August 31, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 274: The God Who Gave You Birth


The God Who Gave You Birth

"You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth." (Deuteronomy 32:18 NIV)

The other day, I had to round up my younger daughter's birth certificate...the official one with the raised seal, not the commemorative one that would be in her scrapbook if I was the kind of mom who made scrapbooks for her children.

When I looked at her birth certificate, the heading grabbed me: "Certificate of Live Birth." It caught me off guard a little...and then made me grateful again for her birth and for her life.

We all have this "certificate of live birth," but God is not done birthing us. In the Creator's hands, standing on the Rock our Father, we are always being reborn, remade, renewed.

"Jesus replied, 'Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again' " (John 3:3).

"He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created" (James 1:18).

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead" (1 Peter 1:3).

"For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Peter 1:23).

John 16:21 says, "A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world."

I'd probably bristle at this were it not for the fact that remembering and forgetting as they are referenced here have to do with acting or not acting on what we recall. "Forget" in this framework doesn't mean the mental record of pain is wiped away but rather that I don't act on it in terms of how I relate to my children. I recall the pain of my girls' births just fine but consider it nothing compared to the joy of having them. The gift of life with them was worth getting to. 

When God births us in a new way or causes something new to be born in us, there's almost always some pain involved. This is where we have to trust the goodness of the Creator. This is where we have to claim the loving intentions of the God who gave us birth. This is where we have to hold onto the Rock. This is where we have to wait for the Joy-Giver and believe that the gift of life with Him is worth getting to.

August 30, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 273: Gardener


Gardener

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful." (John 15:1,2 NIV)

The Gardener is tending His flower beds. 

He moves carefully among the flowers, looking the plants over, examining them. They are beautiful and healthy: they speak of the Gardener's skill, knowledge, creativity, and faithfulness. He is a Master Gardener. 

The Gardener is happy with everything in His garden, except for one flower.

This flower sits alone, away from the rest of the garden, in a pot by herself. She is limp and drooping; her leaves are wilted and brown at the edges. She is not blooming at all.

A visitor comes to the garden. He sees this flower and asks the Gardener why He doesn't get rid of her. "She'll never amount to anything," the visitor says. "She'll never be beautiful. You should throw her away."

But the Gardener refuses. "No," He says, "I am not going to throw her away. I see what she is, but I also see what she can be."

He tenderly carries the flower in her pot to His potting bench. He talks to her and gently but firmly pinches off the dying leaves. The flower protests. "I'm used to those leaves! I know them!"

"I know," the Gardener tells her, "but they aren't good for you. They are draining life from you. I had to cut them off."

Then the Gardener moves the flower into the sun. She protests, "It's hot here! I don't like it!"

"I know," the Gardener tells her, "but you need the light. It will activate life in you. It will make you grow."

After a while, the Gardener moves the flower back into the shade. She protests again. "I don't want to move! I liked the sun! It's chilly here!"

"I know," the Gardener tells her, "but you can't stay in the light all the time. You need to rest where it's cool. This is part of growing, too.

Finally, the flower's roots are strong enough that the Gardener transplants her out of her pot and into the garden with all the other flowers. Some look like her, some look different from her.

The flower protests one more time. "I'm not used to being around other flowers! I liked being in my pot by myself!"

"I know," the Gardener tells her. "And you were beautiful by yourself. All of my flowers are beautiful by themselves. But you are more beautiful together."

Many new visitors come to see the garden. The flowers are glorious. They are a display of splendor. 

But when the visitors leave, they do not praise the flowers. 

They praise the Gardener. 

For they know it is His splendor they have seen.

"They will be called...a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor" (Isaiah 61:3).

August 29, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 272: Provider


Provider

"So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, 'On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.' " (Genesis 22:14 NIV)

Jesus s
aid it's not the healthy who need a doctor but the sick (Luke 5:31). His point, of course, wasn't that He didn't care about healthy people; His point was that everyone needs the spiritual healing of the Great Physician, whether they realize it or not. 

Sometimes we don't know we're sick. We don't want to be sick. But God has a way of showing us our sickness so we'll recognize our need for a Healer. He has a way of showing us our lack so we recognize our need for a Provider. 

Sometimes, God takes us to a low place so we can see that He is the Rock That Is Higher Than I.

Sometimes, God takes us to a busy place so we can see that He is our Rest.

Sometimes, God takes us to a hot place so we can see that He is our Shade.

Sometimes, God takes us to an unfamiliar place so we can see that He is our Home.

Sometimes, God takes us to a stormy place so we can see that He is our Shelter.

And sometimes, God takes us to a place where we see what we are not so we can see that He is I AM.

Lean into your lack. The Provider likes us to come to Him hungry and thirsty and poor and weak, because that's the best environment for Him to show us that He is the Bread of Life, the Living Water, our Treasure, and our Strength. 

And when we see Him as He is, we find that any place can be a place called The Lord Will Provide.

August 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 271: God Who Knows


God Who Knows

“Do not keep talking so proudly or let your mouth speak such arrogance, for the LORD is a God who knows, and by him deeds are weighed." (1 Samuel 2:3 NIV)

"I know her."
"I know that family."
"I know how to do that."
"I know where that is."

I "know" these people and things...by which I mean I am aware of their existence or have some general knowledge or familiarity with them.

But the God Who Knows does so in a way that is all and only His. He knows us intimately, inside-out. He knows fully. He knows without error or absence of information. He knows the beginning and the end and every mark along the way.

In the face of so much we don't know in this life, what God does know should comfort us like nothing else.

He knows the plans He has for us...and they are good: " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD. 'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope ' " (Jeremiah 29:11).

He knows how we are formed...and loves us: "For he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is" (Psalm 103:14, 17a).

He knows the way we take...and refines us through it: "But he knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold" (Job 23:10).

He knows our hearts...and leads us in the way everlasting: "
Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23,24).

He knows us, His sheep...and lays down His life for us: “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me—just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep" (John 10:14,15).

