Anchored in Hope. Anchored in Him.

We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain,
Hebrews 6:19 ESV

Anchors. They are extremely useful to boaters, for they secure the vessel to the bottom–to the foundation. Winds may blow, currents may flow, but a boat anchored will remain in place.

In the above passage, the writer of Hebrews mentions “this” as the anchor, the hope, for the believer. What is the “this”?  I believe it is God and His promises. Read with me the verses preceding the above verse:

For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.
Hebrews 6:13‭-‬18 ESV

We can take God’s promises to the bank. For He cannot lie. What God has promised will surely come to pass. This is what kept the prophets of old steadfast and immovable; and it is what should anchor us as well.  When we are anchored in Christ Jesus–anchored in hope–anchored in the knowledge He  who promised is faithful–winds may blow, the waves may smash against us, and the current may be strong, but we will not be moved.

A person anchored in hope cannot be moved.

Even more, a person anchored in hope enters and remains in God’s presence. Look at Hebrews 6:19b-20:  a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

In the Old Testament times, only the high priest could go behind the inner curtain into the Holy of Holies–and even that was permitted only once a year. But Jesus tore down that curtain. Jesus opened up the way for all of us to enter God’s presence when He paid the price for our sins once and for all. This means our hope not only secures us from the storms, but also it anchors us in His Presence. When we have Jesus–God’s greatest Promise fulfilled–as our hope. When we walk in full assurance all God’s promises find their yes in Him. Then we are not only secured by His Presence, but we are sheltered by His Presence as well. God with us anchors us.

If we allow him to.

So I encourage you today to hold fast to your confession of faith, to anchor yourself in the hope that is found only in Christ Jesus. He is our hope. He is our anchor. And even though an anchor does not prevent the storms from coming, the waves from crashing, and the winds from blowing, being anchored in Christ Jesus will keep you secure. It will keep you from being blown away. It will keep you from being blown to and fro.

So hold fast to your confession of faith. Hold fast to the anchor of hope. Hold fast to the One who cannot be moved. Hold fast. And know this:  He who cannot be moved will keep you secure. Because He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

 

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Jesus Knows

Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them,
“Whom do you seek?”
John 18:4 ESV

Questions.   We typically associate them with uncertainty.  We don’t know the way, so we ask directions.  We don’t know the reason, so we ask why.  We don’t know the answer, so we ask for it.

Yet Jesus did not ask questions because He did not know; He asked because He knew. Jesus knew exactly what the soldiers were coming to the Garden of Gethsemane to do. Jesus knew exactly who they were looking for. Yet He still asked them, “Whom do you seek?” In fact, he actually asked them twice. He then waited for them to say His name before submitting Himself to their custody.  Once they declared “Jesus of Nazareth” as the one they sought, Jesus in turn responded with “I am he” (John 18:5-8).

Jesus knew before He ever entered the Garden what events were about to unfold. He knew what the soldiers and priests were there to do.  Yet He still asked the question.  He did not ask because He did not know; He asked so they could know. He knew they were going to arrest him. Yet He waited until they spoke it themselves.

And in that simple response–I am He–Jesus conveyed His purpose–His destiny–His reason for coming to earth.  There in the Garden, when faced with the choice to choose life or to choose death, Jesus chose His death for our life.  He could have run.  He could have lied.  He could have fought.  But He didn’t.  He just asked the question He already knew the answer to, and then waited for the response.

First Corinthians reminds us “in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (15:22).  And it was as I read the above account in John 18 God reminded me of the other famous garden account: the Garden of Eden. This account, however, is the one that led to death, not life. Adam may have thought he was choosing life when he ate of the forbidden fruit, yet in reality he chose death–a choice he didn’t begin to fully realize until he heard God coming. When God entered the Garden and did not see Adam out and about, He asked the question, “Where are you?” God knew where Adam was.  He knew what Adam had done.  Nevertheless, I believe, God asked the question because He wanted Adam to know what he’d done. He wanted Adam to admit the choice he’d made.

