The Absurd Reality of Every Believer

There’s a truth seeking to intrude the everyday moments of life – both the mundane and the monumental. A truth I let slip into the daily drama every once in awhile but would do well to let drench the difficulties and decisions and dilemmas that arrive on my doorstep each morning. A truth I long to live within – snug and secure within the boundaries it provides, the comfort it gives, and the hope it exhales.

Key Verse: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16

But instead of soaking in this immeasurably wonderful revelation, with all it’s lovely attributes, I more often than not set it aside for less feasible realities. Like having a beautifully put together life (the kind that is social media worthy) or a number on the scale that is less than last week or a completely picked up house or every dish in the cupboard or a floor that has less food on it than an all you can eat buffet.

Consumed with the hope of making such lofty goals the truth of my everyday, I forget the real truth. The truth that would have blown the sandals off every godly Israelite of Moses’ day or Joshua’s day or David’s day.

The truth that in Christ, God is with me. Always and forever with me. Indwelling me with His perfectly righteous Spirit. Going before me, walking beside me, carrying me when I’m too tired to walk on my own. Or too overcome. Or too weary. Or too confused to take one more step.

“That’s impossible!” The Israelites would have said. “A holy God cannot dwell within sinful man!” Yet this side of the cross, He does. It’s not a ridiculous notion, it’s reality. The God who was once shielded nicely behind two curtains, on the other side of an altar, constantly smattered with blood – now dwells within every man, woman, and child that confesses Christ as LORD.

It’s a privilege unlike any other considering only the high priest could enter the presence of God (within the Holy of Holies), prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And even then it was only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, after cleansing and draping himself with special clothing. To do a job only he could do – sprinkle the mercy seat with the blood of atonement.

While the people outside waited. Are we accepted, or are we not accepted? Fear intermingled with hope; desperation threatening any shroud of confidence they felt after watching a goat, 2 bulls, 1 ram, and 7 lambs make their way across the bronze altar – the required number of sacrifices for that special day.

The vast gap between God’s righteousness and theirs requiring more of the same sacrifices not only on the Day of Atonement but at the first of every month and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost (Feast of Weeks). Along with two daily lambs a year old, without blemish, split open every morning with a drink offering and every night with an offering of grain – as long as they existed.

But nothing compares to the Feast of Booths. It lasted eight days during which 71 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs, and 8 goats were required to be struck, broken, and splattered across the altar that kept guard over the tabernacle entrance like a fierce watch dog reminding the people to not come any closer. To remember their unholiness. Confess their uncleanness. And adhere to the commands of the LORD or face the consequences.

Yet me, on this side of the cross, I get to walk right past the altar of burnt offering, past the bronze basin that the priests used for washing, through the veil separating the Holy Place from the courtyard, with its “blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen,” (Ex. 26:36), straight into the light of the golden lampstand.

Past the bread of the presence, which I could eat of if I wanted to, straight to the curtain separating me from the Holy of Holies.

Lungs filled with the sweet smells escaping the altar of incense, I get to slide the golden rings to one side, folding the cherubim embroidered on the large, expansive curtain, and walk straight into the presence of God.

Invited by the King himself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Cleansed and covered by His blood, I am not only encouraged to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), I’m expected to as an adopted daughter of the Most High. So that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, may shield me wherever I go. (Phil 4:6-7)

An awesome blessing every believer this side of the cross has the privilege to experience. Yet what do we do with it? What do we do with this ever present reality? Do we exchange it for something less lovely? Less beneficial? Less likely?

Sometimes we do. Ignoring the fact that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). An amazing concept I long to capture.

The presence of God is not shielded from me, but dwells within me (within you). “Therefore we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Heb. 6:18b-19, NLT).

My friend, whatever reality you’re facing today, in Christ, this is the truth behind it – You are welcome in God’s presence. Invited by and through the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a privilege! A reality I pray we each live within – snug and secure within the boundaries it provides, the comfort it gives, and the hope it exhales. May it always and forever be the truth that rises to the top and prevails. Mending the brokenness of yesterday and binding up the uneasiness of tomorrow in the pure wonderment it provides.

Thank you Jesus for your presence in my life. Forgive me for setting it aside. Help me to live within the reality of this great and wonderful truth. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Why is God’s presence in us such an amazing privilege? Is it reality you live within? How can you make fellowship with God a truth you daily experience?


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The Miracle that Can Happen When We’re Tired

Married to a farmer, fall is an exhausting time for me. It doesn’t just mean brisk beautiful mornings at our house, it means long 18 hour days in the field for my man and even longer 18 hour days at home for me.

Devotional Scripture: Mark 6:30-44
Key Verse: “And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31

Doing all the things, from forcing my four year old to please eat two more bites of chicken,  to explaining why it’s really NOT OK to eat boogers, teaching spelling words that won’t stick, and killing ferocious spiders.

Basically while the world is happily posting pictures of pumpkins, I’m just trying to keep from sticking my head inside one. Maybe you can relate. Exhausted from a spouse required to work more than you’d like and the constant needy-ness of small children, you’re overwhelmed. Tired. Or perhaps just overloaded with responsibilities and problems that just won’t go away.