Look at the reciprocal knowing of John 10:14. It is not just the Shepherd who knows His sheep but His sheep who know Him! The sheep have deep familiarity, knowledge, and trust born out of that knowledge for the Shepherd, just as He has for them. This, dear friends, is our goal: to know the Shepherd who knows us. And then to be able to make our own declaration of knowing, just as Job did (19:25): "I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth."

August 27, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 270: The Stability Of Your Times


The Stability Of Your Times

"The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness; and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is his treasure." (Isaiah 33:5,6 RSV)

There's a lot of uncertainty spinning around me in some circles of my life—not for me personally, but for people I love and care about who are feeling uneasy, unsettled, unsure.

Students are uneasy about how the new school year will go.

Parents are unsettled about their students.

Members of our church family are uncertain about how health issues are going to turn out.

Friends are unsure about their marriages.

When our minds are swirling with unease, we have two main choices: we can feed the whirlwind with what we don't know, or we can look to the Stability of our times who "has his way in the whirlwind and in the storm" (Nahum 1:3) and claim Who we do know.

We know the Healer is still in the business of working physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional wholeness.

We know the Consuming Fire is still in the business of burning away dross that contaminates and weakens the faith He intends to strengthen.

We know the Way-Maker is still in the business of parting seas and moving mountains.

We know our Portion is still in the business of providing daily bread.

We know the Potter is still in the business of molding and shaping us into beautiful, useful vessels.

"Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God," wrote Corrie ten Boom. And though the whirlwind of life rages on, never be afraid to trust unsure, uncertain times to a sure and certain God.


August 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 269: Replenisher


Replenisher

"I will satisfy the weary, and all who are faint I will replenish." (Jeremiah 31:25 NRS)

Ever since I had the privilege of doing a study on the fruit of the Spirit—and more specifically, on the nine characteristics of that fruit—I've included a specific request in my morning prayers for my family: "Holy Spirit, please fill us with Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." 


Sometimes, I vary the wording on this: "please create within us new love, joy, peace..." or, "please well up within us fresh love, joy, peace...."

I pray this every day because I need the Holy Spirit to replenish His fruit in my husband, my children, and me every day. This neediness isn't because the Spirit's fruit is incomplete or imperfect; it's because it's meant to be "consumed." 


Life in relationship with God, set on the stage of this flawed world, is an ongoing, fluid, perpetual project. The Holy Spirit doesn't fill us with a lifetime supply of His fruit and then leave us to preserve it and spoon it out in tiny portions that are just enough to keep us going. Instead, I'm convinced He wants us to give that fruit away without reservation or hesitation in lavish amounts to everyone we come into contact with so that when we get up in the morning and start a new day, we're "faint" with hunger for more of Him and more of what He produces in us. 

This is God's radical economy: when we save, we are poor; when we spend, we are rich.

Come thirsty...and be quenched. Come hungry...and be fed. Come weary...and be satisfied. Come faint...and be replenished. 

August 25, 2019

356 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 268: Spirit of Counsel


Spirit of Counsel

"Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD." (Isaiah 11:1,2 NLT)


My high-schooler is trying something new this year. The focus of the team she's just joined is very much inside her comfort zone, but when it comes to merging with other girls who've been around longer, my daughter is decidedly uncomfortable.

When I picked her up from practice a couple weeks ago, she mentioned she was feeling like an outsider. I was trying to dredge up some sort of wise counsel to offer her when she said, "I talked to Sissy about it." I loved the way the Spirit of Counsel visited my teenager in one of the many ways at His disposal: in the person of a person in our lives. 

I could certainly understand my daughter's unease: both my daughters are, like their mother, naturally hesitant about meeting new people and doing new things. But sometimes we experience what I think of as holy hesitation: a restraining or a holding back...something that won't quite let us take a step forward. When I sense this, I have to ask: am I hesitating because of unfounded fear based on the lies of the enemy or because the Spirit of Counsel is speaking truth and protection to me? Am I hesitating because I'm going someplace I shouldn't be going or because I'm going someplace new and good but unfamiliar?

The Spirit of Counsel is not some stingy miser, tossing us a few crumbs and standing by with his arms crossed waiting to see if we'll pick up the trail. He wants us to get it right, so He reaches out, takes us by the hand, and leads us along. If it's truly *holy* hesitation we feel, it will not be driven by "a spirit of fear and timidity" (2 Timothy 1:7) but of "power, love, and self discipline." 

Years ago, when I worked with our church's midweek children's program, I taught 2 Timothy 1:7 with motions to help the kids remember it. I don't know if that trick worked for them, but all these years later, I remember it (which is saying a lot). I still say that verse this way: "God has not given us a spirit of fear [widen eyes and make a knee-knocking motion] but of power [strong arms motion], love [classic hands-crossed-over-the-chest love motion] and self-discipline [stomp foot convincingly]."

If the Spirit counsels me with holy hesitation, I pray I'll recognize it and heed it. When He releases me to move forward, I pray I'll do that with power, love, and [stomp!] self-discipline.

August 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 267: Captain


Captain

"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings." (
Hebrews 2:9,10 NKJV)


**JOB POSTING**

POSITION AVAILABLE: Captain of the SS Storms of Life.

JOB REQUIREMENTS: Candidate must possess limitless and infallible wisdom, strength, compassion, power, patience, knowledge, and authority. Must also demonstrate total mastery of the wind and waves.

JOB OBJECTIVE: To successfully guide passengers to the safe harbor they long for.

POSITION START DATE: Immediately.

POSITION END DATE: TBA (listen for the trumpet).

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Please see Mark 4:35-41, Psalm 107:24-30, and Revelation 11:15.

"They saw the Lord's works, His wonderful works in the deep. He spoke and raised a tempest that stirred up the waves of the sea. Rising up to the sky, sinking down to the depths, their courage melting away in anguish, they reeled and staggered like drunken men, and all their skill was useless. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a murmur, and the waves of the sea were hushed. They rejoiced when the waves grew quiet. Then He guided them to the harbor they longed for" (Psalm 107:24-30 CSB).