God always knows. Always.  He knows our questions before we ask them; He knows the answers before we seek them. He knows.  And He also always knows the answers to the questions He asks before He asks them.  God’s questions aren’t for His benefit; they are for ours.

Throughout His time on earth, Jesus asked countless questions. Typically, whenever people approached Him Jesus would ask a question. He’d often ask what they wanted–even though He knew fully what they wanted–and more importantly what they needed.  He never asked for His sake; He asked for the sake of those who could hear Him. Even now, God’s questions aren’t for His sake; they are for ours.  He asks so we can know. He asks so we can see. He asks so we can hear. He asks because He knows–and because we don’t.

So I encourage you in two ways today. First of all, do not be afraid to ask God those tough questions you may have.  Not only can He handle them, but He can help you answer them as well.  He knows every word that proceeds from your mouth before you ever speak it (Psalm 139:4). Your questions will never catch Him off guard; but they will always bring Him near.

And then secondly, always be diligent in answering God’s questions. For God’s questions are your answers–even when you are not seeking them. God doesn’t ask questions for His sake; He asks them for yours. Even if the answer hurts, the temporary pain pales in comparison to the eternal benefits of following God’s direction.

Therefore, I leave you with this today: God knows.  He knows it all. So whether you are the one asking or the one being asked, be at peace; for God knows.

Go Therefore

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18‭-‬20 ESV

The Great Commission. We’ve heard about it. We’ve read about it. We’ve committed to do it. Yet as my pastor read this passage to us in his message on discipleship, I noticed something I hadn’t focused on before. It’s always been there, but I guess I never really paid attention to it.

What is it? The reason Jesus gives that we are to “go therefore.” As I’ve shared before, the purpose of a “therefore” is to tie what is about to be spoken to what was just stated, for what was just stated is the reason for what is about to be spoken.

In the passage above, before Jesus commanded the disciples (and ultimately us) to go, He gave the reason they could and should go: All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  In other words, because all authority is His–because God is powerful–because God is sovereign–because God is more than able–we are to go. We are not to go because we can; we are to go because He can. It’s by His authority and His presence we can go and we can grow. He even reminds us at the end of the commission He will always be with us. This means we can go and make disciples because He is God and He is always with us.

As my pastor shared, making disciples does not happen by simply standing on a street corner preaching Jesus; that’s evangelism. And evangelism is necessary, for evangelism brings people to Jesus. Discipleship, however, is the next step; discipleship helps believers grow in their relationship with God. As followers of Christ, we are to preach the Word; yet we must not neglect discipleship. We must allow God-with-us (Immanuel) to disciple through us.

How, you ask? How are you supposed to make disciples when you feel so unqualified? When your life seems so imperfect?  Well, we make disciples when we walk this journey called life arm in arm with each other. The “older” children of God walk alongside the “younger,” growing and learning together. Neither is perfect, but the God they both aspire to serve is. We make disciples when we are the hands and feet of Jesus reaching out and walking alongside our fellow followers.

But we must remember an important point: none of us is qualified. Seriously, no one in and of themselves is truly qualified to disciple. Think about it. Hands and feet cannot act without the brain telling them what to do. Likewise, we in and of ourselves are not qualified to disciple. To try to lead others on our own equates to a blind man trying to lead another blind man through a room neither has ever been; both will stumble.

The only way to make disciples is to be a disciple of the One who controls it all–to be a follower of Jesus and allowing God in you to guide you in your walk with Him and in your walk with others.

I am not sure where you are today in your walk with Jesus. Nevertheless, whether you are new to the faith or “an old-timer,” God calls you to go and make disciples. But you are not to go in your own strength; you are to go in His.

I urge you then, my friend, go. Go therefore into the world today and make disciples as you walk hand-in-hand with your fellow believers. Do not go thinking you can or cannot based on your own qualifications, for none of us is qualified on our own. God is the one who qualifies the called. And He has called you. So go. Go knowing God can–knowing God is more than able.  Go therefore knowing “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given” to Jesus and Jesus is “with you always, to the end of the age.” 

