—Walk in Daddy’s steps,” John repeated with a contemplative amusement in his voice and on his face. “Did you know that God wants you to walk in His steps?”

“What do you mean?” Sarah tilted her head, squinted her eyes, and wrinkled her nose in puzzlement.

“Well—see, honey—each day is a gift from God. He gives us the days we have so that we can honor Him. He also knows that we cannot do it on our own, so every day He goes before us. He goes through our day before we ever go through it—“

“Just like you walk through the snow before I do!” Sarah cried out with excitement.

“Yes! You’ve got it. When I walk to the barn and know you are following me, I choose my steps carefully to make sure I don’t lead you in the wrong direction or into danger. God also directs His steps so that if we follow in His steps we will be safe. So, Sarah,” John began to say, hugging her to himself, “I want you to remember that no matter what goes on in this life, no matter what comes against you, God has walked the path already. All you have to do is follow—is walk—in His steps. Got it?”

“Yeah, Daddy, I got it.”

“Yeah, Daddy, I got it,” Sarah choked out with a slight smile. Tears began to flow again—yet this time she felt a release. She did get it. God was with her even now. God was looking at her with the same loving kindness that her Daddy had looked at her with. She wasn’t alone. She wasn’t alone.

For the first time since her mother, and since her father had died, Sarah felt at peace. With that, she returned the picture to the Bible, reached over, turned off the light, and slept.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps (1 Peter 2:21)..

True Security

On the third day, when they [Hivites] were sore, two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and came against the city while it felt secure and killed all the males” (Genesis 34:25)

Yes, I know the above portion of scripture is quite an interesting selection to write about, but as I read this the other day, God’s Holy Spirit–as He faithfully does–spoke clearly to me through one particular phrase:  “while it felt secure.”   

To put the verse in context, Jacob’s sons act the way they do in retribution for the wrong done to their sister Dinah.   Hamor’s son Shechem defiled Dinah and then after the fact requested she be his wife.  After, as the Bible states, Shechem “humiliated” Dinah, he then had the gall to go to her family and ask for her hand in marriage.  And not only that, he asked for permission for all the Hivite bachelors to have the opportunity to pursue the daughters of Jacob.

Really?!

Really.

In response to this bold request, Jacob’s sons–obviously having learned the art of deception from their father–concocted a little plan.  They told Hamor he and his fellow bachelors could only have Dinah and the other daughters if they were circumcised.  Totally not true.  But Hamor, Shechem, and all the other men fell for it.

So while the Hivite men were sore from circumcision, Jacob’s sons took advantage of their weakness.   Just when the Hivites thought they were secure, they were far from it; they were in grave danger.  Their feeling of security led to their ultimate destruction.

Now feeling secure is not a bad thing.  We all want to feel secure.  Feeling secure brings about a peaceful confidence. Many spend their lives seeking security–in health, in relationships, at work, at home.  Yet even though security in the latter provides a great feeling,  in reality, true security is not attainable by human means. Actually, trying to obtain security through human means often leads to disappointment–and maybe even to our downfall.

Nothing and no one on earth is ever truly secure. In fact, sometimes it is when we feel most secure we are the most in danger.   First Corinthians 10:12 warns us to “let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”   Proverbs 16:18 cautions, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”  Proverbs 11:2 also declares “When pride comes, then comes disgrace….”

Last year, while I felt secure, I was indeed heading down a slippery slope.   I thought I was secure in my job, my friendships, my family, my home, my health.  I wasn’t altogether thrilled with how my life was going, but I felt valuable and secure because the earthly treasures I held dear were within my reach and supposedly in my control as well.   I had plans for my future, and I assumed nothing would prevent those plans from coming to fruition.  I thought my future secure.  Yet I was wrong–wrong in the worst way.    I had placed my security in earthly treasures, so I wasn’t secure at all.  Placing my security on the temporal only resulted in my security being temporary.  My heart and mind were focused on the now, not the eternal. In hindsight, rather than being secure, I had actually already gone over the cliff and was living as if the simple selfish branch I was grasping would keep me from falling.