August 23, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 266: Forgiving God (El Nahsah)


Forgiving God (El Nahsah)

"O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. Extol the Lord our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the Lord our God is holy." (Psalm 99:8 NRS)

Forgiveness is one of those tricky turns on the road of faith.

In the context of God forgiving us, forgiveness is a wide-open superhighway, expensively maintained and easily accessed. I am glad to travel down the road of God's forgiveness of me.

Forgiveness in the context of me forgiving others, though, is a narrow, uneven, rocky, twisting path. I'd rather not walk down this road. But walk it I must, because God minces no words in His Word about my forgiveness of others as it relates to His forgiveness of me: "If you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins" (Matthew 6:14,15).

"But God, they hurt me," I protest. He answers, "I forgave someone who hurt me."

"But God, they betrayed me," I protest. He answers, "I forgave someone who betrayed me."

"But God, they aren't even sorry," I protest. He answers, "I forgave someone who wasn't sorry."

"But God, they haven't paid for what they did," I protest. He answers, "I forgave someone who didn't pay for what they did."

"But God, they don't deserve to be forgiven," I protest. He answers, "I forgave someone who didn't deserve to be forgiven. Now do what I have done for you, my someone."

I get tripped up when I start to think that forgiving someone means excusing what they did...saying it's okay...releasing them from any consequences. Yet God forgives me all the time without condoning what I've done or excusing me from all the ripple effects of my sins. Forgiveness is not about letting someone off the hook; it's about letting go of my "right" to reel them in. Forgiveness is not actually between me and the person I need to forgive; it's between me and God. If I make it about the person I need to forgive, that person has come between me and God.

Oh friends, I know this is so hard. But there is no path of forgiveness God asks us to walk that He has not already walked Himself. We are not breaking the path; we are following the Forgiving God's lead. When we do, we find that the route of forgiveness is not a one-way street but rather a round-about, with God's forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others passing one another and continuing to circle around again and again, until the day we exit at last onto God's mountain. There, we'll cry "holy" alongside people we've forgiven and people who've forgiven us as together, we worship at the feet of the One who has forgiven all.

August 22, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 265: Promise Maker

Promise Maker

"He remembers his covenant forever, the promise he made, for a thousand generations." (Psalm 105:8 NIV)

"I promise."

How many times have I said these words but not followed through on them?

The answer lies in the question: many times.

But not God. The Maker of hundreds of promises is also the Keeper of every promise.

He promises—and provides—His presence: "In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them.In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old" (Isaiah 63:9).

He promises—and provides—His protection: "When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze" (Isaiah 43:2).

He promises—and provides—His peace: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

His promises are particular, too.

He promises what: peace, protection, and presence.

He promises where: wherever we are, wherever we go.

He promises when: always, forever.

And sometimes, He promises when not: "God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you' " (Hebrews 13:5b).

" 'I will never, never, never, never, never [the Greek has five negatives] leave you or forsake you,' is his promise. At times we may be overcome with a feeling of helpless forsakeness. This is surely not from the loving Father, but from the father of lies. Take God's own promise with its five negatives and hold on" (Elisabeth Elliot, "A Lamp for My Feet").

We ask, "You'll never leave me, God?" 

He answers, "Never, never, never, never, never. I promise."

August 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 264: El Yeshuati (The God Of My Salvation)


El Yeshuati (The God Of My Salvation)

"Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my defense ; he has become my salvation.” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV)

Out and in.

After the death of Moses, God charged Joshua with the task of leading His people out and in. Out of the wilderness and into the Promised Land. Out of wandering and into home. Out of death and into life.

Joshua was the right person for the task not only because he was faithful, brave, and respected, but because the very meaning of his name—"Yeshua" in Hebrew, which means, "Yahweh is salvation"—spoke of what God would do through his leadership...of what God was always doing: saving His beloved.

Many years later, the prophet Isaiah would echo this ongoing action when he called God "El Yeshuati": God Of My Salvation.

And many years after that, the speaking and echoing would turn into a shout when another Yeshua was born: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua, [which means 'ADONAI saves,'] because he will save his people from their sins," as The Complete Jewish Bible (CJB) translates 
Matthew 1:21—or, as we're more familiar with it in the NIV and other versions where the Hebrew "Yeshua" is translated "Jesus" in the Greek: "She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins."

Through this Yeshua ("Yahweh is salvation"), El Yeshuati, the God of our salvation, would bring us out and in.

Out of the wilderness and into the new Promised Land where every promise is a "yes" (2 Corinthains 1:20).

Out of wandering and into home (John 14:23).

Out of death and into life (John 3:16).


El Yeshuati, bring us out today. Bring us in. Surely, You are our salvation. We will trust and not be afraid.

August 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 263: Apostle


Apostle

"Holy brothers and sisters, God chose you to be his people. So keep thinking about Jesus. He is our apostle. He is our high priest. We believe in him." (Hebrews 3:1 NIRV)

I never have been completely clear on the difference between "apostles" and "disciples."

I understood that "the Twelve" (Matthew 10:2, Mark 3:14, Luke 6:13) were apostles. But they were also disciples. Are these interchangeable terms? Were there other apostles? Other disciples?

I sidestepped this uncertainty for a long time...until I learned that "Apostle" is one of the names of Jesus and decided I'd better get a handle on the thing.

I camped out on both words in the "New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words" (Lawrence O. Richards) and gleaned some clarification: a disciple is a student or a learner; an apostle is a messenger, an envoy, one who is sent on a mission. All "the Twelve" apostles were disciples, but not all disciples are apostles.

Jesus was God's Apostle, the Father's Messenger...and the message He brought was radical and perspective-shifting. 


Love your enemies. Die to yourself. Approach the Most High with boldness. Serve the least. Gain peace that passes understanding. Be saved by faith. Live forever.

Jesus delivered this message and then, like a runner in a race handing off the baton, passed that message on to His students—His disciples—and appointed a dozen of them specifically to carry on the mission.


That mission continues. The message still goes out.

" 'Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.' How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: 'How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!' " (Romans 10:13-15 NIV).