Go.

He Goes Before

It is the Lord who goes before you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or abandon you. Do not fear or be dismayed.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 AMP

We live on a curvy road.  To get anywhere, we must drive up and down and around a mountain.  Sometimes I wish it wouldn’t be so curvy; I wish it were a straight shot from one destination to another.  Nevertheless, I do understand those engineers had a purpose for creating the road so curvy.  Did they want to make us car sick? No, although that happens sometimes.  Did they want to make sure we did not drive too fast?  No, although I do make sure I slow down on the corners. The most likely reason the engineers designed the road with curves and hills is because that particular path was the best way over the mountain.

Now think about your daily walk with the Lord.  Although I am sure you are like me and would prefer a smooth, straight road through life, oftentimes the straightest shot isn’t the best route; sometimes we need sharp curves, steep slopes, and even long tunnels to get to the other side.  What we must remember is we are not the engineers of our lives; God is. So whether we are climbing a mountain, descending into a valley, strolling through green pastures, or have seemingly lost our way–and whether the road is full of twists and turns or is long, straight and narrow–we must trust God has us walking that path for a purpose.  His purpose.

And if we know we are walking the path engineered by the God of all for His good pleasure, we can also know the truth of the above passage applies as well: it is the Lord who goes before you.

It is the Lord who goes before you. Think about this. It is the Lord who goes before you. He doesn’t just go behind you and cheer, “You can do this!” (Although He does.) He doesn’t just hold your hand and walk with you saying, “We’ve got this!” (Although He does.)  But He also takes your hand, leads the way, and says “Follow Me.”

Yes, God goes before you. Even more, He goes before you as the all-knowing Shepherd.  God goes before you because He knows the way He desires you to go–a way He has already traveled Himself—a path He has found to be the best one for your good and for His glory.

God doesn’t promise you a pain free life.  But He does promise to never leave you nor forsake you (Deuteronomy 31:6).  He does promise to be with you wherever we go.  He does promise to go behind you, to go with you, and to go before you.

So remember today, God is on your side and you will make it through.  You will make it through because God not only says, “This is the way, walk in it.” He not only says, “I am with you wherever you go.” But He also says, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear what may be, for it is I the Lord who goes before you; I will be with you. I will not fail you or abandon you. I will never leave you nor forsake you. Whatever curves have slowed you down; whatever hills seem to be pulling you backwards; remember today I am with you. I know where you’ve been, and I know where you are going.  So trust Me.  Trust in My infinite wisdom.  Trust in My promise to never let you go.  Trust.  Trust that the mountain before you is the way to victory.  It may not be straight; it may not be smooth.  But it will get you over; it will get you to the other side.  It will. So do not fear; do not be dismayed.  I will not fail you; I will not abandon you.  I will never let you go.  In fact, I not will not only be with you, I will go before you. Because I love you.  And you are Mine.”

Prayer Provides

But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.
Exodus 17:12 ESV

In the above portion of Scripture, God had given Moses the responsibility of watching a battle while holding the staff of God in his hand. As the battle progressed, it soon became evident that whenever Moses’ his hands were lifted up, Israel would prevail; yet whenever his hands were down, the Amalekites would prevail. It was then Moses knew God wanted him to do more than just hold the staff; He wanted Moses to keep his hands raised as a banner. For God indeed is our banner.

Nevertheless, even though Moses knew what he was supposed to do and desired to do it, his human strength began to fail; his arms became weary. Aaron and Hur, noticing this, immediately sprang into action. Their action, however, was calculated; and I’m sure there were some onlookers who may have thought their action wasn’t much action at all. For Aaron and Hur did not offer to take the staff away from Moses. Aaron didn’t say, “Hey, Moses, let me hold that staff for a few minutes.” Neither did they offer to go assist in the fighting.  Hur didn’t offer to go down and tell the Israelites to fight harder because Moses was getting tired.  No.  Instead they provided a place to sit and the support for his arms. I personally believe they chose to support Moses rather than completely relieve him because they knew that it was not God’s will for them to take the struggle away from Moses; they knew God desired them to support Moses through it.