There’s no disputing life is busy and at times downright draining. The concept of rest plays hide-and-seek with us way more than fair, while we sputter along on empty, thinking we’re the only ones with this problem. But even the disciples needed a break and didn’t get one. Mark 6:31 tells us Jesus and his crew were so busy, they had no time to eat! (Can I get an amen?) People were in and out and coming and going and life was crazy!

So Jesus says to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Ahhhh, ok Jesus, that sounds lovely. So they got in a boat to make haste but when the people saw them leaving “they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (v. 33).

“Sheesh would you people just please give us a little space!” If I were the disciples, I would have been sittin’ in that boat displaying my best pout face. And promptly requesting he make them all GO AWAY. This is MY time to regroup and relax and I deserve it. Have you seen all the work I’ve been doing?

But Jesus didn’t make anyone leave. Instead he taught the crowd right there on the shore, smack dab in the middle of their hopeful moment of reprieve.

When it got late and the disciples saw their chance, they said to Jesus, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (v. 35-36).

But again Jesus didn’t make them leave. Instead, he told the disciples to feed the crowd themselves. (Um, excuse me?) Knowing they were a bit taken back he offered a little guidance. “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”

They returned with five loaves and two fish and the rest is history. Jesus fed the massive bunch of them right then and there with just a small amount of provision, until every last one of them was satisfied.

It was a miracle we’re still perplexed by today. A miracle clearly displaying the power of our sovereign Savior. Yet just think what the disciples would have missed out on if Jesus had said to the crowd, “Hey ya’ll need to leave. I’ve promised these guys some rest.”

Because there’s no doubt they needed rest. They had just returned from a ministry trip, walking two by two, from town to town, with merely a walking stick in their hand. (Mark 6:7-13) They had been in homes of strangers for who knows how long, proclaiming the hard to hear message of repentance, casting out demons, and healing the sick. They were tired. They were overworked. They were hungry.

And they were more than likely a little scared. It was while they were out and about that John the Baptist’s head got served up on a pretty little platter. I can only imagine the questions this strange turn of events raised in their minds. They needed to regroup. They needed to think and rest and be with their LORD. But first, first, Jesus wanted to show them a miracle.

Because it’s only when we trust in the sovereignty of our Creator that rest will truly come.

So if peace and quiet doesn’t seem to be on the docket today. If it gets pushed further into the depths of chaos and kids and laundry and dinner and unexpected phone calls or fevers or tantrums or wishful thinking, maybe it’s because instead, what God really wants to do, is give you a miracle.

The miracle of His Spirit at work within us. Giving us patience when we didn’t think we had any left. Overflowing us with love when we don’t think we can love. Soothing us with peace when we don’t have any peace. Restraining us with self-control when we are way beyond self-control. Or helping us respond with gentleness or kindness, when it’s not even a little deserved.

None of that is a work we can do in and of ourselves. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are a supernatural work – a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). And when we’re tired, when we’re really really tired, that’s when we see it best – the work of God in us and through us. Because his power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

So if rest doesn’t come right away. If it gets interrupted and tossed out the window by little people or little problems (or big ones at that), don’t worry. God knows we need rest. He knows it’s hard and stressful. But he also knows more than anything else we need to learn to trust Him.

Therefore, before the ease, the miracle.

Contemplate and Evaluate
When have you experienced the miraculous work of the Spirit in your everyday life? How can you experience it even more?



5 Benefits to Keeping an Eternal Perspective

Everyday we have a choice to make. A choice to either view life through an earthly lens or an eternal one. And I’ve noticed the days I choose to peek through heaven’s window instead of my own, it’s beneficial to not only my head but my heart and mind and relationships.

1. It keeps me upright in an upside down world. Have you ever noticed the world is often backwards? Babies are born to families who could care less, while godly women weep with empty wombs. Success meets the wicked at every corner, while the righteous deal with endless frustration. Prosperity throws itself at the worldly, while the one who adheres to God’s commands struggles to make ends meet.

There are days life just doesn’t make any sense. Yet in view of eternity, all is right as it should be and even more so. The blessings in store for those following Christ are nothing short of A-mazing. Redeemed, forgiven, and lavished with grace we’ve been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). Already! As in it’s already happened! Let alone adopted as God’s own children, named co-heirs with Christ, and guaranteed an inheritance that would knock the socks off most anyone. 

Beloved, whatever appears to be lacking now will be filled to overflowing when we’re face to face with Jesus Christ. And when I’m able to keep that perspective, it’s much easier to stay on my feet and not trip over the world’s continuous need to turn everything topsy-turvy.  

2. It sheds light in darkness. Consider Job. An upright and godly fella who lost everything – servants, flocks, herds, sons, daughters, and was struck with boils from head to toe. Things were bleak to say the least. While describing his situation to his friends Job explained, “My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me. I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth” (Job 19: 13-14, 18-20 NLT).

Yet just a few breaths after that nauseating description Job had the audacity to declare hope! “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skins has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26, ESV).

