June 30, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 212: High and Lofty One


High and Lofty One

"In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne, and His robe filled the temple." (Isaiah 6:1 CSB)

There's a scene in the movie Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where the title character is trying to pass a series of potentially fatal tests in pursuit of an invaluable prize he's been seeking at all cost. Several cryptic clues are guiding him through the tests; the first of these is, "Only the penitent man will pass."

As the movie's hero considers this clue, he whispers, "Only the penitent man will pass...penitent man...the penitent man is humble before God...kneels before God..." At the last moment, he drops down, sparing his head from the deadly knife that swings out from the rocky side of the cave.

Our position before the High and Lofty One should also be to drop down. When we, like Isaiah, see "the Lord seated on a high and lofty throne" (Isaiah 6:1), our response should be to kneel...to bow...to fall flat on our faces, maybe, in recognition of two truths: who we are, and who God is.

This kind of humility saves our lives, too. Maybe not in a literal sense, but when we take a low and humble stance before the High and Lofty One, we are saved from our own foolishness, from our sin, from our blurred vision, from our ignorance, from our pride, from ourselves.

The ancient faithful were well acquainted with God in His exalted role, but they had only glimpses of the much fuller picture we can see today: that of the High King of heaven who came to earth.

Only God can be one piece of the totality of all He is without ever compromising any other piece. He can be high and lofty and still come down to dwell among His people. He can be a servant and still be The King. He can eat with sinners and still be sinless. He can be a friend and still be the Master.

When we see all this—really see it, as Isaiah did once his lesser king was removed from his line of vision—what else can we do that makes any sense at all other than to kneel down low...and find there the highest prize of all.

June 29, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 211: Unspeakable Gift


Unspeakable Gift

"Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift." (2 Corinthians 9:15 ASV)

The story of how my husband and I met, fell in love, and got married is a little long and a lot lovely, but the short version is this: I picked him up at church one Sunday when I was home from my post-college job for a family funeral and he was home on break from law school.

Some advance groundwork had been laid, but it is almost no exaggeration to say that we talked for 20 minutes, got in our respective cars with our respective families, and told them, "Well, that's who I'm going to marry."

Our long-distance courtship commenced shortly thereafter. Because we were seldom in the same state, I figured out when my future husband was going to propose. He figured out that I had figured it out, though, and changed his plans in order to surprise me. Which is how, about ten minutes after he had asked me to marry him, when my unsuspecting mother called, and my brand-new husband-to-be answered and asked his future mother-in-law if she wanted to speak to his fiancee, something happened that we don't believe had happened before or has happened since: my mother was speechless.

My husband is unquestionably an unspeakable gift to me and to our family, from the God of unspeakable gifts.

God's gifts are unspeakable because we do not have words to describe their value. But God's gifts to us do speak.

God's gift of His S
on speaks of His love and of His longing for relationship with us. It tells us that, other than His holiness, there was nothing He was not willing to give up to gain us.

God's gift of grace speaks of His willingness to give us what we can never deserve. It tells us that His compassion toward us far outweighs any scale or set of balances.

God's gift of the Holy Spirit speaks of His desire to be present with us. It tells us that He wants to be part of our lives from the inside out.


God's gift of each new day speaks of His purposefulness. It tells us that He has something for us to do on and with that day.

I look at these gifts, and I have no words. And that, really, is as it should be, if only my heart always knows what to say: "Thank You, God...thank You, thank You, thank You."

June 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 210: Overcomer


Overcomer

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV)

It may seem strange, but one of my favorite sentences in the entire Bible is this one from John 16:33: "In this world you will have trouble."

I find it comforting because it reassures me that if I'm feeling like I'm "having trouble," it's not just me being my usual over-reactionary self.

You cannot get a more credible confirmation than the Word Himself, so if Jesus says, "In this world you will have trouble," it's not just my imagination if I'm feeling the truth of that.

But..

Of all the tide-turning, circumstance-shifting "buts" of Scripture, this has to be one of the most powerful. "In this world you will have trouble." Jesus minces no words here. "But take heart!" With these words, He shifts from acknowledgement to action.

To "take heart" means to derive courage from some fact. Some fact. Not some wishful thinking or some possibility, but from a fact. And the fact from which we derive our courage in the face of certain trouble in this world is that Jesus has overcome it. Overcome.