And this is how I view prayer.

Prayer is the most powerful inactive thing we can do.

Because prayer is anything but inactive.

Sometimes we as believers mistakenly view prayer as the last resort or the thing to do when there’s nothing else to do. When we see someone in the midst of a battle, we often want to jump in and fight with them and for them. We want to take up their cross and make it our own. We want to take that staff away and hold it ourselves for a little while. But that is often not even close to the solution. For oftentimes God does not want us to take on the fight physically for those we love. He wants us to take it on spiritually; He wants us to pray them through it.

And we must remember prayer is powerful–infinitely more powerful than anything we could physically do.  As James 5:16 reminds us, “The heartfelt and persistent prayer of a righteous man (believer) can accomplish much [when put into action and made effective by God—it is dynamic and can have tremendous power]” (AMP). Prayer has the power to do much more than our human hands and feet could ever do–because prayer invites God to work in His way to make steady those weary arms and aching feet of the ones who serve Him. Prayer invites God to use His hands in ways our hands could never fathom.

Now do not misunderstand me.  We are called to be God’s hands and feet.  We are called to feed the hungry, to help the poor, and to offer help to those in need.  As James reminds us “If a brother or sister is without [adequate] clothing and lacks [enough] food for each day, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace [with my blessing], [keep] warm and feed yourselves,” but he does not give them the necessities for the body, what good does that do?  (James 2:15-16).

However, what we are not called to do is make someone else’s burden our own.  God does not call us to take on everyone else’s problems; He calls us to support them through them.

And prayer is the key. Prayer should not be the last resort; it should be the first step we take. For prayer is the key that unlocks heaven’s gates.  Prayer opens the door for God to move.

Remember this today: prayer provides.  It provides hope. It provides comfort. It provides strength. It provides the answer. It provides it all because it accesses the Lord of all–the one “who is over all and through all and in all” (Ephesians 4:6).

So I encourage you today to pray.  Pray to the One who knows all and is in all.  Pray. Pray for strength.  Pray for peace. Pray for power.  Pray for provision.  Pray for wisdom. Pray.  Do as Jesus encourages us to do: Ask and keep on asking…seek and keep on seeking…knock and keep on knocking.  For as you do, as you stop doing in your own strength and ask Him to use His, you can know for certain you will receive, you will find, and the door will be opened. It will. Trust Him. For He promises “…everyone who keeps on asking receives, and he who keeps on seeking finds, and to him who keeps on knocking, it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).  

And God always keeps His promises. Always.

So pray.

 

 

Never Alone

“Blessed [gratefully praised and adored] be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort, who comforts and encourages us in every trouble so that we will be able to comfort and encourage those who are in any kind of trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.”
2 Corinthians 1:4 AMP

We are never alone. I often think of this in terms of God’s presence, for God’s Word is filled with the reminder to fear not, for He is with us wherever we go (Isaiah 43:5, Deuteronomy 31:6).

Yet in addition to always having God’s presence with us (which is amazing in and of itself), we are also never alone in our struggles. We must remember that there is always somebody else who has “been there; done that.”

One of the biggest lies Satan can tell us is that we are the only one going through what we are going through. He tries to isolate us by making us believe we are alone in our struggles and in our temptations. He makes us believe that we are the only ones ever to face a “monster such as this” in our lives.

But we are not alone. We must remember this: we are not alone. In fact, I want you to say that out loud with me right now. Say it and let it’s truth penetrate your heart: “I am not alone.”

Do you feel rejected?  Ignored Unnoticed?

You are not alone.

Grieving the loss of a dream? the loss of a loved one?

You are not alone.