My friend, it’s the light of eternity that makes life bearable. I honestly don’t know where I’d be (nor what I’d be for that matter) if I did not have the hope of heaven. But in light of heaven, I can walk any path, if it’s my duty to do so. Because the light of heaven can permeate even the darkest of days. 

3. It doesn’t answer my questions, but it does answer my doubt. We aren’t always going to know why things happen the way they do. In fact, most of the time we aren’t going to have any clue as to WHY. Even Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, admitted he didn’t understand why God allows certain things and not others (Ecc. 8:17).

But there’s one thing we can be sure of when nothing else makes sense: eternity. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we’re signed, sealed, and delivered from this aching world unto a perfect one. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Eternity is a done deal. And when I think on it, instead of parking on the uncertainty of my current situation, I can calm my quivering heart with the things I know to be true. Like the fact that Jesus has gone to prepare a place just for me. Why would he do that if he didn’t care about me? (And you for that matter…don’t forget you.)

We may not know why things have to be the way they are today, but we do know  who holds tomorrow. And He is faithful and kind. 

4. It helps me fight the appropriate battles (Most of the time). Because in light of eternity, is it worth it? Will I gain any reward by taking up this fight? No, the answer is no. (This is so convicting.) In light of eternity, more often than not I’m engaging in the wrong battle or at least fighting it the wrong way.

Scripture is quite clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Am I saying the struggle you’re having at work isn’t real or the fight you had with your spouse last night was an illusion. Um, no. It was real. So real in fact, I know a piece of you is still there – at the scene – begging your mind to come back and replay the entire episode again and again.

But I believe wholeheartedly behind every misunderstanding, every argument, every hurt, every divisive word, is a scheme of the devil. To uproot our marriages, tear apart our families, and get us so sidetracked  and steeped in sin we’re useless for kingdom work. Satan may not be able to pluck us from the nest but he can certainly ruffle our feathers. And the only way we’re going to win is through whispered words of prayer that proceed from the mind set solely on Him.  

5. It keeps me ready.  When eternity is on the horizon of my soul, I’m much more apt to interpret the unexpected knock on my door as an opportunity instead of an intrusion. Or view the unwelcome disruption of my to-do list as a God sent invitation instead of an outright irritation. Giving me opportunity to store up  treasure in heaven. Because I know when I get there – I’m going to realize there’s nothing better.  

But when my mind is everywhere else but there, I tend to miss the God sent invitations, especially with my kids. And I want to be ready. Ready to speak of God’s attributes when the sunrise sings of his beauty. Ready to give him praise when I see his tender touch on my day. Ready when he counsels. Ready when he calls. And ready when he comes.  

Therefore, I make the choice to move beyond my own convenient window, to peek out heaven’s – no matter the effort it might take. Because eternity doesn’t just impact the destination – it improves the view along the way. So climb on up and take a peek with me – the view is gorgeous from up here.



Photo provided by Pixabay

What if Praying for More Isn’t the Answer

Key Verse: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15, ESV)

More of you Jesus, I want more of you. Have you prayed it? I have. Out of a longing to know Christ more, to be with him and near him and breathe his presence into the depth of my soul, I’ve earnestly asked Jesus for more.

More of him in my life. More of him in my soul. More of him in my heart and mind – penetrating my hard to reach spaces. My anxious spaces. My hurt spaces. My unsatisfied spaces.

But what if it’s not a matter of more but a matter of less.

Less of me. Less of sin. Less of filling my heart with the things of this world so there’s still room for Him.

Because the truth of the matter is, at the point of salvation we are not given a partial filling of Christ, as though I need more of him poured into my soul. We’re given a full one. 1 John 4:15 states, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Not a little bit of God. Not a small portion of who he is. Not just enough to get us through until heaven. But all of God – in all of us. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead in us (Rom. 8:11).  So we can know he is with us and for us and walking right there beside us.

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)

All of it.

Yet we walk in doubt. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Not because Jesus withheld some of it or forgot to give us a portion of himself but because we’ve left no room. Unawares perhaps, we push him aside for other things. Like when I’d rather sit and be mad than figure out a way to be God honoring through it.

Or when I hang out with envy and pride, and then discontentment shows up. And I’m completely stumped as to why Jesus didn’t come to the party.

Where did you go Lord? I need you. I need you right now to show up and be here. Yet I’m unwilling to give him any part of my day.

Give me the world and give me Jesus – this is the mantra we live by. But James reminds us, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

But in all honesty it’s not that verse that got me; it’s the next one – “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?”

His spirit. The very spirit of God choked, smothered, pushed back, one selfish decision after another. Stuffed underneath layers of calloused arrogance and self-righteous preoccupations, while we pray: More of you Jesus, More of you.

I get it now….

Exchange worship of self for worship of Him, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange time in front of the tv with time for him, and you will have more of Jesus.  
Exchange that which is dirty, and dark, and wrong, for that which is true, and noble, and right, and pure, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange the works of the flesh for the fruit of the spirit, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange sinful habits for holy ones, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange religion for a relationship, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange a prayer time for a praying life, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange the ways of the world for the ways of God, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange a love of money for a love of God, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange envy for contentment, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange my will for His will, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange pride for humility, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange bitterness for forgiveness, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange the heart of a master for that of a servant, and you will have more of Jesus.