Incredibly, we are the runners in the race in which Jesus ran both the first and anchor leg. We still carry His baton. As the Apostle's disciples—as His students—we sit at the beautiful feet of the Master. We learn His teaching. We listen to His message. And then, on beautiful feet, we deliver His good news.

August 19, 2019

My College Student Still Needs Me . . . and I'm So Glad


My college student bought a rolling cart for her dorm room last year. On move-in day, she cleared a space on her crowded suite floor and took the cart out of its packaging. Or, rather, she removed from a box the many pieces of what could conceivably turn into a cart.

I watched her approach this project from my vantage point on top of her bunkbed, which I was making up for her not because she couldn’t do it herself but because my mom has long insisted that mothers are supposed to make up their kids’ beds when they move to a new place, and I was trying to honor my maternal heritage.

I observed my daughter methodically and successfully tackling her task. She did not ask for my help. She did not need it. She approached that cart the same way I know she’ll approach the rest of her college career: she’ll gather her supplies, take instruction, get organized, and set to work. Along the way, she’ll make mistakes and have to start some things over, but in the end, she’ll get the job done.

And yet, there are things she still needs from her dad and me. We let our college students go, and this is right. But they are still connected to us, and this is also right.

Our big kids continue to need us not because we have somehow failed as their parents, but because we have succeeded in building trust and relationship with them.

Our college students still need our encouragement. Our kids’ encouragement tanks do not have a lifetime fill capacity, as if we can pour in enough affirming, reassuring, and comforting words by the time they turn 18 to last them the rest of their lives. The demands of college life—academic, social, emotional, physical—drain these tanks, so our students need us to replenish them regularly. I once roomed with a girl whose parents let her tank run dry, and she ended up breaking down. As much as it’s within my reasonable and healthy control, I’m going to keep my daughter’s encouragement reserves topped off.

Our college students still need our guidance. Yes, they are smart and independent. Yes, they have to forge their own paths, and that’s going to come with some bumpy roads and detours. But we can be a map for our travelers. We can offer “directional assistance,” even if they do choose to go their own route. This is why I’m telling my driven student not to follow in my footsteps and make her whole college experience about a GPA. And every time I see a post from her about taking a break from studying to hang out with her friends, I think that maybe my mom GPS has steered her right.

Our college students still need our boundaries. They’re testing limits and drawing their own lines. But they still need to know what we consider right and wrong, healthy and unhealthy, acceptable and unacceptable. They need to know that at a time in their lives when so much is changing, some things stay the same. They need to know that in maintaining certain boundaries, we aren’t trying to protect them from bad nearly so much as we’re trying to preserve them for good. And they need to know that our fierce love for them doesn’t mean we’re going to bail them out of the consequences if they choose to cross those boundary lines.

Our college students still need our reassurance. Our kids are being hit with a slew of choices every day: which classes to take, which major to choose, which friends to make, which (if any) romantic relationships to pursue, which passions to feed now and which ones are best put on hold for the future. And they’re processing all these options with still-under-development brains. They need our assurance that every decision doesn’t come down to all right or all wrong. They need to know that even unintentional “bad” choices can result in good outcomes. They need to know we’re rooting for them and that we believe in them, especially when they don’t believe in themselves.

Our college students still need our presence. They need to hear from us, even when they don’t respond (much). They need to know that home is still a safe, welcoming place. They need to know that who we’ve always been to and for them hasn’t changed overnight, even if they feel like they themselves have.

Our college students still need our help. For all their ability and responsibility, they’re still kids in many respects, and they’re still always our kids. That status doesn’t get checked at the dorm room door. So go ahead: send the care package. Make a phone call for them that they don’t want to make. Crawl up on that loft bed and wrestle the sheets onto it…and while you’re up there, enjoy the view of what they’re doing on their own.

Our college students still need our love. It’s what they needed before they were college students. It’s what they’ll need after they’re done being college students (whatever “done” looks like and whenever it happens). And love—tough, unconditional, and otherwise—is what they still need now, not because we’ve missed something along the way as parents, but because we’ve hit what matters most.



A version of this article first appeared on Grown and Flown.

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 262: God of the Wilderness


God of the Wilderness

"When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them by way of the land of the Philistines, although that was near. For God said, 'Lest the people change their minds when they see war and return to Egypt.' But God led the people around by the way of the wilderness toward the Red Sea. And the people of Israel went up out of the land of Egypt equipped for battle." (Exodus 13:17,18 ESV)

On their way to the Promised Land, the people of God found themselves in a number of messes that were entirely their own doing. But going the round-about way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea instead of along the established road was not one of them.

The account is clear: God led them through the wilderness. Nearly every translation of Exodus 13:18 uses that exact word: "led."

Why did God do this? Why does He sometimes not only allow us to go through a wilderness but actually lead us there?

The mind of God has reasons I not only don't know but don't need to know, but I believe one reason He deliberately, intentionally, willfully leads us through the wilderness even when there is another way is so we'll have a song to sing.

"The direct route would save time as well as wear and tear on the people, but God had something infinitely more important than economics in mind—He wanted the people to be able to sing [a] song of praise. They sang this song because they had firsthand experience of God's power and deliverance. They would have missed this glorious lesson if they had taken the short road. The lessons He wants to teach us 'in the wilderness' are a priceless means of providing us with a song we could not otherwise have sung: 'In Thy constant love Thou hast led the people" (Elisabeth Elliot, "A Lamp for My Feet," Exodus 15:13).

I like the short road. I like the direct route. But I do want to have "firsthand experience of God's power and deliverance." I don't only want to sing secondhand songs. I want my own anthem of praise. And the wilderness is where I'll learn its words and tune.

God, when I'm in a wilderness You've led me to and are leading me through, help me to trust that on the other side, I will be able to sing a song I could not otherwise have sung.....a song I need to sing...a song someone else needs to hear.

