Day 3: Where was God?

 

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

When we are wounded by life’s uncertainty, God loves to be our hero who uses the pain to wreck our religiosity and cause our hard hearts to become soft again.

Scripture of the Day:

Hebrews 6:15-19

15 “And so by persevering, Abraham inherited the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and the oath serves as a confirmation to end all dispute. 17 In the same way God wanted to demonstrate more clearly to the heirs of the promise that his purpose was unchangeable, and so he intervened with an oath, 18 so that we who have found refuge in him may find strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us through two unchangeable things, since it is impossible for God to lie. 19 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and steadfast, which reaches inside behind the curtain, where Jesus our forerunner entered on our behalf, since he became a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.” 

In the midst of the biggest heartache of our lives, our faith in God is under siege while voices around us as well as the voice of our own heart betray us and beg us to accuse God for the calamity that has come upon us.

Given everything we have, still we feel we have a right to it all.

In His sovereign wisdom, God created us without the ability of being able to control anything and with no certain promises in this world accept Himself. We all want to be able to count on something in this life and it is sometimes frightening when we cannot.

This human condition of dependency causes us to engage in many futile efforts of trying to overcome our dependent status. We can begin attempting to control our life or others, becoming angry with God, people or circumstances that we cannot control, or maybe at the end of ourselves, we bring our hurt to the only One Who can heal us – the One Who designed us to be in relationship with Himself.

Our genius God who made us to depend on Him did not do it with any other motive than love. Our hearts drift away – that is the norm. And when life is hard, our hope begins to fade, too.

So where was God when we suffered our biggest sorrow, illness, financial woe? I know, I know. If I say “he was there”, that is hard to understand. If He was there, why didn’t He stop it?

This question has caused many to doubt God’s goodness and yet the very same part of us who craves independence from God wants dependence if it means He can fix all of our problems. A little hypocritical, perhaps.

God is not insecure. He does not need us, but He loves us so much that He gave His own life for ours and lets us choose how we will live. He gives us a free will and although he is in complete control of the universe, we have the ability to choose sin or obedience. Death or life. There are consequences for those choices and when we or other people in our lives choose sin, we will be impacted. Is God to blame for that?

In the darkest moments of my searching for God in our mess, the LORD showed me that there were many layers in my heart. Layers of hurt, doubt, unbelief. I said I believed in God. But there were layers tucked beneath that could not fully trust the God Who could allow such pain in.

When we are wounded by life’s uncertainty, God loves to be our hero who uses the pain to wreck our religiosity and cause our hard hearts to become soft again.

I did not want my faith hurt or my children’s faith hurt from the actions of their father. The fact that he professed to be a Christian made our trauma even worse. In that place of desperation for healing and crying out to God that He would help me to raise my children and keep their hearts and faith strong, the LORD amazed me.

He did not remove my problems but He did change our hearts. Over and over again His promises stood out. They were not just nice sounding, fluffy wishes. They were real. They were for us. And they were accessed by His Holy Spirit, revealing the truth and helping us to believe and hold on to each precious promise.

“I would have despaired if I had not believed I would see the goodness of God in the land of the living.” Those words from the Psalmist cut my heart wide open. Oh, God. I want to believe that my life will not always be a heap of ruins. God can do a lot with a willing heart who asks for help to believe when everything seems hopeless.

If someone has hurt you seemingly irreparably, know this: God is for you. He does not change, He is incapable of lying. Every single one of His promises are for you, if you will just persevere.

I can hear some saying impatiently, “I need that promise now”. So do I, friend. So do I. But when we begin to trust His promises He also reveals our need to trust Him with what is best for us. What we consider mercy might not be mercy. What we consider blessing might lead us to a curse. Father knows best. He is our Promise Maker & Promise Keeper and His ways are perfect.

As we move on toward maturity in Christ, we are no longer like little children who need to be given what we demand in order to feel loved. Instead, we stand in awe at the character of our God – unfailing, perfect in every way, and the fact that He would offer us promises at all – the ones who violated His perfect law – and we can only worship with gratitude.

Surrendering our hearts to Him and asking Him to help us trust Him when we don’t understand – is complete freedom. He is able to enable us when life is hard and turn our ashes into a thing of beauty.

I wrote the song, “Layers” last year out of this testimony of surrender that God led me through. I pray it encourages you, today, as well. Peel back the Layers of your heart and lay them at His feet. Expose and surrender the hurt and fears before the One Who wipes away every one of our tears.

Oh, Lord! You are so beautiful, so faithful, so good! Thank You for Your precious promises. Help us to cling to You and to Your promises and to never grow weary in doing so.