Then the branch broke. My security was shattered. Now I do not necessarily believe  what happened was God’s doing, but I do believe He allowed it for His ultimate glory. In the span of a few months, I had to say goodbye to friends, to my job, to my human plans, and even had to say goodbye to my supposed health.

I was no longer secure in my own strength.  I was broken.

Yet praise be to Jesus I didn’t fall to my utter destruction.  My human security may have shattered, but through God’s grace, I did not.  Why?  I landed on a sure foundation–a secure foundation.  I landed on Jesus!   “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God” (Psalm 18:31).  Yes! “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). As God’s beloved daughter, Jesus is my chief cornerstone. Hallelujah! He is your chief cornerstone, too!  Even more,  ” he who believes on Him [Jesus]  will by no means be put to shame” (1 Peter 2:6). 

By no means be put to shame.  Other versions replace “shame” with “disappointed.” What does this mean?  Does it mean life will be easy?  Nope.  Jesus Himself says in this world we will have trouble (John 16:33).  Does it mean we will never get persecuted or ridiculed?  No again.  The Bible promises we as believers will be misunderstood and persecuted for our beliefs (Matthew 5:11) .  Does it mean we will never have to say good bye to family, friends, jobs, homes, health?   Not in the least.   “For all flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls…” (1 Peter 1:24)

What I believe it does mean is that even amidst the crazy uncertainty of this world, our security is in Christ.  In Christ alone.  He will never disappoint those who place their trust in Him.   No matter what happens on this earth, our hope must remain in Him.  He promises to “keep in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him” (Isaiah 26:3).  Furthermore, with every mention of trouble, Jesus reminds us our future is indeed secure in Him. When he says we will have trouble, He continues with “but take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). When we are persecuted, He calls us blessed and promises our “reward is great in heaven”(Matthew 5:12).  After reminding us that life and people are fleeting and temporal, He encourages us with “but the word of the Lord remains forever”(1 Peter 1:25). Or as  Jesus Himself reminds us, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

His Words will never pass away.  Never.  Jobs may be lost.  Family members may pass on.  Friends may betray you.   Sickness may come.   Your world in general may be turned upside down.  Yet regardless of the ups and downs and twists and turns of our journey on this earth, in Him–in Jesus–we are secure.  F0r “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). 

Jesus never changes.  Never.  And as long as we place our trust in Him, we will always be secure. Always.  Regardless of what may happen on this earth. 

Our true security is not found in temporal things; our true security is eternal. It is knowing “[with great confidence] that God [who is deeply concerned about us] causes all things to work together [as a plan] for good for those who love God, to those who are called according to His plan and purpose” Romans 8:28 AMP

Most Valuable Possession

“Your identity is your most valuable possession.” – The Incredibles

Did I really just quote a kid movie?!  Why, yes, yes I did.  Yet the above statement conveys such a deep spiritual truth.   Think about it for a moment; envision all you “possess” on this earth (I put “possess” in quotes since the true possessor of all things is God).   Do you own a home or live in an apartment?   Are you reading this post on a computer, tablet, or phone?   Do you have food in the fridge?   Do you eat that food at a table, or maybe in the living room while watching shows on your television?  Are you a parent?   Do you have pets?  Just how many Bibles do you have laying around your house waiting to be read?

Yes–shelter, food, electronics, family, all the books and toys we may have scattered around our homes–each of these earthly “possessions” is indeed important and valuable in its own way.  My kids are extremely valuable to me.  My husband is extremely valuable to me.   The computer which I am using to type this post is valuable to me.   And I could go on and on about the value of my Bible.

Nevertheless, when all is stripped away, if all were to be taken away, who I am is indeed my most valuable possession.  No one can take me away from me unless I allow them to do so.  Who I am is precious to me and even more precious to God.  After all, knowing who we are enables us to be who God designed us to be.