August 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 261: Spirit of Adoption

Spirit of Adoption

"You haven't received the spirit of slaves that leads you into fear again. Instead, you have received the spirit of God's adopted children by which we call out, "Abba! Father!" (Romans 8:15 GW)


When God was inspiring the writing of His divine letter to "all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be His saints" (Romans 1:7), He chose someone familiar with Roman culture to hold the pen. The Apostle Paul, an educated Roman citizen familiar with the Roman legal system, understood what it would mean to his audience if he described their role in God's family within the context of adoption—a legal act in which all old debts and obligations were cancelled. 


They would have understood the spirit of slaves and the fear of a cruel master. They would have understood the contrast of receiving instead the spirit of adoption by which, with all the rights of children, they could call out, "Abba! Father!"

You and I come to God as spiritual orphans and slaves, held captive by a debt of sin we cannot pay.

But God does not settle our debt and then take us on as hired help so that we can repay Him. He does not bring us onto His property and give us a room in the back shed where we can live while we work off what we owe Him.

No, He adopts us as His children. He blots out our debt of sin with the red of His Son's blood. He moves us directly into the big house on His estate, calls us His children, and invites us to call Him, "Daddy."

Then He asks us to work not for Him but with Him. Not as slaves but as sons and daughters. Not for the family but in the family. Not to earn our freedom but to exemplify it. Not as slaves to fear, but as children of freedom.

"
I am surrounded
By the arms of the father.I am surrounded
By songs of deliverance.
We've been liberated
From our bondage.
We're the sons and the daughters,
Let us sing our freedom.I'm no longer a slave to fear,
I am a child of God."

(From "No Longer Slaves;" songwriters Jonathan David Helser, Brian Joel Case, Mark Johnson; Bethel Music Publishing.)

August 17, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 260: God Who Comforts


God Who Comforts

"For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him." (2 Corinthians 7:5-7 NIV)

I used to think of God's comfort as something soft, like a blanket. As a parent, I know I've offered my children this kind of comfort many times, telling them, "Poor baby...I'm sorry." There is a place for this: I know this soothing often does help them.

But God's comfort as a parent—as Abba, as our heavenly Father—goes far beyond what we as earthly parents can give our children. Thank goodness, because I know my children need far more than I can give them. And because I know this, I loved learning recently that the word "comfort" derives from two Latin words meaning "with" and "strong." 


God's "with" makes us strong.

The comfort I offer my children is more like commiseration, and again, there is a place and purpose for that. But the very idea behind commiseration—"co" plus "misery"...joint misery...people who are miserable together—falls far short of what God's comfort does. I do believe there is some good truth to the expression, "Misery loves company." Sometimes, our misery is entirely appropriate and is lightened by the presence of another in it. This is the idea behind my comfort of my children: "you poor baby...I'm so sorry." I usually offer this when I can't do anything to lessen my children's misery, and so I am just with them in it.

But God is not so limited. He surely cares about our misery (see Exodus 3:7), but His presence (His "with") does not just sympathize; it strengthens. In the verses above from Paul's second letter to the church at Corinth, God did not only commiserate with the "downcast;" He strengthened them. And look how He did it: by sending His servant Titus.

Sometimes, I believe God uses us as His instruments of comfort to offer soft commiseration: a gentle pat on the back or a genuine, "I'm so sorry." But other times, He asks us to be His strengthening "with": a tight hug or a solid shoulder to cry on. Or, to return to my parenting context, tough love. Sometimes, my words of comfort to my children are harder and more pointed. Sometimes our words of comfort to a friend or loved one must be the same: firm encouragement to someone in mourning to seek Godly counseling or a grief-sharing class, for example, instead of just saying, "I'm so sorry." (WHICH I know from experience is indeed very comforting but may not be all that is needed.)

The comfort of God's "with + strength" runs the length of history.

The whole world was comforted by the coming of Emmanuel, "God With Us."

The downcast among the early believers were comforted by the coming of Titus.

And somewhere today, there is someone who will be comforted—strengthened by the "with" of love—by the coming of you or me, as the hands and feet (and arms and voice) of the God Who Comforts.

August 16, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 259: Manna


Manna

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it." (Revelation 2:17 NLT)

"In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, 'If only we had died by the LORD’s hand in Egypt! There we sat around pots of meat and ate all the food we wanted, but you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death.' Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.' The people of Israel called the bread manna. It was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey." (Exodus 16:2-4,31 NIV)


I have two recurring thoughts every time I read the story of the newly freed children of God, just starting out on their journey to the Promised Land, complaining about being hungry and "at least back in Egypt we had meat" and all that.

1) "What a bunch of ungrateful whiners."

2) "I am an ungrateful whiner."

There they were, fresh off their release from captivity and the whole "parting of the Red Sea" miracle and the sparing of their lives from their Egyptian pursuers, and what do they do but start moaning about being hungry? And yet I know I would have done the same thing. I DO do the same thing.

But mercifully for them and for me, God's provision is not provisional upon my appreciation. He wants His kids to be grateful because He knows that's what's best for us, but He gives because He is a giver.

God did have one provision about His provision, however: He told the people not to try to collect any more of the bread-like substance He rained down from heaven than they could use for one day. Of course, they didn't do much better with this than Adam and Eve did with God's "you can eat from any tree in the garden except that one" instruction.

The Israelites tried to store up manna, but it spoiled—not because God wasn't capable of preserving it but because He wanted to teach them to trust Him to preserve THEM.

I know I would have grumbled just like the Israelites grumbled, and I would have tried to store up manna in advance, too. But God is also teaching me to trust Him day by day, and throughout His Word, He demonstrates the dailyness of His supply.

His mercies are "new every morning" (Lamentations 3:23).

Our strength is "renewed" when we "hope in the Lord" (Isaiah 40:31).

Abba gives us "our daily bread" (Luke 11:3).

He sends rain "in its season" (Leviticus 26:4).

He fills the hungry "with good things" (Luke 20:10).

Again, I'm reminded of this truth: "faith" in what has already happened is not faith but thankfulness. Our job is to be thankful for what God has already provided, mindful of what He is presently providing, and hopeful about what He will provide, all the while keeping spiritual eyes on our hidden manna and on our "inheritance kept in heaven" (1 Peter 1:4)...a stored-up inheritance "that can never perish, spoil, or fade."