Are you sick? Wounded? Pleading for God’s healing touch?

You are not alone.

Did your future suddenly get cloudy? Are your greatest fears beginning to become reality?

You are not alone.

Remember this truth today: You are not alone. God’s Word is filled with people who battled the same demons, who traveled the same paths, and who experienced the same feelings overwhelming you this very moment. They’ve experienced your joys; they’ve experienced your sorrows. They’ve been where you are and have gone where you are going.

God doesn’t want us to do life on our own. He desires us and encourages us to talk with one another, pray with one another, and support one another. He calls us to comfort one another with the comfort we have been given.

I can not count the number of times I’ve chosen to open up to somebody about a personal struggle only to hear back something like, “I understand.  I’ve been there myself.” And there is a great relief and an immense sense of hope that accompanies realizing we are not alone. Whether the one who understands is currently going through our struggle or has already made it to the other side, there is comfort in knowing we are not alone.

Therefore let me encourage you in this truth this morning. As you enter a new day and a new week, enter knowing you are not alone. You are never alone. For not only is God with you, but He has also surrounded you with others who have been, are going, or will be going through what you feel right now.

So ask God to show you. Ask God to lead you to the one who can comfort you with the comfort which they have been given.  Ask God to bring along side you the one (or more than one) who will join hands with you and walk with you and daily remind you you are never alone. And ask God to use you as well. Ask Him to use you to be the comfort someone needs. Ask God to show you the one (or more than one) who needs your hand–who needs you to share the comfort you have been given. Ask. Ask and know you will receive. Know whether God uses you to comfort someone or uses someone to comfort you, His Word is true: you are never alone.

 

In the Midst

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You have anointed and refreshed my head with oil; My cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5 AMP

Sometimes we mistakenly believe that the key to peace is the absence of conflict, but the key to peace is not the absence of conflict; it’s the presence of God. 

Psalm 23:6 reminds us that God prepares a table for us in the presence of our enemies. This means that while our enemies are watching, while our enemies are pursuing, while our enemies are surrounding us, God is preparing a table for us. This means within the conflict God is there–within the conflict God is with us. God does not always remove us from the struggle, but He does allow us to take refuge under the shadow of his Almighty wings. (Psalm 91).

Here is what we must remember: In the midst of our struggle, God. God is anointing; God is preparing; God is refreshing; God is filling. In the midst of the struggle, it’s not about us; it’s about God. It’s about what God can do, is doing, and will do for those who hear His voice.

Throughout God’s Word, oil symbolizes the Holy Spirit. The notes in the Amplified Bible I have state that it was customary in ancient times for the host to offer oil to his guests as a way to refresh them when it was hot.  In other words, what David refers to in Psalm 23:6 is God’s refreshing in the heat of battle. The refreshing doesn’t come after the struggle; it comes within it. In the midst of the conflict God gives us His Holy Spirit to refresh, to renew, and to equip us. Our cup overflows as we fight when we go to God in the midst of the battle.

When we allow God to be our host, we will always have a table and always be refreshed, even in the midst of the most heated battle.

So are you in the midst of a struggle today? Do you feel surrounded by the enemy? Are you looking for a place to hide? Then allow the truth of Psalm 23 to encourage you. God is with you. God is for you. And God will never let you go. Even in the midst of the struggle, God is there.

Take No Offense

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
    yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
    and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
    so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 53:7

The very One who had every right to open His mouth and “put us in our place” kept His mouth shut.  The very One who had every right to judge us, condemn us, and berate us kept His mouth shut.  The very One who had every right to be offended by our treatment of Him kept His mouth shut.  Yet, the One who “opened not his mouth” did not keep his mouth shut because He was stewing over how to exact revenge; He kept His mouth shut because nothing and no one could alter His love.

Jesus never took offense at those who reviled Him.  Jesus never took offense at those who unnecessarily condemned Him.  Jesus never took offense at those who could not understand His ways.  Jesus took no offense.   Jesus loved.   He loved those who loved Him.  He loved those who despised Him.  His love kept Him on the cross.  His love covers our sins.