For many years at family Sunday dinners and celebration meals, we used my parent's wedding china: white with gold edging. (I promise: this really does relate to the name of God at hand.) The silverware set that went with this china came with a fancy gold candle snuffer...a long-handled object with a somewhat bell-shaped end that could be put down over a candle flame to extinguish it. We were not the sort of family that burned candles on a regular basis, so the snuffer rarely got used. One year, though, on my birthday, I took a proactive stance against YET ANOTHER picture of me blowing out my candles, my cheeks puffed out in truly humiliating fashion. That year, after my family sang to me and someone waited to capture the (in)famous shot, I whipped the candle snuffer out from its hidden position behind my back and calmly and rather smugly put out each candle.

The Overcomer does not just puff on the flame of trouble and make it flicker a little; He snuffs it out entirely.

I know that and love that, but maybe I'm not alone in this nagging question: how does the fact that Jesus has overcome the world do me any good? Why should that help me "take courage"? I mean, good for Him, but I'm still living on this troubled earth. One answer, maybe, is because when we are in relationship with God, we get in on His power. We get in on His strength. When we die to ourselves, He lives in us. He moves into our hearts and brings His overcoming power with Him.

"In this world you will have trouble." I don't have to work very hard to hear in my mind some of you saying, "That's for sure." But—"but"—here's what else is for sure: God's story never ends with trouble. And the day when it's over for good is coming. Hold on, and take heart.

June 27, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 209: The Sign


The Sign

"For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger." (Luke 2:11,12 NKJV)

Shortly after my husband and I bought the house that would become our newlywed home, we discovered a plate in the sidewalk bearing the letter "S"—the first letter of the last name of the previous owner. Since we were on our way to becoming Mr. and Mrs. Spencer, we joked that it was a sign the house was right for us.

Sometimes, though, I have not been joking when I've asked God for a sign that something is right or that something is His will or that I should go one way or the other, make one choice over another.

God does not owe us any new signs. In one, magnificent Sign, God answered every question, settled every doubt, cleared up all confusion. Of course, just reading that sentence, you, like I, might be thinking, "Really? Because I've still got plenty of questions, doubts, and confusion." We would like more signs...new signs. This, though, is where faith stands in the gap. Faith trusts God in the storm before the calm, in the night before the morning, in the famine before the feast.

Still, in His generous grace, God desires to confirm Himself and His will to us. When we are standing at a crossroads or trying to decide between Door #1 and Door #2 or a "yes" or a "no," we can still look for a sign to help us discern which road, door, or answer is right for that particular season given the light we have to walk in at the time.

S ~ Does it sync with Scripture? God will never lead us away from His Word, so any "guidance" I think I'm seeing that takes me in that direction is a "road closed" sign.

I ~ Does it promote intimacy with God? I once heard a Bible study teacher say that if something will cause me to trust more in God, it's probably not from the enemy, because that's exactly what he doesn't want. The reverse seems true, too.

G ~ Does it make use of the gifts God has given me? God doesn't give us spiritual gifts just so we can leave them wrapped or stash them in the closet.

N ~ Does it glorify His name? If something I'm thinking of going ahead with will make God's name more known or cause people to see Him for who He really is, there's probably at least a "proceed with caution" sign attached to it.


And above all else, if the sign I think I'm seeing leads me to the Babe in the manger who is now my Savior, I hope I'll follow the shepherds' lead and hurry toward Him.

June 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 208: Living Stone


Living Stone

"As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ." (1 Peter 2:4,5 NIV)

God is so good at putting things together that at first sound discordant but which, under His skillful conducting, ultimately sing together in harmony.

Weak who are strong.

Poor who are rich.

Wounds that heal.

Death that brings life.

Stones that live.

In Jesus—the Living Stone—and in us as we follow His lead "like living stones," the animate is merged with the inanimate. We borrow from the stone's example—its steadiness and solidity—but add to it our aliveness.

The stones that are not living will cry out if God is not praised...but we, the living stones, can and must praise Him: "'Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!' Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, 'Teacher, rebuke your disciples!' 'I tell you,' he replied, 'if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out'"(Luke 19:38-40).