August 15, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 258: Nail In A Sure Place


Nail In A Sure Place

"And I will fasten him as a nail in a sure place; and he shall be for a glorious throne to his father's house." (Isaiah 22:23 KJV)

"I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will become a seat of honor for the house of his father." (Isaiah 22:23 NIV)


My dad taught me everything I know about tools, carpentry, and home repair.

He didn't teach me everything HE knows, because he knows a lot, and I am not a very adept student in this subject.

But what I know, I learned from him.

And from him, I know that if I'm trying to hang anything very heavy on a wall, my nail needs to be pounded into firm, solid studding, not just into powdery plaster or drywall. Searching out the hidden studding and driving the nail into the wood are going to take some effort. It might be hard work. But the end result will be sure and firm.

Under the Old Covenant, God's people were trying to hang their hopes on nails not driven into sure places...on rules and regulations and earthly kings they hoped could save them. But the heaviness of their sin—like the heaviness of ours—quickly pulled those nails out, and their hopes came crashing down.

Jesus was not an easy peg on which to hang a hope. He Himself had to give up everything. To be our Nail In A Sure Place, He had to endure the nails of the cross, driven into wood only after they were first driven through His flesh. And as He calls us to follow Him by following His lead, we have hard work to do, too: dying to ourselves so we can live for Him. Taking up our own crosses. Laying down our lives.

Sometimes, I do not want to work this hard for hope. I want to hang my security on pegs that are easier to drive in. Pegs I can pound into my own efforts, my own abilities, people around me, financial stability, good works, my "resume." This all looks pretty for a while, hanging there on the walls. But soon it comes crashing down.

And so I look again for solid studding: for love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I pound the nail of faith into these. I rehang my hope on that nail...and it is a sure and firm hope that does not fail and does not fall.

August 14, 2019

Five Things I'd Tell a New Mom (But Only If She Asked)


When I was just starting out on my motherhood journey (which, for the record, was not exactly last week), sweet older ladies would see me at the grocery store with my babies and tell me how adorable they were. And then they would say, "Cherish every moment. It goes by so fast."

Now I’m the mom with some mileage on me. And while I, personally, am not going to pass along my supposed wisdom to any mom in the produce department unless she’s wearing a shirt that says, “Please give me your advice and opinions on mothering and child-rearing,” I do know what I would tell her.

1. It does go by so fast, but usually only when it's already gone.

When you're in it—I mean, IN it up to your sleep-deprived eyes—motherhood often creeps by with agonizing slowness. Will naptime ever come? Will this child ever sleep through the night?Will this game of Candyland ever be over?

Then, all of a sudden, you're figuring out the whole senior picture thing, and you start to think you just got her 5-weeks-2-days-and-36-minutes-pictures done.

It’s alright. That’s how it goes. That doesn't mean you didn't appreciate a lot of the moments in between.


2. You’re not the only one.

Whatever "it" is that you feel like you might be the only mom doing or not doing or feeling or not feeling, you've probably got company somewhere. Find another mom at library lap time or in the church nursery or at the pediatrician's and lay "it" on the line—wait for the blessing of hearing that mom say "me, too."

There are few things more encouraging than to say or hear, "Really? I thought it was just me."

3. Everything that's good to do is not necessarily good to do right now.


When my older daughter was not quite six, we started her in kindergarten, dance, and a midweek kid's club at church, all in the same week.Rookie mistake. Only kindergarten ended up making the cut that year.

As a mom, joining a book club might be good. Training for a marathon might be good. (I mean, not for me, because I only run if I’m being chased by something, but for some other mom.) Repainting your bedroom might be good. Getting your master's degree might be good.

But any of these good things might not be good in this season, and they almost certainly are not good all in the same season.

4. It will be okay.

That thing you're worried about right now—getting your baby to sleep through the night, potty training, friend drama, college applications? It will probably turn out just fine.

Of course, some things are not fine at all, and my heart goes out to parents who are living with these every day. Also, the journey from here to okay is often hard and exhausting. But with some effort and time, most sources of mom worry end up working themselves out.

And this is coming from one of the worryingest moms of them all. I worried that my firstborn would never learn to write her name or count past 29 or have any lasting friends or survive high-school geometry. She did. It was all okay. And your "it" most likely will be, too.

5. You don't have to fight every battle there is to be fought.

TV/sugar/screen-time consumption. Messy rooms. Kids who don't love reading. That t-shirt your elementary child wants to wear day after day. There's always something that can be an issue.

And what matters to one mom for very good reasons might not matter at all to another for equally good reasons. But in general, is this battle eternally important? Does it have to do with shaping your son or daughter's soul? Will it really count in a week or a month or a decade?

I personally try (try) to use this litmus test: years ago, the cane seat in the chair I use at our computer broke through. (I tried not to take it personally.) My then 4-year-old wrote me a note about it. Translated from her preschool phonetics, it said, "I'm sorry ('srre') about the seat but that's not the importantist ('inpotinist') thing because God is."

Listen, if it's not an importantist thing, maybe it doesn't need to be a thing in your life after all.

Go ahead, sweet mama, and cherish as many moments as you can. But don’t spend too much time worrying that if you blink, you’ll miss them. Mostly, just look at the past and be grateful. Look at the present and be mindful. Look at the future and be hopeful.

And if you get a chance to close your eyes long enough to blink, you should probably just go ahead and leave them closed and take a nap. 

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 257: Image of the Invisible God

Image of the Invisible God

"The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together." (Colossians 1:15-17 NIV)

I've shared this story before, but it fits so perfectly with today's name that I hope you'll forgive me a rerun.


A little boy was scared in his bedroom at night, and his mom was trying to comfort him. "Don't be afraid," she told him. "God is here with you." To which the boy replied, "Yes, I know, but I need someone with skin on."

Jesus—in His fully divine yet fully human form—was God with skin on. He made the Immortal Invisible visible.