In his letter to the church, James encourages his readers to seek wisdom from God, “who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (James 1:5).  Yet he doesn’t just stop there; he reminds his readers of an important truth: “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways” (James 1:6-7).  James compares the one who doubts to a wave driven and tossed by the wind.  So think about it.   If our most valuable possession is our identity–who God created us to be–and we doubt it–if we doubt who God created us to be–then we are like a wave of the sea.  We are unstable and double-minded.  We will be pushed, pulled, torn down, and knocked over with every breath of adversity.  How can we stand firm, walk with confidence, and withstand the wiles of the devil if we doubt our own identity?

We can’t.  We won’t.

We need to know who we are to be who we are.

Before the foundation of the world, God knew me.  He knew you, too.  He fashioned each of us within our mother’s womb with care and diligence  (Psalm 139:13-16).  And God doesn’t make mistakes. Ever.  Each of us is a treasure to God; He is the One who gives us our identity.  He gave me my identity.  He gave you yours.  Yet what is awesome is the SAME God gave each of us UNIQUE identities.  No two people are exactly alike in every way; even identical twins are not identical in every way.  We as individuals are as distinct as snowflakes.   Sure, from far away, an outsider may only see a sea of white.  But get up close, and you’ll see many unique individuals ready to be molded into something beautiful.

For most of my life I admit I have been a people pleaser, which has led me to do whatever I feel would best please people.  My identity was wrapped up in what others thought of me.  Even though people should not define me, I allowed them to do so.   Yet several months ago I realized by spending my energies pleasing people, I had given away my most precious possession; I had given away my identity.  So when God allowed my world to be turned upside down and everything on which I had placed my identity was stripped away, I crumbled.  I really literally crumbled to the ground on the side of our street and didn’t want to get up.

But praise be to God I did get up.   I got up and I got help.  And in getting help, I reclaimed me.   I allowed God to rebuild the Katie He designed me to be.   First and foremost, I allowed God to remind me I am His child (“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” — John 1:12-13).  I am valuable because of who God is, and nothing I could ever do, say, or think will ever change my value in God’s eyes.   God “chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Ephesians 1:4).

Then, in addition to reminding me of my spiritual identity, God reminded me that each of us is his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10).  We are all children, but we are not all the same.  Each of us has a place and a part specifically designed for us to live out on this earth. So in learning who I am and who I am not, I also learned to be okay with both. Am I an extrovert who does well speaking in public?  In the words of my 4 year old son, “No way hosay!”  But I am an introvert who likes to write.   And I am a social introvert who does well in small group settings.  I may not have lots of friends, but I am faithful to the few I have.  Am I a problem solver?  Not really, but if you tell me what I need to do to solve a problem, I will do it with diligence.   Can I sing?  Nope. But I can play the flute.   Can I be all things to all people?  Not even all things to some people.  And if I try to, I will lose me in the process.

I am an introvert who does not have nor will ever have all the answers.  And that is okay.  Because God created me just the way He wanted me to be.  Who I am is precious.  And who you are is precious as well.

So who are you?  You are God’s child.  You are God’s treasure.  And God has chosen you to be you for such a time as this.

So be you.  Value you.   For in so doing, you glorify the One who made you.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderful made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well. – Psalm 139:14

What Did You Go Out To See?

As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? …” (Matthew 11:7)

I do my best not to take passages of Scripture out of context, and pardon me if the above is taken out of context, yet the above question came to mind the other day as I reflected on the reasons people attend church on Sunday mornings.

Jesus asked the crowd the above question concerning John the Baptist.   I believe Jesus was implying the people followed John the Baptist because he was more than just a normal prophet; he was the “Elijah who was to come” (Matthew 11: 14).  People were drawn to John because of who John served, not because who John was.  John served God, and people were drawn to God because of John’s service.  They were drawn to God’s presence.