And His love is our example.

Yet as I was driving the other day, I began thinking about how we often react to the not-so-nice people and the not-so-nice events of this life.   And it is often not in love.

The online Oxford English Dictionary defines offense in several different ways. One definition in particular is as follows:

Annoyance or resentment brought about by a perceived insult to or disregard for oneself.

I am sure we have all experienced this feeling before. Someone says or does something to us or to someone we love, and we think to ourselves, “How dare they?!” We are shocked that someone could do or say something so egregious. And whether the offense was intentional or unintentional, perceived or actual, we are left with a feeling of being wronged in some way.

Yet here’s what God reminded me the other day: offense is not love; offense is pride.

Gulp. Ouch.

But it’s truth. Look with me at the definition of pride in the online Oxford English Dictionary:

The quality of having an excessively high opinion of oneself or one’s importance.

Now when reading the above, you may think to yourself, “My opinion of myself is not excessive.” And no, on a day-to-day basis, you may not exhibit pride by having an excessively high opinion of yourself. However, when it comes to those times when we face the opportunity to take offense, if we do take offense, I believe pride is the culprit. For when we take offense at something or someone, we are ultimately saying we deserved better. Someone forgets our name and we think they should have remembered. Someone forgets to email something and we think they should have remembered. Someone does something that hurts our feelings and we believe we did not deserve what they did. Someone hurts our loved one and we think our loved one did not deserve it. Someone misjudges our actions, and we feel betrayed and dishonored.

Yet whether someone says or does something hurtful to us intentionally or unintentionally, that feeling of anger, resentment, and yes, pride often immediately bubble to the surface. And it is when those feelings arise the choice to be offended or to let it go becomes imminent.

And I get it. I’ve been there. I’ve been on both sides of the offense divide. Yet we must take an honest look at the heart of offense: and I believe at the heart is pride. I believe offense comes when we put ourselves in a higher place than we deserve.

Now of course I must insert here a couple of very important points. First, I am in no way saying that if someone hurts us we deserved it. It is never okay to intentionally hit someone or to intentionally hurt someone; that is sin. And sin is never okay. I am also not saying everything that hurts us is due to the sin of another. Jesus was perfect, yet many were hurt and offended by Him. What I am saying is when we do feel hurt, we must also remember that no one is perfect–and that to take offense is also sin. Romans 3:10-12 reads: as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Romans 3:23 states, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

None of is perfect; all of us sin. So instead of choosing offense when sin (perceived or actual) arises, we need to choose more wisely and choose differently;  we need to choose love. Read with me the following verses:

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.
Proverbs 10:12 ESV

Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.
Proverbs 17:9 ESV

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11 ESV

Love covers a multitude of sins, and we must remember we have all sinned. We have all hurt others–intentionally or unintentionally. Everyone messes up; everyone needs Jesus. No, this does not mean we “deserve what we get” or “have every right to do what we did.” But it does mean we must be wise and humble in our reactions to the sins (real or perceived) of others.

This is not an easy pill to swallow, I know. Yet we need to remember that God calls us to walk in forgiveness, in humility, and in compassion. He calls us to follow the example  He set for us. How did Jesus respond to criticism and rejection? He died on the cross. Jesus walked this life in perfection, yet he was spit on, ridiculed, cast out, and ultimately put to death for being perfect. Yes, the only One who ever had the right to be offended laid down His life for us.  The only One with every right to curse us called out from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).  Jesus did not become offended; He loved.

And so should we.

Here is what we must remember: offense is a choice–not the choice of the offender; it is the choice of the one offended.  To walk around offended is to walk around in pride and in self-righteousness.  Offense goes beyond “that’s not fair” to “that’s so not fair I’m going to punish you in return through unforgiveness.” Offense believes “I would never do that.”