In His raising of Lazarus from the dead, Jesus made God's power visible.

In His healing of the woman with the bleeding disease, Jesus made God's compassion visible.

In His feeding of the 5,000, Jesus made God's provision visible.

In His conversation with the woman at the well, Jesus made God's inclusion visible.

In His defense of the woman caught in adultery, Jesus made God's mercy visible.

And in His sacrifice on the cross, Jesus made God's love visible.

Journalists sometimes talk about the "so what" factor: what does an article or story have to do with a reader's life? What are readers supposed to do with the information that's been presented? 


What is the "so what" of this name of God? What does it mean for you and me in our daily lives that Jesus is the image of the invisible God?

Maybe the answer lies here: we are image-bearers of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49). If Jesus is the image-bearer of God, and we are the image-bearers of Jesus, we need to look like Him. We need to be Him "with skin on." We need to act like Him. We need to do what He did. We need to make God's power, compassion, provision, inclusion, mercy, and love visible (just for starters, and of course we don't do any of this in our own strength). 


We need to show up in someone's night, and, by the light of the image of the invisible we bear, banish fear from it.

August 13, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 256: Ransom


Ransom

"For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant." (Hebrews 9:15 NIV)

Some days, it feels as though my mind is being held captive.

My mental wheel is tied up with bindings of lies and half-truths and full truths out of context—and distractions...so many distractions.

How do I ransom it? How do I free it?

Telling myself to "just think about something else" doesn't do any good. I have to replace a thought that binds with a thought that frees. There has to be an exchange. 
In a ransom in the usual context, money is exchanged for the captive, meeting the captor's demands. When my mind is being held captive, I need to exchange lies for truth, distraction for focus. God's names—spoken, whispered, sung, declared, prayed, silently repeated, written out, meditated on, memorized, or screamed at the top of my lungs—are that truth, that focus. 

When my mind is tied up by worry, Yahweh-Shalom ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by noise, the God of Silence ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by sin, my Redeemer ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by weariness, the Resting Place ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by darkness, the Father of Lights ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by defeat, the Victor ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by betrayal, the Faithful and True ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by loneliness, my Friend ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by selfishness, the Servant ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by brokenness, the Builder ransoms it.

When my mind is tied up by uncertainty, my Confidence ransoms it.

"Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer.
But this I know with all my heart:
His wounds have paid my ransom."

(From "How Deep the Father's Love For Us;" words and music by Stuart Townsend; arr. by Carol Tornquist.)

August 12, 2019

Dear College Professor: From One of Your Introverted Students


Last year about this time, I asked my then-college sophomore if there was anything she hoped would be different about the upcoming school year as compared with her freshman year. 

She didn’t even have to think about it. “Yes,” she told me. “I wish my professors would quit picking on the introverts.”

My daughter learned a few things about herself during her first year away at a private university not far from home, and one of those was, as she put it, “I’m just such an introvert.”

She is her mother’s daughter, so I feel for her. Her small school’s laudable emphasis on individual attention can come across as trying to work the introvert out of her, as if it’s a problem that needs to be solved or a wrong that needs to be righted.

To be clear, my daughter adores her school. Her father and I are thrilled she’s there. The college our girl chose almost on a whim is absolutely the right place for her. But its commitment to helping students become who they might be sometimes seems to trample on who they already are.

Maybe someday my daughter will have a chance to communicate these points to her instructors directly, but for now, in her own words, this is what she says she’d liked to tell them—and what she wants them to understand—on behalf of all the introverts among them.

Please don't single the introverts out in class. If I had a dollar for every time a professor or a student leader told my class or my group, “You introverts are going to have to get outside your comfort zones,” I’d have enough to cover at least a couple textbooks. From the beginning, I've heard you address my classes and sternly warn the introverts that we’re going to have to “speak up and participate.” But I don't remember you ever telling the extroverts that they need to do anything different or be anyone different from who they are.

I will speak up and participate, but not if you keep trying to force me to do it. I agree I need to stretch myself. I actually do want to be more vocal in class. I know this is important. But all your cajoling and coaxing are not drawing me out; they’re making me want to crawl further into myself. If you truly want to know what I have to say, make me feel safe, not ashamed. Give me gentle encouragement and time instead of telling me I need to hurry up and change.

Being an introvert is not a personality defect or character flaw. Introverts do not need to be fixed, healed, or persuaded to “cross over.” And just because I am an introvert does not automatically mean I am an inferior student to someone who’s an extrovert.

Introverts bring something to the table that the world—and your classroom—needs. We are deep, reflective thinkers. We process before we speak. We have complex, multi-layered ideas to share, but we take our time putting them on public display . . . provided we’re given that time. If you let the extroverts always jump in ahead of us, we’re more likely to keep those ideas to ourselves. Which is a loss for everyone.

You can’t tell how much I'm growing and changing and challenging myself just by what you see in class. I’m only in your classroom for a few hours a week. You don’t know what I’m doing the rest of the time, and you don’t know what I’m overcoming just to be on this campus in the first place.

I’m working hard to forge friendships. I’m spending big chunks of every day doing things in and with groups of people when one-on-one interaction is my default comfort setting. I’m trying to figure out how to stand out sometimes when what I really want to do is blend in. I’m working on who I want to become and what I need to do to make that happen. Someday, all this change and growth might show up and make itself known in your classroom. But first you’ll have to be patient with me and show me that you’re on my side.

And to my daughter’s teachers from her mom: I want you to know that I’m truly thankful for you. I know you care about my student and want the best for her. I’m just asking you to be careful with her. And while you’re helping her see who she can become, please let her know you that you also value her for who she already is.


A version of this piece first appeared on Grown and Flown.

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 255: Very Present Help


Very Present Help

"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble." (Psalm 46:1 ESV)

" 'And who is my neighbor?' Jesus replied, 'A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road, and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion. He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.' ' " (Luke 10:29b-35 NIV)


Very: lavish, generous, overflowing, more.

Present: near, engaged, involved.

Help: assistance, usefulness, practicality.