Truthful Tuesday – Trusting God Again after Abuse

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

The painful reminders of abuse that come will soon dissipate and become reminders of God’s grace and healing, instead.

Scriptures of the Day:

1 Corinthians 6:18

“Flee sexual immorality! “Every sin a person commits is outside of the body”–but the immoral person sins against his own body.”

I confess I have had this blog entry scheduled before but just did not want to write it. Still, my Spirit urges me on. I could never do justice to the pain so many have endured, but perhaps I can ease that pain with the truth of God’s comfort in the midst.

Abuse is one of those words that causes the human spirit to want to avoid the subject. We just don’t want to talk about it. It makes us uncomfortable and often victims of abuse themselves feel ashamed or judged, too. The mere thought of such a carnal act happening to one who is made in the image of God is unspeakable.

Sins committed outside the body are bad enough, but harming another person by abusing them physically, emotionally, sexually or spiritually produces devastating consequences that are not easily overcome and repercussions can last a lifetime.

I know what it was like to be a little girl told to be silent. As much as the pain of multiple attempts was on my soul, I can look back and see the hand of God guiding me. I have walked through emotional and spiritual abuse, as well, and the ensuing torment of trying to be free from it. Through it all I learned that God did not cause the devastation of my soul – His character could never do such a thing – but He would heal me and help me to overcome.

Even though the enemy of our souls can use hardship to create doubt in our minds over the goodness of God, our God does not cause the evil that man chooses by his own free will. Instead, our God chose the human suffering we sought to avoid and to bear our pain and sorrows.

So what causes abuse? This fallen world is full of people needful of God, but many who choose to satisfy their flesh instead and fill their righteous need with a wicked counterfeit. The lust of the eyes and the flesh never have their fill, but those who have seen their true need of God and choose to accept His grace and salvation are redeemed from living for the flesh. They see their God-given purpose of knowing God and making Him known, of living a godly life – and don’t waste it on sin.

But what about the wounded people, left in the wake of someone’s decision to harm them and to take the most personal thing they have to offer? What hope is there for them? Abundant hope. Raw, transparent moments. Encounters with a living God. Patient healing.

Hurting another human soul in such a manner is evil and damages the faith of the victim. But God. I love those two words. God is indeed able to take the deepest wound and heal. The process is itself painful, but with such a wound it takes time.

Recognizing our hurt and not concealing it is so hard to do. Seeing what the abuse has caused in our lives and courageously exposing the bitter root and possible resulting sin in ourselves is the path toward victory. Sometimes the pain is so deep we just don’t want to face the reality of it. But the word of God can meet us in that place if we will apply it.

As we peel back the layers of our heart to reveal the root of our hurt – how God could allow this suffering in the first place, we begin to understand our wound is first a spiritual one. Why does God not spare us from the sins of others hurting us so deeply? Perhaps we are even asking, “Why doesn’t He give us a perfect life?” Such questions reveal a desire for God to bless us, but they also reveal a heart attitude that says we will love and trust God only when good is allowed into our lives.

But it is scary to trust God again, isn’t it? How do we trust again? When we feel like God does not see, we refute that lie with the many Scriptures that show He does. When we feel like he will not defend us, we focus instead on the truths in God’s word that He is a righteous judge – our Defender, Protector and Savior.

God cares about our feelings – we can run to Him with our turmoil and grief. But feelings are not facts. He will transform our understanding as we get into His word. This website offers a lot of verses to help. God also helps us to have faith that He can heal us as we place our burdens in His hands.

Whether it is a wound from being abused, or having dear loved ones harmed in such a way, God is able to help us trust again and to forgive, as well. Sometimes life will look a lot different and we have to protect ourselves from relationships that could cause further harm, but in all of it we know that God will use it all for His good and our glory. He promises to and He is not a man that He should lie.

The scars left behind, the searing pain in the soul will soften over time. The painful reminders of abuse that come will soon dissipate and become reminders of God’s grace and healing, instead. Here is a song the LORD gave me when He revealed my lack of trusting in Him from all that I had suffered: Layers. God wants to heal you. He knows your pain and sees you. He is trustworthy and He loves you so very much.

Lord, thank You for setting our hearts free and healing us from all the sins in this world. You have overcome and we walk in Your victory because of Your amazing grace!

Mundane Monday: Prodigal Revisited

Photo Credits www.sharefaith.com

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http://www.sharefaith.com

Psalm 107:1, 8, 17, 28

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, and His loyal love endures.  8 Let them give thanks to the LORD for His loyal love, and for the amazing things He has done for His people.  17 They acted like fools in their rebellious ways, and suffered because of their sins.  28  They cried out to the LORD in their distress; He delivered them from their troubles.”