We’ve already been brought near to God by the blood of the Messiah (Ephesians 2:13) There’s no reason to ask him to do it more. But there is every reason to ask him to make us less.

Less of me means more of Jesus. And more of Jesus means less of me. In the words of John the Baptist. If we want more of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Thy will be done Lord. Thy will be done. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What exchange do you need to make today to have more of Jesus?
In what area of your life does Christ yearn jealously over your spirit?

More Encouragement:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8a

When You’re Still Waiting

As a year slips past and another rapidly approaches I wonder…are you still waiting for something? direction perhaps? good news? joy? Does the change of the calendar find you still praying? Still spilling your guts before a seemingly silent God? Hoping beyond hope that this year…it will happen. Your deepest desire fulfilled. Your longing satisfied. Your dream finally realized.

If so you’re not alone. The truth is…we’re all waiting. Maybe not for the same thing. Maybe not with the same intensity or for the same reasons. But we’re all waiting…for something. And when the thing for which we seek most earnestly finally happens, it doesn’t take long before we’re waiting for something new. Why? Because the reality is… life’s about the waiting.

(The following excerpts are taken from a devotional I posted last May entitled Life’s About the Waiting. To read it click here)

Consider Abraham who waited 25 years for God to make good on his promise of a son. Consider Jacob who waited 7 long years to marry the love of his life. Or Rachel who watched Jacob father 10 sons before she nursed a sweet baby of her own.

Ask Joseph who waited 2 unending years for the cupbearer to remember him in prison. Moses who waited 40 years for God to finally use him to free his people from slavery. David who fought and hid and ultimately waited 15 years from the time of his anointing until he ruled as king. Ask Zechariah and Elizabeth who remained barren year after year though they fervently prayed. Yet God delayed for his purposes. for his timing. for the one who would pronounce the coming of the Kingdom – John the Baptist.

Consider the faithful listed in Hebrews 11 who are still waiting. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Heb. 11:13a).

Consider the earth which “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Consider believers who “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). “Waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).

And then consider Noah who waited 57 days for God to open the door of the ark after the earth had dried. 57 days!! As if 10 months on a big boat with a bunch of stinky animals wasn’t long enough.

I can’t help but wonder what the atmosphere on the boat was like during those 8 weeks. “Dad we can see it’s dry outside…let’s just break the door down. Dad seriously…I can’t take this any longer! I need off this boat!” Or what about his wife? I could see myself begging to go outside.

Yet they waited for God to give the command to go. They waited for God to open the door. Certainly not something many of us are very good at…waiting for God to open the door.

But you know what? It’s not about getting through the doorway. It’s not about the achievement. It’s about the waiting. About finding joy in the waiting. About glorifying God in the meantime.

Because that’s where the blessing is. Not in the attainment. Not in the accomplishment. Not in the acquiring of a long awaited goal. The blessing is in the waiting. “Blessed are all those who wait for him” (Is. 30:18b).

It’s in the waiting we draw near to the God who saves us. Seeking diligently for His almighty presence. It’s in the waiting we come to know his strength and not our own. As we learn to trust. Learn to lean. And learn to pray. It’s in the waiting we get to watch Him work. In us. Through us. And around us. And it’s through the waiting we grow.

There is much blessing in store for a heart and mind that waits steadfast on God. So as tempting as it to wish away the waiting. To rush the waiting. To loathe the waiting. Let’s savor the waiting. Knowing there is purpose and blessing in the here and now. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14)

Because there’s blessing to be had in the waiting.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you waiting for? How can you bring glory to God by your actions and attitude while you wait?
How can you see God working in the waiting? What purpose might he have?


A Letter to Mary

Dear Mary,
You don’t know me, but I know your Son. Your firstborn. Son of the Most High God and LORD of all the earth. Or maybe I should say he knows me. For it’s He who searches hearts and minds (Rev. 2:23). He who made me and he who holds me together. He’s my hope. “My rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Ps. 18:2).

Devotional Scripture: Luke 1:26-56; 2:1-40
Key Verse: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

What was it like… to raise him? To have the radiance of God’s glory call you mother; the author of life (Acts 3:15) and salvation (Heb. 2:10) play on your living room floor; the Son of the living God eat at your table. Indeed Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42). Not because of who you are but simply because of who HE is.

Did you know Mary? Did you know you held the source of eternal salvation in your arms? (Heb. 5:9) Did you know you were rocking the Shepherd and Overseer of souls (1 Peter 2:25); tickling the toes of the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8); playing peekaboo with the Savior of the world? What went through your mind as you tucked in bed the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5) and kissed goodnight the face of God?

Were you taught as a little girl of the virgin birth to come? “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Could you even fathom you were the one? You. were. the. one. God had planned all along to bring forth our Redeemer (Is. 47:4).

It’s incredible isn’t it? Who would have thought, the Author of Life (Acts 3:15) himself, would put on flesh to be the Author of our salvation (Heb.2:10). “Taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). What a story! A story you got to be a part of.