The traveler on the road to Jericho was surely in trouble. Robbed, beaten, and left for dead, he desperately needed some very present help.

He got it from an unexpected source...from one of "those people." Not the religious elite, who not only did not go out of their way to help him but who went out of their way, quite literally, NOT to help him.

But the Samaritan, reflecting a God Who went as far out of His way as it was possible to go to show His love for us, was a very present help.

The Samaritan was "very." He went beyond basic service, caring for the wounded traveler on the spot, taking him to an inn rather than just dropping him off in town where "someone else" could deal with him, paying for the innkeeper's services and putting no cap on incurred expenses but promising their repayment. 

The Samaritan was present. He could have just gone on ahead into town and sent someone to tend the man, but instead he got involved himself, offering physical touch and closeness. He spent time near a need. He interacted.

The Samaritan was a help. He didn't simply look at the man and tell him, "I'm sorry for your trouble." Nor did he throw money at him and leave the robbers' victim to figure out how to use it to help himself. The Samaritan showed himself useful. He offered practical care. He made a noticeable difference.

In this role of God and in this setting of it, I feel our Very Present Help pinging my mind and heart. How often do I offer something to someone just to ease my own guilt but fall far short of being a very present help? Maybe I do the bare minimum...and miss the "very." Maybe I offer help but in a distant, removed way that does not require me to get too near an uncomfortable situation...and miss the "present." Or maybe I offer a token so I can check someone's problem off my list...and miss the "help"?

Oh God, make me willing to go out of my way today and, when I get there, to be as You are: a very present help.

August 11, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 254: Great High Priest


Great High Priest

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." (Hebrews 4:14-16 NIV)

Sweet friends, I've saved this name of God for a long time. I've waited on it partly because it's one of my favorites and partly because I was looking for a way to describe it that would help me—and, I hope, some of you—get a handle on it. Now I'm going to ask you to take a little mental trip...


You are at the airport. You are not a passenger on any flight...you do not have a ticket. But you need the help of someone who's at the departure gate. And not just any someone but someone in a high position of power who's awaiting his flight in a VIP area to which you, of course, do not have access. You cannot even get past security. If you try, you will be reprimanded...or worse. You write down your request for assistance and put it in a box along with a gift...an offering to show your humility and gratitude. You give it to a messenger, an agent who will deliver your offering and your request to the person in high position. But the messenger still has to go through security himself. He has no real power or authority of his own. The box he carries, bearing your gift and your request for assistance, must be screened. If the agent or the box do not meet certain standards, they will be pulled aside...or worse. 

And even if they make it through, you have no idea if the official will grant your request for help. You have no standing, no status. The messenger delivering your plea is indifferent to your problem. He has never been in your situation. He is just doing a job, but he does not understand your need. Waiting on the outside, you can do nothing more than hope your request will be delivered, received, and granted...and that help will be yours.

But this is not our present reality. On this side of Calvary, we have an Agent who does understand our need. He is not above it; indeed, He lowered Himself to enter into it. He has been in our situation, though through no fault of His own. He does not know what it's like to give in to temptation, because He never did, but He does know what it's like to be tempted, because He was.


When we have a request we want to present to God, Jesus our Great High Priest walks with us right past security, right past all the former barricades that would have denied us access to the Holy One in the Holy of Holies. Christ Himself is our clearance. Unlike the priests—the messengers—of old, this Priest has power of His own, equal to God's because He is God. 

Jesus ushers us directly into the VIP throne room of grace and presents us, clothed in His righteousness, to El Elyon...God Most High. Our Priest stands next to us and waits while we make our request. We are hesitant at first, but this Priest urges us gently on. "Don't be afraid," He tells us. "Ask for what you need."

So we speak with holy confidence—boldly and freely—to Jesus' Abba and ours. When words fail us, our Great High Priest speaks for us. He asks on our behalf for what we do not even know we need. 

Our request is delivered, received, and granted. Mercy and grace are ours.

"Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea,
A great High Priest whose name is 'Love,'
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart;
I know that while in heav'n He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart, 
No tongue can bid me thence depart."

(From "Before the Throne of God Above;" words by Charitie L. Bancroft and Vikki Cook; music by Vikki Cook.)



August 10, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 253: Your Confidence


Your Confidence

"For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." (Proverbs 3:26 NIV)

Imagine you are walking through a dark forest in the deep of night.

The sky is shrouded in clouds; there is no starlight or moonlight at all to illuminate your path. You do not have a flashlight. You do not know the way. You have never walked in this woods before, so it is entirely unfamiliar to you. 

Your arms are outstretched ahead of you, searching for low-hanging limbs and tree trunks. You take short, uncertain, hesitant steps. You are fearful and tentative. As you feel your way along, you move cautiously forward—and wince as metal teeth clamp around your foot. You have stepped into a snare. 

Now imagine you are walking through the same unfamiliar woods but on a clear evening. The bright moon makes the night almost as light as day. You have a powerful flashlight. You can see your surroundings easily. But more than that, you have a Guide leading you. He walks up ahead, clearing the way, calling out warnings, pointing to snares. You walk carefully but confidently, without fear. You trust your Guide. You do not know the way, but He does. Your confidence is not in yourself but in Him.

Godly confidence does not depend on our familiarity with a situation; it depends on our familiarity with the Savior.

The Lord who is Our Confidence illuminates the way for us through His Word. He sends His warrior angels to protect us. He leads us through the counsel of the Holy Spirit. All of which allows us to walk boldly and freely.

The word "confidence" might trip us up a little if we think of it in terms of self-absorption or an inflated ego. We might pull back from it. But trusting in God as our confidence is not about who or how we are; it's about who and how He is.  It's not about bravado based on our own abilities; it's about boldness based on His. 

With misplaced confidence, we walk without concern because we don't know what we don't know; with God as our confidence, we walk without concern because we do know Who we do know.

"On what are you basing this confidence of yours?" others might ask, echoing the king of Assyria's question in 2 Kings 18. And we answer, confidently, "We are depending on the Lord our God."