In light of a fantastic sermon on the prodigal son at our church yesterday, called, “God is Not Co-Dependent”, I wanted to reblog a post I wrote on October 8, 2014, called, “The Prodigal’s Father”.  May God turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents. (Malachi 4:6).


The image of the prodigal son’s father anticipating his son’s return with open arms is such a picture of God’s heart toward His children. But what is often missed is that the rebellious child must return.  Parents can long for their children to return, but if the child is still rebellious, then it would not be a complete picture of sweet repentance and restoration.  Instead, it would become a dysfunctional relationship of enablement and abuse.

God is loyally loving His children when he permits consequences for their rebellious actions, but the child does not often recognize such love.  Discipline is viewed as unloving, when it is actually a kindness to not allow sin to go unchecked. Blame is cast on the parent who was unreasonable to expect basic obedience, whether doing chores, the expectation of telling the truth or not permitting the child to stay out all night.  But when the child comes to his senses, as in the case of the prodigal son, it is a wonderful picture of repentance and the story of the Gospel – how God is willing to forgive all wayward children.  Forgiveness hinges on that moment of confessing sins, though, and cannot be dished out just because the prodigal believes he or she deserves it.

Many in the next generation have revolted against authority and are embittered at the suggestion that they should be accountable to anyone.  It is not just this generation that has bred prodigals, though – we are all prodigals in our own right.  Forgiveness and acceptance are much more pleasurable than living in sin, so what hinders the prodigal from returning? Deception, pride and loving our victim status.  Bearing the outward attitude of rejection, despite leaving being our choice, we receive attention and pity.  The original deception becomes truth if we feed on the praises of the enablers surrounding and flattering us.  The only way out?  Cry out to God for understanding and admit our wrongdoings.  Don’t seek sympathy for something we deserve. Take responsibility for our actions – only then can the mind of Christ illuminate and reveal our true condition. Lastly, if we could for a moment contemplate how our actions have hurt our loving father, instead of how our actions have hurt ourselves, we would begin to walk in freedom.

Let us give thanks that God shows us our rebellious ways and punishes us – though He does not give us what our sins deserve.  Loyal love is a love that keeps the unconditional love “on”, but does not permit an abuse of that love.  For a child to accuse a parent because of consequences they must bear due to their own behavior is folly.  God does not fall for it, either – but He does offer the sweetest peace, joy and love for those who have truly repented and not made excuses for their sin.

Lord, thank you for Your loyal love, which endures forever!  You did not leave us in our sins, but made a way out, praise Your Name!  Help all of us prodigals to wake up and see we are blessed beyond measure because of Your faithful love!

Denise Pass Promo PicDenise Pass | Author | Singer | Speaker | Worship Leader

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Mundane Monday: A Watchman’s Joy

Ezekiel 4:4-6

“Also for your part lie on your left side and place the iniquity of the house of Israel on it. For the number of days you lie on your side you will bear their iniquity. 5 I have determined that the number of the years of their iniquity are to be the number of days for you–390 days. So bear the iniquity of the house of Israel. 6 When you have completed these days, then lie down a second time, but on your right side, and bear the iniquity of the house of Judah 40 days–I have assigned one day for each year.”

Colossians 3:13

“Bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others.”

Galatians 6:2

“Carry one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.”

Matthew 18:33

“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?”

This image of Ezekiel, a watchman for Israel, lying on his left side for 390 days then on his right side for 40 additional days, eating exactly 8 ounces of food each day is tortuous.  Even moreso when we consider that he did not deserve such treatment.  It does not make sense to us, but the purposes of God are higher than our own.

We do not like to be inconvenienced in today’s culture.  Our flesh recoils at the idea of suffering for our own actions and the ensuing consequences, but to do so for someone else?  Not something eagerly desired.  Even a child will cry out “not fair” or “it was not my fault” when blamed for an action he did not commit.  This makes sense to us – no one should have to receive unfair judgment.  Still God’s righteous laws demand payment for our unrighteousness.

Ezekiel was a watchman appointed by God Almighty.  He was a covering for the Israelites.  The blood was on his head if he did not warn them, and by suffering symbolically, he, more than anyone, would have a zeal to warn His fellow people after catching a glimpse of what was to come.

This heart for God’s people and for the lost sheep is the very heart of Christ, who willingly chose to bear the iniquity of those who were unable to bear it themselves.  In fact, it was for the “joy” set before Him that He endured the cross.  Wow. Jesus had an unspeakable joy that his actions would deliver the entire world from the grip of sin and the sting of death.

At the height of suffering I have lamented for self, miserable that I have had to bear consequences for another’s actions, but Christ thought of us.  He chose rejection and suffering – I did not.  This revelation reveals the selflessness of Christ and our need to follow in His steps – serving others and considering them above ourselves.  Humbling and freeing at the same time.  We cannot accomplish this on our own, but we can ask God to open our eyes and to work in our stubborn hearts.