I’m challenged by your immediate willingness to surrender your life to His service. Were you scared (Luke 1:29)? I would have been terrified. To be with child and yet not married – they could have stoned you. And what of Joseph? Did you know he planned to quietly divorce you? Did you worry for your future and that of your child? Did you question God’s plan? I’ll be honest, I do sometimes. But the LORD had everything worked out didn’t he? (I need to remember that.)

But that didn’t mean it would be easy. (Though we often think it should be.) Your life was anything but easy. From people assuming you got pregnant out of wedlock to the decree from Caesar to register. Did you know it was necessary? Did you know the Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem? I would have balked at the idea of traveling. Travel now? You want me to travel now? But it appears you went willingly.

Did you panic at the first contraction? “No…not here…not now. I’m not home. And I’m here with a man I’ve yet to know intimately.” Did you tell Joseph right away or delay for a while? Counting. Waiting…until you couldn’t hide it anymore.

Until it was time. Time for the birth of God’s own Son. A birth anticipated since the garden of Eden (Gen. 3:15). Yet there was no fanfare (except in the host of heaven). No red carpet. No special treatment for the mother of Immanuel. In fact there was not even a room. Not even one. Just a stable, most likely, with animals and a manger; that held the eternal King of Glory on his first night.

It’s probably not what you pictured when the angel Gabriel first told you God’s plan. But I have a feeling it didn’t matter. Not even a little once you laid eyes on your baby boy. The great King of kings; the Maker himself. Could you sense the magnitude of the moment? Did you know time stopped counting down at his arrival and began counting up until his next? You knew the birth of this child would change your life forever (Luke 1:48). But did you know it would change mine? And multitudes of others?

Thank you Mary. Thank you for your example. When God gives me a task I pray I’ll respond as you did with reverent obedience. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). For He is trustworthy isn’t he? He is the true God. The only God. And it really happened didn’t it? He came. You held him. And nursed him. And loved him.

And he grew as all our babies do. And he willingly laid his life down for me; for you. Crucified on a cross before your very eyes. Bearing the wrath of God for all men. Until it was over. And he was gone. Did you know he’d be back? Did you understand? Oh what a sweet reunion it must have been for you. He’s alive isn’t he? He’s alive today! I know he is. For he lives within me. You may have carried him but he carries me. Every day he carries me. I look forward to meeting you some day and talking as only mothers can. But until then I’m holding tight to your son, my Savior and my God.

In Christ Alone,

Rightly viewed, Rightly worshiped

Devo Scripture: Genesis 11
Key Verse: “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Ps. 113:4-6)

What we need today. What we really need…is the same thing the people in the land of Shinar needed. The people who built the Tower of Babel. The people scholars widely believe built a Ziggurat for their tower. A religious structure dedicated to a deity; similar in shape to a pyramid. “The main architectural feature was the stairway that led to the top. In a small room at the top a bed was made and a table set for the deity.” It acted as a bridge between heaven and earth. A way for the gods to descend upon the people. At the bottom, next to the Ziggurat, a temple was typically found. The gods could descend using the stairs, receive the worship of the people, and in turn bless the people; bless the city. So as you can imagine if one was going to build a city they would of course want a Ziggurat.

So they built one. The people in the land of Shinar. They built it tall “with its top in the heavens (11:4).” To reach God. But it’s arrogance to think God is so easily attainable. Or to think he needs a staircase. Yes, arrogance to think God needs our worship or our resources. He needs nothing from us! Nothing! What the people of Babel desperately needed was a right view of God. A. right. view. of. God. “The LORD is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens! Who is like the LORD our God, who is seated on high, who looks far down on the heavens and the earth?” (Ps. 113:4-6)

But really are we so different? Do we not also need a right view of God? In a society that thinks God is a way of the past. That God is whoever we want him to be. That God is approachable even in sin. That God is like one of us. Arrogance, yes arrogance! “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed” (1 Samuel 2:2-3).

Jesus is the bridge between heaven and earth. Jesus alone. So shall his name be great! Not mine. No not mine. Neither theirs. For they aspired to make a name for themselves (11:4). But it is God alone whose name is great. And God alone who can make one’s name great, as he made Abraham’s (Gen. 12:2). Yet today are we not guilty of the same ambition? To make a name for ourselves? With selfies. Followers. Reality TV. Viral photos and videos. All of it to make a name for ourselves. But who am I really? Who am I but a servant of Jesus Christ? Oh that His name might be great. That His name be followed. And not as a swear word. But as the Lord of Lords; King of Kings; Holy and Almighty God. Rightly viewed. Rightly worshiped.