As believers, we serve Jesus.   And Jesus should be the answer to the question, “What did you go to church to see?”  Yet is it?   What do we go to church to see?  Worship songs?  A moving message?   Props on stage?  Entertainment for our kids?  Friends? All of these are great aspects of a Sunday morning, and I do believe each is an aspect fulfilling God’s command to “not forsake the assembling together”(Hebrews 10:25).  Yet for some reason I believe we have also taken this command of God and fashioned it to the whims of man; we’ve equated church with the putting on of a production.

The other day I read a post on Facebook regarding one of my friends “going to an event.”  The event she was planning on attending was a church service.   Now I fully understand that the event tag is generic for all such posts on Facebook to announce planned activities.  Nevertheless, how many of us would admit that we look at church in this way?

When I think of the word “event,” I think of a specific time and place to go enjoy myself for a little while, leave, and then move on with my life.  An event happens during a specific period of time but does not require long term commitment or engagement.   I even have the right to judge or to rate an event.   Based on my experience at an event, I may or may not return or recommend it to anyone.  A concert is an event.   A conference is an event.  A party is an event.  Church should not be an event! Church is when fellow believers come together to worship Jesus and to learn from, encourage, and build one another up in Christ.  Church is when we come into God’s presence as a community.

Yet each week, rather than showing up to see Jesus, we tend to show up ready to be entertained or to entertain.  If we are a musician, a volunteer, or actually on staff, we head to church with the goal in mind of fulfilling our role.  We play the songs, we teach the kids, we greet the visitors; we serve with our best foot forward, so to speak.  If we are not a volunteer or musician or staff member, we go to church to experience what the “event” has to offer.   We hope they sing our favorite song.  We hope the sermon applies to us somehow, or at least applies to that person we know needs to hear from Jesus more than we do.   We hope the coffee tastes good and someone brought donuts.  Then whether we served or were served, we leave church, evaluate the experience, and then move forward with life until the next time.

But what should be our reason for going to church?  What should be our motivation for rising up early on a Sunday morning? Jesus!  Jesus is the way the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  He is all and is in all (Colossians 3:11).   There should be no other reason for going to church than to see Jesus–to fellowship with our Creator and our Savior.  God calls us to worship Him.  He is not looking for perfection or for a production; He’s looking for hearts like His–hearts ready and willing to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).  Yes, all of the aforementioned activities are certainly good and even necessary, but none should be our main or sole reason for going to church.

We need to go to church to see Jesus. For as we seek Him first, as we set our eyes on the author and finisher of our faith, everything else will fall into place (see Matthew 6:33 and Hebrews 12:2).   Are you a musician?  Play for Him; you’ll sound beautiful.   Volunteer?  Serve Him; people will see Him in you.  In the congregation? Worship Him; the music and the message will minister to you.

But most of all, when you leave, don’t just rate what happened or didn’t happen then move on with your life. Live it.  Love God and love people all throughout the week. Live the words of Jesus: “…Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35)

Therefore as you go to sleep Saturday, and as you wake up to head to church Sunday, ask God to show you what you are going to church to see.   And if He shows you anything other than going to see Him, simply ask Him to forgive you and then refocus your attentions on Him.   Then forgetting those things which are behind, press forward into the presence of Jesus; worship Him in spirit and in truth.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.  God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24)

Powerful Unity

“And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” (Genesis 11:6)

The power of unity.  This is what God brought to mind this morning as I read about the Tower of Babel, specifically God’s response to the people’s achievement.

As an analytical person, I absolutely love God’s paradoxical nature.  He is seemingly contradictory yet consistent at the same time. Nevertheless, even the apparent contradictions make sense when viewed through the eyes of God’s glory.  Take, for instance, the events of the Tower of Babel.   It was after the flood, and the people of the earth were unified in language and purpose.  They came together as one in mind, body, and spirit to create the tower and build the city.  In unity they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves…” (Genesis 11:4).

Now at first one may think, “Great job guys!  Way to work together!”  Yet in the very next verse we read the following:  “And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. And the Lord said, ‘Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do.  And nothing they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language…” (Genesis 11:5-7).