He is still calling servants today to be watchmen for His people.   It might be uncomfortable or inconvenient – forcing us to lay down our idol of comfort, but like Ezekiel, God needs humble servants willing to roll up their sleeves and bear iniquities on their knees for others still today.  No, we cannot wipe away the sins of others, but we can stand in the gap, pray and warn people of the devastation of sin.  When the sting of sin’s aftermath and its stigma is fresh in someone’s life, we can stand with them and guide them to God’s Word and the faithful forgiveness and love of Jesus.

Encouragement in the face of a fallen world might be the very catalyst to turn one from repeating the same sin or serve as an example for another to abstain from walking that path of sin at all.  The voice of truth might not be welcome today when absolute truth seems nonexistent, but more than ever the world needs to hear this voice of God’s people, uniting to be watchmen for the glory of God.  The temporary cost might be more than we want to pay, but the rewards are eternal.

Lord, forgive us for being lulled into complacency.  Help us to care for those around us as you do and to be faithful in the calling of watchmen for You.

Thoughtful Thursday: Whose Fault Is It?

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Proverbs 11:5-6

“The righteousness of the blameless will make straight their way, but the wicked person will fall by his own wickedness.  The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the faithless will be captured by their own desires.”

Proverbs 12:12, 21

“The wicked person desires a stronghold, but the righteous root endures.  21 The righteous do not encounter any harm, but the wicked are filled with calamity.”

Genesis 4:7

“Is it not true that if you do what is right, you will be fine? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at the door. It desires to dominate you, but you must subdue it.”

Romans 6:12-13

“Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its desires, and do not present your members to sin as instruments to be used for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who are alive from the dead and your members to God as instruments to be used for righteousness.”

James 1:15

“Then when desire conceives, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is full grown, it gives birth to death.”

Jeremiah 19:5

“They have built places here for worship of the god Baal so that they could sacrifice their children as burnt offerings to him in the fire. Such sacrifices are something I never commanded them to make! They are something I never told them to do! Indeed, such a thing never even entered my mind!”

Proverbs 19:3

“A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”


Daily we bear the sins of one another as well as our own.  In vanity we scramble to attempt to cover our shortcomings, but underneath is the same intent and heart.  In all the stress of our messy lives, a sinless Lamb covered all of the sins of the world and yet our hearts somehow still can blame Him.

Every day sin captivates mankind and every day the consequences of those sins are born and the blame is cast.  Sin ravages our souls and is often permitted to do so by the very ones whose lives it wreaks havoc upon.

A sane mind would not seek to suffer purposely, yet that is exactly what we do when we give in to sin’s deception.  God’s laws still stand whether or not we pay heed to them.  Like gravity, our decisions will affect the course of our life and the weight of sin will be felt, much like the joy experienced from the fruit of obedience.

God hates sin.  He hates what it does to us.  Our flesh hates the rules and boundaries set, thinking we are being deprived. All the while God wants to spare us from the spreading cancer which threatens to steal our joy and imprison us.

Time and time again throughout history God’s people are lured away by sin’s promises deceitfully dressed up in an attractive array.  There is nothing new underneath the sun.  How is it we cannot recognize the same strategies of the enemy and refrain from indulging our flesh?  Especially when we have seen in history the effects of sin on this weary world?

Deception.  Lust of the flesh.  Distrust.  Rebellion.  Self-reliance.  If in the moment of temptation we cry out to God, He will provide the grace and strength we need to overcome.  But all too often we don’t.  He makes a way out and we rationalize that our way seems better.  Or maybe we doubt God’s goodness or His ways and choose to be our own God.

While the prevalence of sin in our culture can be discouraging, there is still hope.  We can stop blaming others or God and put no confidence in our flesh.  We can turn away from sin and ask God to help us recognize it for what it is.  We are left without an excuse, but God forgives us anyway.  What kind of grace would choose to bear our blame?  Selfless, Holy grace – from the Only One Who can grant it.

Lord, help us to recognize sin in our lives and to turn away from it, the enemy of our souls.  Thank You for Your gracious covering and for setting us free!

Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing

Photo Credits: halepringle.com

Photo Credits:
halepringle.com

Exodus 13:9

It will be a sign for you on your hand and a memorial on your forehead, so that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth, for with a mighty hand the LORD brought you out of Egypt. 17 When Pharaoh released the people, God did not lead them by the way to the land of the Philistines, although that was nearby, for God said, “Lest the people change their minds and return to Egypt when they experience war.”