No, we are not so unlike the people of Babel. In need of God…in need of a right view of God. So God, merciful as he is, made himself known. To the descendents of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. To Israel; to the nations; to us. But in order to do that God had to separate the people into nations and he did that at Babel. There by the tower he confused their language, giving us the different dialects of today. What a site that must have been! I wonder at their reaction when they suddenly didn’t speak the same language as their neighbor. I wonder if God did it in the night or midday. I wonder at the chaos in the city. What did they think? Did they presume the gods had judged them? Or did they recognize it was the LORD God who had judged them; who was separating them since they would not do so themselves. Defiantly they declared “Come, let us build ourselves a city…lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” This…a direct contradiction to God’s command to “fill the earth” (Gen. 9:1). But is God one to be defied? His commands such that we can choose to obey them or not? Is this how they viewed God? Is this how we view God?

Oh that we would worship him as he is. Not as we make him. Not as we imagine him. Not as the genie in the bottle who grants three wishes when we rub him the right way. Not as a God that can be manipulated. Not as a God we can merely summon when we need something. Not as the prosperity god. Not as the mean man upstairs; the tyrant who sends good people to hell. Not as a god at the top of a staircase. No….let us worship him as the God of the Bible. The God who makes himself clearly known throughout all the world.

The God who has revealed himself through the work and person of Jesus Christ. A merciful, faithful God is he. A loving God who came to seek and save the lost. A holy God who must judge sin for what it is. An Almighty God who can redeem; who can save; who has power over sin and death. A God who cannot be reached by a staircase or good works or any other means other than the shed blood of Jesus Christ. A sovereign God who holds the earth in the palm of his hand; who numbers the stars and the hairs upon your head; who made all things and holds all things together. This is the LORD God. This. is. who. he. is.

King of kings; Lord of lords. View him as such now and you will be blessed to view him as such in eternity. Forever. Together. In one language. The judgment of Babel reversed. God said through the prophet Zephaniah, “For at that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech, that all of them may call upon the name of the LORD and serve him with one accord” (Zeph. 3:9). Oh what a day that will be! When God is rightly viewed. Rightly worshiped.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How do you view God? Does it match with what Scripture says of God?
How does your view of God impact your daily life? Your prayer life? Your life of service to him?
How can you today show the world who God really is? Who can you show his love to?image

A Little Family History

Devo Scripture: Genesis 9:26 – 10:32
Key Verse: “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Galatians 3:26

So ya wanna know where ya came from? Well I can tell ya! You’re a descendent of either Shem, Ham, or Japheth. “From these three sons of Noah came all the people who now populate the earth” (Gen. 9:18, NLT). All the people! Including me. Including you. Christians and non-Christians alike have a connection to Biblical history. Whether one chooses to accept that or not doesn’t change the fact that all peoples descend from one of these three men; from Noah; from Adam; and ultimately from God. (Kids let me tell you a story about your Great Great Great Great grandpa Japheth and your Uncle Shem.) Sounds a little crazy doesn’t it?

I’ll admit at first glance Genesis 10 appears to be a boring genealogy with names neither you nor I know how to pronounce. But in actuality…it’s your family history (and mine too). Verse 2 begins with Japeth. In general the European countries descended from him, through Javan. Scholars also include Germans, Russians, Slovaks, Romans, Greeks, Turks, Poles, Medes, Celtics, and Persians as descendents of Japeth (just to name a few).

From Ham are named four sons. From these come the African peoples; the Ethiopians; the Egyptians; the Libyans. As well as the nations of the Canaanites. But if you remember from last week the Canaanites are cursed by Noah (9:25) and are thus (surprise surprise) no longer in existence. They dwelt mainly in the land east of the Mediterranean Sea (otherwise known as the promised land) and were destroyed by God when Israel took possession of this land fulfilling God’s promise to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 1:7-8). But the annihilation of the Canaanites did not come immediately. God is patient not wanting that any should perish. He gave them time, yet they esteemed him not. Initially the Canaanites even prospered. Note their initial settlement was in some of the best, most fertile land. Makes me think of Psalm 37:7 “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices! For the evildoers shall be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.” (Ps. 37:7,9).

Genesis 10 elaborates on one particular descendent of Ham, Nimrod. In Hebrew Nimrod means “we will rebel.” Verse 10 says “The beginning of his kingdom was Babel.” Sound familiar? The Tower of Babel. Babel is also known as Babylon. “As a city, Babylon symbolizes humanity’s ambition to dethrone God and make the earth it’s own.” When the Israelites chose to serve other gods the LORD exiled them to Babylon for 70 years. In essence God said, “Ok if you want to live apart from me then I’ll send you to the city representing life apart from me.” Babylon is also spoken of again in Revelation, no doubt representing rebellion against God.

Then we have Shem. From Shem came the Assyrians, the Arabian tribes, the Chaldeans. But most notably the Jews, God’s chosen people, whom the Messiah (Jesus Christ) would descend through.

What a blessing Shem received! The Messiah; the Redeemer; the one spoken of all the way back in Genesis 3:15; the very Son of God; would come from Shem. A blessing indeed. When Noah prophesied a curse on Canaan, he also prophesied a blessing on Shem and Japheth. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and let him dwell in the tents of Shem, and let Canaan be his servant.” (9:26-27) Oh how I pray it could be written of me in such a way. “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Stacey.” The LORD was the God of Shem. Shem followed after God and God chose him. God used his descendents for the most glorious purpose, though it was not easy. Far…far from easy. God used them to make his name known throughout the entire world. Used them to bring salvation to the entire world. God is aware my friend, oh so aware of every little thing done for him and not done for him. He’s waiting to bless. Waiting for the willing soul. Looking for the one willing to glorify him (2 Chron. 16:9). It won’t be easy…no not easy. But it will be so so worth it.