The stones that are not living cannot tell of God's past faithfulness...but we, the living stones, can and must remember and recount: "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far the LORD has helped us'" (1 Samuel 7:12).

The stones that are not living cannot move themselves to create safe and correct boundaries...but we, the living stones, can and must rebuild the ancient lines: "Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorer of Streets with Dwellings" (Isaiah 58:12).

And the stone that was not living could not roll itself away from the tomb, but Jesus, the Living Stone, can and did open the way from death to life: "But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away" (
Mark 16:4).

In that moment, Jesus settled Himself into place as the Chief Cornerstone for a spiritual house we are still called to be about the business of building. We, the living stones, build this house by doing what living things do: we breathe (the Breath of Life); we eat (the Living Bread); we drink (the Living Water); we grow (in the Sun); and we rest (in the Shelter).

If some do not understand what we are building, we remember the ultimate discord that turned into the most beautiful song: rejected, but chosen. 


And we sing on.





June 25, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 207: Living Bread


Living Bread

"I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats this bread will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51 NIV)

*Bread Recipe*

Basic ingredients:

1. Flour: the foundational building block of your bread.

2. Yeast: gives your bread its lift and rise.

3. Salt: for flavoring and preservation.

4. Water: hydrates your flour, activates your yeast, and brings all the separate pieces of your bread together into a cohesive unit.

Procedure:

1. Mix all ingredients together using a wooden spoon until a rough, shaggy dough forms. At this point, you will need to get your hands dirty. The dough must be kneaded. It must be worked and twisted and turned and pushed and pulled so that the strands of gluten (like invisible elastics) in the flour will be activated, giving the finished loaf structure and stability and resiliency. The dough will resist your efforts. It will want to snap back to its original shape, but keep at it. Kneading is not a process that can be shortened or skipped. It requires effort and patience, but the end result will be worth it.

2. After the dough has been kneaded, it must rest. Protect it with a cover during this rest so it doesn't dry out and put it somewhere warm and draft-free...a gentle environment for the yeast to do its unseen work.

3. Once the dough has risen, it needs to be punched down. It will look at though it has gone back to its unrisen state, but here again, unseen work has been done. It is further along than it looks at this point. Trust the process and deflate it and let it rise again. This will make the gluten strands stronger and develop the flavor of the bread. It will have more character and value.

4. Once the dough has risen again, gently turn it out onto a secure surface and form it into the shape you want to end up with. Let it rise once more while you heat your oven. It will need to be hot. For all the bread has gone through so far, if it is not subjected to a blast of heat, it will never be useful. It will never nourish and sustain.

5. Bake your bread until deep golden brown. Remove it from the oven and let it cool. Tempting though it may be to push it into service right away, it will be more useful and easier to handle if it has had time to rest.

*Living Bread Recipe*

Basic ingredients:

1. Flour of faith: the building block of your spiritual bread.

2. Yeast of praise: what will give your bread its rise and lift.

3. Salt of seasoning: flavors and preserves your bread.

4. Water of communion and community: fellowship with God and with other believers hydrates your faith and brings all the pieces of your living bread together.

Procedure:

1. Mix together your faith, praise, seasoning, communion and community. Living bread is just that—alive—so different proportions of the various ingredients will be needed in different seasons. When your faith is heavy, you may need more praise to lift it up. When it is dry, you may need more communion and community to hydrate it. When it is bland or going stale, you may need more seasoning to give it flavor and make it last. You can stir these ingredients together easily at first, but eventually, you'll need to get your hands dirty. Your living bread will require some muscle and effort. There will be pushing and pulling and twisting and turning required. Your dough will resist. It will want to spring back to its original shape. But keep working it. All your effort is activating the invisible strands of elasticity and strength that will give your bread its form and function.

2. Once your dough is formed, you need to protect it and let it rise. Patience will be necessary. The yeast of praise must have time to do its lifting work; it does not always happen immediately. And even once your bread has risen and looks ready for the heat of the fire, it is not. Painful though it may be to do, your dough must be punched down and deflated so that it can rise again, stronger and more flavorful. Once it has risen again, it is ready to be shaped into the form its Maker desires for it. At this point, it will be set aside for another rest. (Rest and waiting, as you can see, are essential elements of the bread-making process.) During this final rest, the oven is being prepared. High heat will be required, but if the bread is not subjected to this heat, it will not be suited to its ultimate use. It will not, in fact, be bread. It will be incomplete and unusable.