The men in Jesus’ day who were offended by Him were offended not because Jesus was wrong; they were offended because Jesus was right.   Jesus went against their human rules.  Jesus went against their self-righteous behavior.  Jesus went against their perceptions and their expectations. But Jesus wasn’t wrong; they were.

And so today I encourage you to be honest with yourself.  Next time someone does or says something to you that upsets you, ask yourself, “Is it worth taking offense?” “Is it worth letting go of love?” Prayerfully, you’ll say no.  Prayerfully, you will recognize that when people hurt you (intentionally or unintentionally), they did the same to Jesus.  And Jesus was perfect.

So take no offense today.  Walk this life in humility, walk this life in forgiveness, and most importantly, walk this life in love.  For love truly does cover a multitude of sins.

He Hasn’t Changed

For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.
Psalms 22:24 ESV

You know what I love about this passage? David pens the above words in the midst of trouble. As with many of David’s psalms, when you read all of Psalm 22, you will also see David begin by lamenting and wondering “why,” yet by the end he is praising God for God’s faithfulness. Even more importantly, he ends with praises even when he still does not know the answer or cannot see a resolution to his initial struggle.

Psalm 22 begins with this heart wrenching question and declaration:

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.
Psalms 22:1‭-‬2 ESV

I’m sure we’ve all been in a place like this before; some of you reading this may be there now. Death has come to the one you love. Cancer has been ravaging your once healthy body.  Your bank account is all but empty, yet the bills keep coming. Or maybe the paychecks have ceased because of a job loss. Whatever circumstances you may find yourself in today, I’m pretty sure you’ve either asked or wanted to ask “Why?” at some point. Why did she have to die? Why did he have to get sick? Why can’t I seem to make ends meet? Why, why, why.

Well, first of all, let this psalm encourage you in this:  you are not alone.  We’ve all been there. David was there often.  Yes, a man after God’s own heart often found himself surrounded by the enemy and struggling through a difficult place. Even our Savior was there.  Seriously.  I’m not sure if you recognized it as you first read it, but the above cry also came from our Savior and Lord as He hung on the cross (Matthew 27:46).   Yes, even the Savior of the world, the very Son of God, cried out for understanding as He suffered for the sake of sin.

But here is what we also must remember: sometimes God’s goodness is greater shown through the struggle and the sacrifice than through the calm and the blessings.

No, I am in no way saying God causes sickness, disease, or disaster.  God does not author evil.  What I am saying is that at times, God’s light is easier seen when all else is dark.  A light shines brighter in the dark than it does in the light.

In addition to showing us we all have struggles, this psalm also reminds us it is okay to ask God those tough questions; He can handle it. Again, even Jesus asked why. The key to keeping the faith as you ask why, however, is found in your heart. David didn’t ask why because He doubted God.  David didn’t ask why because He thought God caused the problems. David asked why because He believed. He believed in God’s goodness, so he asked God why he wasn’t seeing it.  David often pointed out God’s past faithfulness as he asked God to meet his current need.  David knew God was and is faithful.  He knew God would always answer.  Nevertheless, and most importantly, David also knew that God’s ways were not easily understood.

David knew another important key to the life of faith: regardless of where we are and what we are going through, praise is imperative.

Yes, we must never stop praising the Lord.  Read with me the verses that immediately follow David’s laments and questions:

  I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!

Even in the battle–even with the unanswered questions–David still praised. For David knew an important God doesn’t change even though our circumstances do. God is still God even when we don’t understand–especially when we don’t understand.

For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

God sees you, my friend. God hears your every cry. And He is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Never. So whatever struggles you are facing today. Whatever diagnosis plagues your household. Remember. Remember that it’s okay to wonder, it’s okay to ask, and it’s definitely okay to believe. Actually, it is imperative you believe. Believe you will see God’s goodness in the land of the living. Believe God will prosper you. Believe God is more than able to meet your every need and heal your every disease. But also believe that even if you don’t see–even if you still struggle–even if you are still sick–God is with you, God loves you, and God will never let you go. I repeat: God will never let you go.