Exodus 14:4

“I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will chase after them. I will gain honor because of Pharaoh and because of all his army, and the Egyptians will know that I am the LORD.” So this is what they did.

Exodus 16:3-4

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the pots of meat, when we ate bread to the full, for you have brought us out into this desert to kill this whole assembly with hunger!” 4 Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people will go out and gather the amount for each day, so that I may test them. Will they walk in my law or not?

With a mighty hand God delivered His people, yet three days after many miracles, including parting a sea, granting favor to the Israelites so they plundered their enemies and prophesying and fulfilling 10 plagues, they doubted God.  They replaced the faith they had learned to have in God quickly with fear and doubted God’s goodness and character.

God’s people did not understand His purposes and looked at their circumstances of discomfort and misinterpreted them.  A good God would never have them wonder if God would faithfully provide, would he?  Why would He test them?  Because He knew their tendency was toward the superficial.  They wanted to be provided for, but did not expect that a relationship with God would mean they would have to go without to make them see their need of Him.

God knew them and their tendencies to go astray, but they were not acquainted with God’s nature.  We often displace our own character flaws on others, but God has none.  The LORD wanted them to know Him.  He wanted even their enemies, the Egyptians, to know Him.  He wanted them to learn to walk faithfully with Him.

The Israelites had forgotten their purpose.  The main thing for them became their happiness.  They became self-focused and disillusioned when trials came.  They began to think that the grass was greener on the other side, but forgot that the other side was slavery.  Suddenly the “feast” they used to eat while there was embellished to be something they missed.

We might think this happened only in Old Testament times, or with an unintelligent people who were ignorant of God’s plan, but we, too, are easily distracted and forget what we have been saved from.  We forget our purpose, our mission.

We become enchanted by the world or begin to be lulled into thinking this world system and the here and now are the most important.  Eternity hangs in the balance for all those around us, yet we are often preoccupied with worries of this world and distracted with trivial things.

The Israelites thought God’s deliverance was all about them.  They focused on their freedom or on the comforts they wanted. God’s purposes always run far deeper than ours.  He chose us and wants to use us for His glory.  He loves the world and does not want any to perish.  God help us to keep the main thing the main thing . . . knowing Jesus and making Him known.

Lord, help us to remember daily Your promises and to fulfill the mission You have called us to.  Help us to keep You at the center of our lives and your salvation as the main purpose of our lives.

The Progressive Slippery Slope in a Vaccuum

Exodus 24:3

“Moses came and told the people all the LORD’s words and all the decisions.  All the people answered together, ‘We are willing to do all the words that the LORD has said.'”

Exodus 24:9-11

“Moses and Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and the seventy elders of Israel went up, and they saw the God of Israel.  Under his feet there was something like a pavement made of sapphire, clear like the sky itself.  But he did not lay a hand on the leaders of the Israelites, so they saw God, and they ate and drank.”

Exodus 32:1

“When the people saw that Moses delayed in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Get up, make us gods that will go before us.  As for this fellow Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him!”

Exodus 32:4

So Aaron “accepted the gold from them, fashioned it with an engraving tool, and made a molten calf.  They they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.'”

Forty days.  The number forty is a common duration for a time of testing many times in the bible.  Forty days of rain on the ark, forty years wandering in the desert, Jesus was tempted fourty days in the desert and Moses was on the mountain forty days, two separate times, hearing the commandments of God, to name a few.  Forty days goes by in a flash in our home.  Months come and go, years fly by.  But I guess to the Israelites, it seemed never-ending.  Certainly if one was suffering significantly, time would drag on.  But to God’s people at the bottom of the mountain, one would think there was great anticipation.  One would think that the meal with God that Aaron witnessed, coupled with thundering on top of the mountain would serve as vivid reminders that Almighty God was very near, indeed.

But somehow in that vacuum, in that moment of dearth, not hearing from God, the people of God longed to fill that void with something.  They wanted to worship, but impatiently accepted a counterfeit.  I wonder if there was a plethora of rationalizing going on – how did they ever arrive at it being acceptable to worship a golden calf in such a short amount of time?  Particularly troubling to me is that Aaron suggested the people donate golden objects and made the calf himself.  He had just encountered the living God.  How could he so quickly be deceived?  Was it peer pressure?  The sheep pressing in on him and he feared them more than God at that moment?  And the sheep – they had just stated that they were willing to do all the words that God had said.