What?!  Did God just confuse their language because they had been working together in unity and succeeded?!  Yes.  Yes He did.  But I believe if we take a closer look, we’ll see a possible reason why God did what He did.

Why did the people build a tower?  Did they make a tower reaching to the heavens to honor God?  Nope.  They did it for themselves, to glorify themselves.   They built the tower to make a name for themselves (verse 4).  So when God came down and viewed the tower, He didn’t just see unity, He saw unity used in an unrighteous manner.

Only a few chapters before the events of the Tower of Babel, we read the events of Noah and the flood.  God had looked down on the earth and proclaimed, the “wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).  So He destroyed every living thing save Noah and his family.   He effectively started the earth over.   Yet no sooner does the earth begin to repopulate then the people of the earth come together as one to build a tower glorifying themselves, not God.

I believe when God looked down, He saw not only the people’s wickedness but also their potential.  The One who created man in His image knows man’s full potential.  Knowing man and knowing what this tower and this city would lead to, yet also knowing He couldn’t destroy man with another flood, God acted.  He acted for His glory and for man’s ultimate well-being. He effectively put an end to what He in His omniscience knew would happen if the people continued together in unrighteous unity. So He confused their language and dispersed them.

“…and they left off building the city” (Genesis 11:8).

In the case of Babel, God brought confusion as a means to prevent evil. Yet I believe His first desire is not to avoid evil via confusion but rather to draw people to Himself through unity.  Unity is such an important key to changing this world in a mighty way.  There is power when people come together.  Even small groups who are unified can do greater things than large groups riddled with discord.   Jesus Himself prayed for the unity of believers so “the world will know”  God loves the world and in His love sent His Son to earth to die for our sins (John 17:23).

So what then can we take away from the events of Babel?  Well, today I took away two big truths:  there is power in unity and God calls us to righteous unity.   If we want to change the world, if we want to draw people to Jesus, if we want to bring glory to God–then we need to unite.  We need to link arms with each other, bear one another’s burdens, encourage one another, and work together as one body.  Whether you are the baby toe or the head in ministry, you are essential and you must work well with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Rejecting any part of the body only brings discord and destruction.  Jesus himself proclaimed, “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand” (Mark 3:25).  There is power in unity, and we as believers must tap into this power if we want to change the world.   Yet we must not unite “to make a name for ourselves.” We must come together as one body to serve our Lord, to give glory to our Lord, and to draw people to our Lord.   We must unite to show the world Jesus and to ascribe glory to our King.

And as we do this, we can join the choir in heaven singing, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”  (Psalm 133:1)

Glory!

Psalm 29
Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

 

I confess:  for the past several weeks I have found myself just wanting to scream.  Yet I do not want to scream out of frustration or from anger, but out of thanksgiving.   Thanksgiving?  Yes!  Thanksgiving.   There is just so much praise within me for who God is and for all He has been doing in and through me I just want to yell at the top of my lungs:  “Aaaaahhh!”

I have said “Thank You” repeatedly.  I’ve been saying “God is faithful.”  I’ve been telling friends what God has been doing.  I have tried many ways to express my praise yet haven’t found the words which could possibly describe my sheer gratitude for being God’s child.  I honestly do not think I could ever find a human word with the ability to convey the depths of my heart.

And you know what is awesome?! God knows this.  He knows my human heart could never fully express to Him the praise He deserves.

So what does He do?  He gives me His Word.  He gives you His Word, too. His Word not only commands us to praise Him, but it actually gives us the praises as well! Hebrews 13:15 tells us to, “continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge His name.”  Jesus Himself declared to the Pharisees as they tried to stop His disciples from shouting praises, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (Luke 19:40).

God doesn’t want us to remain silent, yet He knows we are only human.  So He gives us promises like Romans 8:26:  Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.  For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.”  This means God understands my scream.

“Aaaahhh!”  Yup. God knows what this means.