For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

 

Keep Moving Forward

As I have been praying for the numerous families affected by the events in Las Vegas, and as I have been watching the news attempt to cover such a mass tragedy, I have also been asking God what He would have me say or do to encourage and to comfort those left reeling in the wake of such tragedy.

As humans, when we come face to face with such devastation as what happened in Las Vegas, we immediately want to know the why and the how such a thing could happen. Investigators are tearing apart every aspect of the shooter’s belongings as they attempt to piece together his motives for doing what he did. Many of us would love to know how such a “seemingly normal” retired accountant could suddenly choose to take the lives of unsuspecting, innocent people. We long for a reason. We long for answers. We long for justice.

And I wish I could write today the answer that would make everything make sense. I wish I could point you to one scripture that would make it all make sense. I wish I could say I know why bad things happen to good people. I wish I could give you an answer as to how tragedies like this happen.

But I can’t.  For I don’t know why.  And I don’t know how. And, honestly, none of us will ever fully know the whys and the hows of everything that goes on during our time on this earth.

But here’s what I do know: God still reigns.  Even when we do not understand Him or His ways, God still reigns

No, this will not bring back the 59 people who lost their lives. No, this will not take away the fear and torment that the over 500 injured and the other survivors had to endure and will have to work through in the days weeks and years to come.

Knowing God reigns does not erase the events that shatter our lives. It does not negate the heart wrenching pain that comes when we lose the ones we love or lose the innocence we once had. But knowing God reigns does get us through; it does keep us moving forward.

God allows us to weep. God allows us to mourn. So if you are one of the ones in Las Vegas facing such an immense loss, weep and mourn. God knows the pain and suffering that you are facing, and He understands your hurting heart. God does not want you to bottle up what you feel. But He does call you to draw near to Him at such a time as this. He does call you to run to Him with your questions, to run to Him with your fears, and to bow before him with your tears. So cry out to Him and run to him today, even though you do not understand, and even though it hurts beyond compare.

Yesterday I shared about the difference between someone who trusts in people and things and someone who trusts in the Lord. The difference between the two is whether or not we get back up when things go wrong. If we blame and run away from God during a time like this, we are also running away from our healing and our help and our ability to get back up. God knows we will weep. God knows we will mourn. God knows we will ask the whys and the hows. And God is more than able to handle our questions. But here’s what we also must remember: God does not want us to continually look back and try to figure out the whys and hows of the events of our lives. He wants us to look up. He wants to us to look up to Him–to seek Him knowing we will find Him. And as we seek Him and we find him, we will also see His Almighty hand lifting us up out of the miry clay and drawing us out of the darkness and leading us into his marvelous light.

Yes, there are children who lost their parents. There are husbands who lost their wives and wives who lost their husbands. There are parents who lost their children. And there is no denying the pain and heartache that accompanies such loss. There is also no amount of political discussion or promises of gun control that could ever bring back the lives of those lost.

Yet in the midst of everything going on we must not lose sight of Eternity. We must remember this world is not our home. This pain is not forever. The tears will be wiped away.

For God reigns.

And God will bring us through.

Therefore, it is imperative we continue to trust in His sovereignty even in the midst of such tragedy.

Again, what happened in Las Vegas was horrible, heartbreaking, and senseless. There is no denying the horrific event. But there’s no explaining it either. So I encourage you today instead of trying to figure out why or how or who to blame, I encourage you to seek God. And pray. Pray for those affected. Pray for God to give you the compassion and the mercy and the know how of how you can be His hands and feet during such a time as this.

Pray.

And as you pray, believe. Believe that you will start to see the goodness of God in the land of the living. Believe that although now we cannot fathom nor understand such a tragedy, we can know the One who does.

Knowing God is God will not erase the pain, but it will get us through it. So run to Him today. Seek Him today. Trust Him today.  Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths (Proverbs 3:5‭-‬6).