This hypocrisy and seemingly blatant rebellion seems odd until I contemplate my own walk.  Evidence of lukewarmedness and blindness to our own faults can be seen if we are willing to let down our guard of self righteousness and self-protection.  I well recall the early days of my salvation, standing and sharing the gospel to a small crowd at the University of Maryland, being persecuted in class for being a Christian.  I recall many moments of victory in the past twenty-six years through various trials, where God grew my faith exponentially.  Candidly, I also recall being tested severely and beginning to lose my way, save the grace of God.  I started strong – though I was crushed, I would run to His word.  But in the lengthiness of the trial, I began to get confused and wondered when God was going to deliver me.  I began to compromise and look for a counterfeit to relieve my pain.  I am no better than the Israelites.  My trial was seven years of hardship, pressed on every side, not forty days, but I emphathize with the Israelites.  They wanted to follow God, but quickly chose an alternative god to appease their spiritual paucity.  In their moment of being deceived, they could not see clearly and needed a leader to guide them.  Their leader failed.

Humbling to us leaders, it is terrifying to think that we bear the responsibility of leading someone astray.  Shockingly, Aaron lied when confronted with his waywardness.  Somehow a golden calf popped out of the fire.  Wow, really?  As hard as it is to admit that we, too, have gone off the path, it is far better to confess and renounce our shortcomings and move forward in the new humility gained from our failure.  The former pride at imperceived righteousness that was our own, has been replaced with the knowledge of our own failure, which reminds us that it has never been our own righteousness, after all.

If you are a leader or a believer who has fallen short, you stand in a great cloud of witnesses who have also gone before us and failed.  David, too, a man after God’s own heart, murdered and committed adultery, yet later he would cry out to God in Psalm 51, for God to “restore unto me the joy of my salvation and renew a right spirit within me”.  It is easy to get lost in the vacuum or in severe trials and forget our mission and purpose in Christ.  But those mistakes, those blemishes we wish could be removed from our record are actually a means of grace to humble us and can make us more useful for the kingdom of God.  Thank God for second chances and His grace.

Maybe you have not yet endured a severe time of testing.  If not, count yourself blessed, but be ready.  Times of dryness, of not hearing from God can be around the next corner – will you cave in to comfort around you, or wait as long as it takes until you encounter the living God?  We might not have a warning sign cautioning us that the potential to slip is ahead, but we do have the Holy Spirit guiding us, if we listen.

Lord, I want to be near to You always.  I never want to drift away and walk in a manner that displeases you.  Please grant us grace to be aware of spiritual dangers that lie ahead and to walk humbly before you.  Help us to remember all You have done and to not forget when the heat is turned up or You seem far away.

The Context of Promises

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Jeremiah 29:10-11 “For the Lord says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you.  Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore your homeland.  11  For I know what I have planned for you, says the LORD.  I have pans to prosper you, not to harm you.  I have plans to give you a future filled with hope..'”

Jeremiah 30:10 “So I, the LORD, tell you not to be afraid, you descendants of Jacob, my servants.  Do not be terrified, people of Israel.  For I will rescue you and your descendants form a faraway land where you are captives.  The descendants of Jacob will return to their land and enjoy peace.  They will be secure and no one will terrify them.  11 For I, the LORD, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you.  I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you.  But I will not completely destroy you.  I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure.  I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished.”

We all fondly cherish God’s promises, in particular the very popular verse found in Jeremiah 29:11.  We all want to believe, especially in dire times, that God does have a future and a hope for us.  Yet we often ignore the context of such promises.  Just before the wonderful promise of Jeremiah 29:11, God is letting Israel know that they are about to get a big spanking (ok, that is greatly minimizing being made eunuchs and taken into captivity 70 years).  In that moment of promised retribution, He also injected encouragement and a promise of good things to follow the hardship about to visit His chosen people.

This reminds me of how much I detested punishing my children when they were young, but the folly bound in their hearts had to be purged, in order to get to the blessings in store for a child who would walk in wisdom.  My heart deeply desires blessings for my children, but sometimes the road to blessing is paved with discipline.  The one who disciplines is often viewed in a harsh light.  Why can’t sin just be overlooked and we still get our reward?  Because God knows that treasuring sin will ultimately destroy us.  If we excuse sin, we allow it to live in our members and grow.  Dealing with sin as it should be dealt with is actually a kindness and brings life.

Discipline is never meant to be rejection, but rather restoration of our relationship to God.  Living in the moment, we can neglect to see the larger picture of God’s activity in the lives of His people.  Perspective of hardship is altered when we recognize it is but one piece of fabric in the large quilt of our lives.  Herein lies a bittersweet truth: We cannot claim the promises of God without claiming what precedes and follows them.  Will we be a sunshine Christian, only praising God when blessings come, or a faithful follower, during blessings and hardships?  Trusting His character, we can have eyes to see that what He permits is truly always for our good and achieving something far greater than what we see on the surface.