Yet God doesn’t stop with the command to praise and the promise He’ll understand our groans and screams.  He goes further to provide us with praises like Psalm 29.  He gives us His own Words we can in turn speak back to Him.

Meditate on the above Psalm for a moment.   Do you know what my favorite verse is?  It is verse 9: and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”  This entire psalm ascribes to God so many attributes. God is mighty.  God is holy.  God is powerful.  God is strength.  And the response of the people?  “Glory!”  That is the scream from the depths of their heart.  It is the cry from the depths of mine as well.

God is.   And because God is, we are.  So I encourage you this day to pause and to breathe in His goodness and His grace.   May you see His power working in and through you.  May you have that moment of worshipping our Lord in the beauty of holiness, that moment you stand in His temple and “Glory!” is the only thing your spirit can voice.  Glory to our mighty God.  Glory to our King.  Glory to the Great I Am.  Glory!  He is God and needs nothing, yet day after day He allows us the privilege of giving glory to His name.   And as we give unto Him, He gives unto us.  He gives strength.  He gives peace.  He gives wisdom.  He gives grace.   The God who is worthy of all our praise rewards our praise–a truly humbling thought.  We who are not worthy are strengthened by the One who is.

Glory!

 

 

And It Was So

Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. – Genesis 1:11

Happy New Year!  It is January 2nd, the day after many people resolve to change.  It’s also the first day many resolutions have already been broken.    My resolution to get up early, while it is still dark, to pray and write God’s Word?  Well, um, does getting out of bed at 8:00 am count?  I’m guessing not.

But I meant well.

“I meant well.”   Oh how many times have I not only said these words but heard them spoken as well.  I meant well when I said that.  I meant well when I did that.   Many people “mean well” when they say and do things.   We mean well when we vow to change eating habits, exercise habits, Bible study habits, relationship habits.   We truly do want to change for the better.  Yet change in and of ourselves only leaves us bereft of true change, and often ends with us shaking our heads in shame, mumbling to ourselves, “I meant well.”

This is where the above scripture comes in today.    I thought it only fitting to begin the new year with the beginning of the world–with creation.   As I began to read the account of our genesis, four words repeated often during those first 6 days caught my attention.  I know I have read them over and over again, but this time, God’s Spirit used them to remind me His ways are not my ways.  God is not like man.  Yes, we are created in His image, but we are not God–never were and never will be.   God is not man, that He should lie (Numbers 23:19).  God is not man, that He should default on a promise (2 Corinthians 1:20).   When God “means well,” He means it will happen.  What God plans, expect.

So what are the four words?

And it was so. 

God said it; and it was so.   Light?   It appeared.   The earth?   No longer void.    People?  Created and given the breath of life.    God saw the earth void and without form , so He spoke His plan, and it was so.

And it was so.

Such a powerful message in those four words.  It is a message of hope and of promise, and it is now my prayer for 2016.    God says in His Word, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s counsel, that will stand” (Proverbs 19:21).  He also says,  “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9).  It is certainly not sin to have dreams and desires and a plan, for I do believe these are capabilities given to us by the One who made us in His image.  Yet we must remember it is His counsel that will stand.  It is His counsel we need and should desire. So this year, as I daily bow before my King, and as I pray the familiar words of the model prayer provided by Jesus–“Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven”–I will now end it with “Let it be so.”   Not “let it be so” because I mean well and want my own plans to succeed, but rather “let it be so” because God is God and I am His child.   And if God means well for something to happen in my life, then it will be so!

What about you?  Are you believing for something in 2016?  Do you have a plan as to how you’d like it to go?   Whatever your plan or desire (or maybe even fear), I encourage you to present it to God and submit to His lead.   Search His Word for His promises and for His direction.  And then seek His face.  Pray.  Pray His will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  For as you pray His will, you can trust in His way.   And if God plans it for you, it will be so.  And it will be good.  For when God creates something, it isn’t just good, it is very good (Genesis 1:31)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge the Lord, and He will direct your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6