Noah’s blessing also fell on Japheth. “May God enlarge Japheth.” Think about the massive amounts of land contributed to the descendants of this man. But the real blessing is in the words “let him dwell in the tents of Shem.” Did Shem and Japheth’s descendents live together? Not to my knowledge but this was fulfilled when God brought salvation to the gentiles.  “For in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:26, 29). And if Abraham’s offspring then an adopted descendent of Shem. As such believers “dwell” in the tents of Shem.

But it gets even better. In Christ, as one of Abraham’s offspring, believers share in the inheritance promised to the saints (Col. 1:12). The first of that inheritance is the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:5-7). Those in Christ are “sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14). Next is the redemption of our bodies (Rom. 8:23) and eternal life with Christ in Heaven (Rev. 21). “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” (Rom. 8:16-17). (For more on life in Heaven, click here.)

So the real question is not “where did I come from?” That’s already been determined. The real question is “where am I headed?” What’s your inheritance? Is it eternal life with Christ in heaven? Believer we have much to celebrate. Though now we mourn. Though now we struggle. We can rejoice too! “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
How are you today encouraging godly heritage in your family line?
Could it be said of you “Blessed be the LORD, the God of _(your name)_? Would others recognize it?
When was the last time you considered your eternal inheritance in light of the daily hard things?image

God is for Us

Devo Scripture: Genesis 9:1-17
Key Verse: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

It had been quite a year for Noah and his family. I have no doubt they were happy to be off that boat. But as I put myself there with them in the mountains, I have to wonder if they had doubts; questions; concerns. We read from one verse to the next without pause but they did not. They lived it daily. So I wonder how long before God spoke to them? Reassured them. Blessed them. How long? Was it immediately after the burnt offerings? Or was there a time of silence when they questioned, looked at each other, and thought what now? What will become of us? Did God bring us this far only to let us starve? Why did we have to land in the mountains of all places? Is God for us or against us? If God was really for us couldn’t he have made this whole starting over thing a little easier? Why does it have to be so hard? Is this really God’s plan? (Have you been there?)

There they were alone in the big gigantic world with little left to their name. It would take time to grow food. The terrain was different. The climate was different. Their surroundings were different. I have to think they had doubts. Plenty of doubts. Doubts that make you wonder is God really for us or against us? This God who just brought judgment on the entire world is he for me or against me? But then God spoke. (Just let the magnitude of that alone sink in.) Did they expect it? Or was it a bit surprising? “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God’s first words after pouring out his judgment were words of blessing. Can you imagine? What a relief to hear the very words God had spoken to Adam (Gen. 1:28). It was still God’s desire that man flourish. But there was more! God said more! “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (9:3). Oh how God provided. He was for them, not against them. So much so that he gave them all animals as food. We don’t know exactly what the restrictions were prior to the flood but now they could kill to eat as they needed. He provided abundantly for them and for us. Because he is for us, not against us.

But God still wasn’t done. Because God would not stand for the kind of violence that preceded the flood and because he values the life of man (for all people are made in God’s image) he enacted the death penalty for any person or animal who wrongfully took a life. My friend, God is for us. Everyday he is for us. Then God continues with what had to be the most reassuring promise ever to fall on their ears – “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Oh thankgoodness. Can you imagine their relief? Never again would they have to go through this. Never will we. And as a sign of the covenant to never flood the entire earth again, God said “I have set my bow in the cloud” (9:13). Note God doesn’t say “the bow” or even “a bow.” He says “my bow.” The rainbow is his and his alone. It’s not simply a meteorological phenomenon. It’s a part of his glory. His very glory! What surrounds the very throne of God? A rainbow! John saw it in a vision. “And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald” (Rev. 4:3). And so did Ezekiel when a vision of the throne was given to him. “Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around” (Ezek. 1:28).

God didn’t make the rainbow that day. He didn’t suddenly come up with the idea after the flood. No…the rainbow has always been. It’s a small glimpse of the radiant glory that always surrounds him majestic on the throne. And he graciously shared it with us. He shared his bow with us. Why? Because he wants us to know he is for us; not against us. But so often it doesn’t feel like it. Because we associate his goodness to us with our good fortune. When things go well, God is for us. But when things turn upside down we quickly wonder why me? why now? How could this happen? Is God really for me; or against me? Oh that we would stay grounded in the truth of His Word. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32)

God proved that he is for us when he sent his one and only Son to die in our place on the cross. God proved that he is for us when he poured his wrath upon Jesus so he didn’t have to pour it on us. God proved that he is for us when he gave us the gift of eternal life. What then shall we say to these things? What shall we say to the fact that in Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17); blessed in Christ with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1); sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30); adopted as children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). What shall we say to the fact that he has freed us from bondage to sin (Rom. 6:22) and given us access to his very throne (Heb. 4:16)? I think we shall confidently say – God is for us, not against us.