This morning, I was contemplating the fourth poor soul awaiting execution by ISIS, displayed for the world to see.  Wanting to cling to God’s promises through this crisis, I asked my children to pray with me for this man and for God to show Himself strong in this situation.  I asked that God would strike the executioner dead and inject a fear of God in this vile enemy.  My daughter then injected a prayer of her own – “can we pray that they would be saved, too?”  I was at once humbled.  Could I pray that?  Is it possible that even this wicked organization could be saved?  God knows.  But while we wait for God’s deliverance, we have to trust that even these difficult times serve a purpose – God will not waste this sufferingOn the other side of every atrocity in history, there is a plan of redemption all for God’s gloryThat is where I place my hope this morning – in the context of God’s promises.

Oh Lord, just as You were sovereign and Almighty when Paul was murdering Christians, You are the same All-powerful, All-seeing, All-knowing God who can convert a murderer into a man of God used by You to save many.  Lord, I want to see You glorified in these times.  Help us to understand and endure all hardship as discipline from a loving father.  Please defend your people all for Your magnificent glory!!

Wisdom is humble

Picture credits  blog.centresource.com

Picture credits
blog.centresource.com

1 Kings 3:5-14

“One night in Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream.  God said, ‘Tell me what I should give you.’  6 Solomon replied, ‘You demonstrated great loyalty to your servant, my father David, as he served you faithfully, properly, and sincerely.  You have maintained this great loyalty to this day by allowing his son to sit on his throne.  7 Now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in my father David’s place, even though I am only a young man and am inexperienced.  8  Your servant stands among your chosen people; they are a great nation that is too numerous to count or number.  9 So give your servant a discerning mind so he can make judicial decisions for your people and distinguish right from wrong.  Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation of yours.’ 10 The LORD was pleased that Solomon made this request.  God said to him, “Because you asked for the ability to make wise judicial decisions, and not for long life, or riches, or vengeance on your enemies, I grant your request, and give you a wise and discerning mind superior to that of anyone who has preceded or will succeed you.  13 Furthermore, I am giving you what you did not request – riches and honor so that you will be the greatest king of your generation.  14 If you follow my instructions by obeying my rules and regulations, just as your father David did, then I will grant you long life.’ 

Decisions.  Difficult to make, especially when the heat and pressure is on.  It was shortly after Solomon was endowed with wisdom that he had to choose between two women whose baby was whose.  Just today I had to make a tough decision – many, actually.  And the day has just begin.  Thank God that He promises wisdom to all who ask Him.  But what impresses me about this story of Solomon was his heart. 

We all marvel that Solomon was not greedy and made a selfless decision.  But upon further examination, I am amazed at the disposition of Solomon.  True humility cannot be faked.  On the spot, He is overwhelmed that God would ask him to choose at all.  His first response was to praise God for His past kindness shown to his father, David, then for God’s loyalty and godly character.  He then states how amazed he is that God would choose him at all and professes his own weakness.  I am blown away that he recognizes his lack of capacity to lead God’s people and blatantly states that he cannot do it without God’s help.  Solomon had the most important thing settled in his soul: his kingdom was not his, the people he governed were God’s.  He needed wisdom from God to be able to judge in a way that pleased God.  Wow.

I’d like to think we would all choose so wisely, but confess I can look over my life and see times where I saw God’s grace to judiciously choose and times where I did not.  What impeded walking in wisdom in those times?  Perhaps, if we take inventory of our lives, we might see where we strayed more clearly.  Were we leaning on God, or man’s understanding in those times?  I guess we could all say that Solomon also had moments like that, too.  He was not perfect.  (700 wives and 300 concubines, probably not so smart in this aspect of his life).  But his heart saw his true, sincere need for God, and at the most critical moment at the beginning of His kingdom, He knew his foundation had to be laid in God. 

Maybe some people reading this blog look over their lives and see wreckage.  Regrets over past decisions which have impacted your life leave you wondering if there is any hope for recovery at all.  The same invitation from God for Solomon is extended to you – ask God for wisdom, like Solomon did.  Consequences might still remain, but in Christ they will serve to purify us and glorify Him.  Maybe you are at a crossroads right now and need to make a decision which will potentially impact your life.  Maybe you do not recognize that it will impact your life and just “go with the flow”.  Hopefully not. 

Solomon lived a peaceful life.  God had promised this before he was even a king, but God also knew what Solomon would ask for.  Making wise decisions can bring peace, but sometimes unwise choices are made that affect your life, too, which you had no say in.  Either way, we daily feel the impact of walking in wisdom and numbering our days aright, or not.  Right now, we can choose to recognize our need of God and His wisdom.  Really recognize it – not just give mental assent to it because it is what we are supposed to say.  We can see our utter moral poverty before a Holy God and give Him our lives, which are His, after all.

In our quest to be wise, we can surround ourselves with people who are wise.  We may know many people we consider wise, but possessing true wisdom is vastly different than one who is puffed up with knowledge.  Who surrounds you in your daily life?  Walking with fools can wreck your life and impact you, too.  He who walks with the wise becomes wise

Lord, help us to choose wisdom and to walk in a manner that pleases You.  Help us to see our need of you and to have the humility to ask for Your wisdom and not rely or lean on our own understanding.

The Choice of Consequences

Photo credits josueaparicio.com

Photo credits josueaparicio.com

2 Samuel 24:10-15, 17

“David felt guilty after he had numbered the army. David said to the LORD, ‘I have sinned greatly by doing this! Now, O LORD, please remove the guilt of your servant for I have acted foolishly.’ 11 When David got up the next morning, the LORD has already spoken to Gad the prophet, David’s seer. 12 ‘Go, tell David, this is what the LORD says: I am offering you three forms of judgment, Pick one of them and I will carry it against you.’ 13 Gad went to David and told him, ‘Shall seven years of famine come upon your land? Or shall you flee for three months from your enemy with him in hot pursuit? Or shall there be three days of plague in your land? Now decide what I should tell the one who sent me.’ 14 David said to Gad, ‘I am very upset! I prefer that we be attacked by the LORD, for His mercy is great; I do not want to be attacked by men.’ 15 So the LORD sent a plague through Israel from the morning until the completion of the appointed time. Seventy thousand men died from Dan to Beer Sheba. 17 When he saw the angel who was destroying the people, David said to the LORD, “Look, it is I who have sinned and done this evil thing! As for these sheep – what have they done? Attack me and my family.’”

Sin. Free will. Our choices impacting others often with devastating results. David was a man after God’s own heart, yet when he had sinned, there was going to be a consequence. I cannot imagine being given a choice for the punishment I was about to receive. The guilt that David wanted to be released from resulted in seventy thousand men dying. Seventy thousand. Not sure my guilt would be allayed after such a tragic loss from my own sin. David had already tasted of the option of fleeing for fifteen years while his enemy was in hot pursuit, the thought of that must have been too painful to consider, all though he knew the terrain well. I guess seven years of famine was not his favorite, either. Three days was a shorter time of suffering and meted out by the hand of God, not man – surely it would be easier?

The cause for this turmoil? Counting his men. Today, the gravity of such a decision surely falls flat. Wow – counting an army is sin, much less, worth the loss of 70,000 men? Why? What or who prompted David to do such a thing, knowing it would not be pleasing to the LORD? The Bible says the Lord moved David to count. Uh oh. Trouble here – God is Holy and righteous – He never tempts us with evil – but this is looking a little tricky. Until we understand that God moment by moment keeps us from sin, but on this occasion, He perhaps removed that hedge and allowed Satan to tempt David, we cannot comprehend how often He prevents us from the same. Oh how I want God to keep me from sinning – yet we often do not see each day the miracles around us that keep us in Christ. David could have been motivated by pride, wanting to know how mighty his army was, or it could have been any myriad of motives – perhaps not trusting God – as if counting the army would assure victory? Either way, he decided in that moment of temptation that it was worth it, perhaps not thinking through the consequences of disobedience.

Have you ever felt the consequence of your sin? How about the consequences of another’s sin? It’s a bummer for sure, when someone else has made a choice that rocks your world, but then perhaps we have not thought about how our sin might have impacted others, too. I remember crying out to God over the pain my children and I were enduring because of another person’s sin against us. We were dragged to court relentlessly while the person who committed the wrong placated their guilt by proclaiming their own victim status. I wept before the Lord and asked, “Why, God, must we suffer and have consequences for his sin?” In that place of agony, shock and horror, God whispered to my heart, “I wasn’t angry with you when I bore your sin.”

End of pity party for this girl. Did God care that my children and I were suffering? He did. He also cared for the one who transgressed and caused the turmoil. But He modeled perfect love in bearing all of our sins. I realized in that moment that I had to let go of anger – I was just as guilty of sin, not the same sin – but there were still going to be consequences. I wonder what it was like for David after all those people died? I am sure humility would reign the rest of his days. I wonder if people persecuted him or were like, I don’t want to make him sin – we will all suffer, lol.

Today if you are reminded of a sin that you have committed which has hurt others, lay it at Christ’s feet, repent, make amends as God leads and forgive yourself. A guilty conscience is not pleasing to God. Live as one freed from prison on a mission to free others, too.

Lord, help us to live in holy fear and to consider our actions carefully, that we might not sin against you. May we think through the consequences of our actions and who it might harm, living thoughtfully a life of forgiveness and mercy, all for Your magnificent glory!