So when the day comes that I question. I will hold fast to the word of God. I will stand strong in the promises and remember these things. Satan will not dissuade me. Man will not dissuade me. I know whom I have believed in. And he is for me. Everyday God is for me. So let me be for him. Let my life be all for him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you feel confident that God is for you? If not, ask him to give you peace and confidence in the promises he has given us.
How can you today express to God that you are for him?


Perhaps We’re too Practical

Devo Scripture: Genesis 8:20-22
Key Verse: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

They made it! The flood Noah had been anticipating for decades was over. Now what? What’s the first step when life as you knew it is changed forever? When the loss around you is completely overwhelming? When you’ve got questions, doubts, fears? When there is much work to be done? The rebuilding that preceded them must have felt at least a bit overwhelming. The rebuilding of people, animals, homes. The rebuilding of businesses, farms, flocks, herds, food. Everything had to be rebuilt. Everything. All they had was on that boat. Where would you even start?

Knowing me I’d start with one of my well formulated plans. I’d probably make a list or two; take inventory of our current provisions and determine how much we could spare per person per day until we could grow or gather more. I’d assign a brother-in-law or two to start taking apart the boat. We’d need it for firewood and shelter. Then I’d kiss my husband and ask him if he wouldn’t mind finding me something warmer to put on. The climate was so different and cold. The unexpected weather was going to add an interesting element to things. It would be a long few years but we could do it if we were smart, worked together, and lived practically. After all practicality was of absolute importance right?

But I don’t read any of that in Genesis 8. None. Instead of building a house what does Noah do? He builds an altar. Instead of taking inventory he sacrifices not just one animal but one of each clean animal. That took some serious effort and time. And wasn’t time of the essence? It’s survival mode people! Noah had limited resources; limited provisions; yet there he was burning animal after animal (when there were so few left) on valuable wood to a God who just delivered judgment on the entire world. Noah wasn’t thinking practically at all. No…he was thinking spiritually.

And he had never been more right than he was that day on the side of a freshly washed mountain. All practicality aside, Noah offered to God burnt offerings that so pleased the LORD, he declared “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” Huh, did God suddenly have a change of heart? No. He is not a man that he should change his mind (Nu. 23:19). What happened that day on the side of the freshly washed mountain signified the necessity of sacrifice; shed blood; for the sin of mankind. It was an act of atonement because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Noah’s burnt offerings foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, offered once for the sin of all people (1 Peter 1:18-19). And for that reason God’s wrath was appeased. The intention of man was still evil. The flood didn’t change that. But on account of the burnt offerings that foreshadowed his son, God restored his favor to man. Though Noah’s sacrifice may seem a bit impractical, even a bit absurd to the average onlooker; spiritually speaking – it was the most pragmatic and responsible act he could have done.

But if there had been a world watching might they have esteemed him as crazy? Wasting such valuable resources. It was so impractical. Oh that the world might esteem me as impractical for the sake of Christ. Don’t get me wrong I’m all about practicality. But what if we worship when it makes absolutely no sense to the watching world? What then? When life is upside down; when I’m hurt to my very core; when the watching world sees nothing but loss; when life holds so many questions; when I’m in a different place than I ever thought I’d be; when it appears as though God has turned his back? What if then I worship? When I don’t have time. When there’s kids to chase, dinner to make, laundry to fold, bills to pay. What if I took the time to worship right then? What might God do then? For you; for me? Genesis 9:1 tells us what God will do. “And God blessed Noah…” Blessing will follow. The kind of blessing only God can give. The best kind of blessing. But much of the time this blessing…well….it just doesn’t come under the pretense of practicality. Yet falls fresh on every knee bent hard, every face flat to the earth worshiping when the world looks and seeing marvel’s because it makes no sense.

So really then…what if we weren’t so practical? What if we sacrifice when we have little to give? Noah had nothing to spare yet one of every clean animal was slain. Was that a hard decision? Giving to God out of their limited resources? Or out of reverence for the God that spared them was it easy? I wonder, were they hungry? And I mean h.u.n.g.r.y. At the smell of the bbq did their mouths water insanely and their stomachs yearn for just a little. Yet they could have none of it. (except the hide). A burnt offering was offered in it’s entirety. All of it belonged to God because all of Christ was offered to God (except his robes). Sacrifice. It’s supposed to cost us something but does it? What if…what if we sacrificed when we had little to give? little strength. little time. little sleep. little money. little experience. little knowledge. What if we sacrificed then? When it seems so impractical to a watching world? What then?

Perhaps with a little less practicality the world might see in us the God who is worth it all. Perhaps then they might see Jesus; who saves, sustains, and protects the soul that seeks him. My friends, perhaps it’s time we live a little less practical and a lot more spiritual. Perhaps then we would find that we’re living the most pragmatic and responsible life possible.

At the moment when worship seems the least practical option it’s likely the most sensible solution.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Put yourself in Noah’s place, with limited resources would you have sacrificed all those animals?
In what area of your life might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to think spiritually instead of practically?image