3. Finally, your bread goes into the fire. All the work that has come before has prepared it for this stage. And this fire is not intended to consume but to complete.

4. Once your bread has baked, take it out of the oven and allow it to rest again. Resist the urge to immediately put it to use. Be gentle with it. Portion it out wisely. Be nourished by it, and do not take it for granted. It has the power of life in it.



June 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 206: Living Water


Living Water

"When a Samaritan woman came to draw water, Jesus said to her, 'Will you give me a drink?' The Samaritan woman said to him, 'You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?' (For Jews do not associate with Samaritans. ) Jesus answered her, 'If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.' 'Sir,' the woman said, 'you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water?' Jesus answered, 'Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.' The woman said to him, 'Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water.' The woman said, 'I know that Messiah' (called Christ) 'is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.' Then Jesus declared, 'I, the one speaking to you—I am he.' " (from John 4)

The last time I had to haul water for drinking or cooking or washing up was the last time my daughters and I went camping with my parents. And even then, I just walked down the campground road to the water faucet a few sites away from ours, turned on the spigot, and filled my jug.

The easy accessibility to fresh, clean water most of us enjoy on a daily basis (and, let's face it, take for granted) deprives us of a certain level of understanding of the significance of water as it is used by the Divine Author as a recurring character in His story.

The woman at the well provides us with a telling example of just how significant good water and sources of it were. She has gone to get her supply at an uncomfortable time of day because the risk of running into other people is even more uncomfortable. She just wants to collect her water and get home without interaction or interrogation. Instead, she meets someone—Someone!—and a man at that who interacts with her straight away. She is leery and wants to hide, but at the mention of living water, you can practically sense her jumping up, shedding her reserve, and shouting, "Yes, please! Where is it?!" And into this opening created by basic physical need, the Living Water steps and meets deepest spiritual need.

The Living Water offered to this woman and to all of us, always, is not a stagnant, shallow pool; it is a deep expanse continually refreshed and renewed by a spring of goodness and mercy. But I know in my relationship with God, I often settle for the stagnant. I sing the same songs and fall back on past Bible study lessons and pray rote prayers and recite verses that come easily to mind. To be clear: these are foundations of faith, and when I am on shaky ground, they steady me and set me back on my journey toward whatever is up ahead with God. But I need to build on these foundations. I need to have my parched spiritual ground refreshed by the spring-fed Living Water. I need to sing new songs. I need to study new Scripture (new to me, that is...God's Word is complete and eternal as it is and always has been). I need to add to my Bible verse memory bank. I need to find new ways to worship.

I need to do all this new not for the sake of the doing or the new but because the Living Water is always meeting me at my shallow well and inviting me to come with Him to the pool of His provision. He's inviting you, too, my friends. Draw near, and drink deep.

June 23, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 205: Divine Hand

Divine Hand

"He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God." (Joshua 4:24 NIV)

One of the recurring equations in God's story is this: "I will __________ so that people will see/know/consider/understand that the hand of the Lord _________."

The first variable usually involves something God does: some wonder He works, some provision He makes, some problem He solves.


The working, making, and solving are not the end of the story, though, but the cause of God's desired effect: "so that" people will grasp some truth about God's hand: that it is powerful or that it is responsible for what has happened or that it is "on" them.

As modern believers, we have at our fingertips a record of these wonders, provisions, and solved problems: the Bible, God's manual for living.

It can hardly be a coincidence that the word "manual" stems from the Latin word "manus," meaning hand, because a hand can literally help us get a grip on God's manual. (And here I am indebted to a friend of our family for introducing me to this illustration from www.intotheharvest.org.)

Each finger of the hand, as well as the palm, leads us along toward being "a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). (Emphasis mine, because seriously: don't you love how this reinforces the theme?)

Starting with the little finger and progressing toward the thumb and then to the palm, we:

*Hear God's Word (Hebrews 13:7).

*Read God's Word (Deuteronomy 17:19).

*Study God's Word (Acts 17:11).

*Memorize God's Word (Psalm 119:9-11).

*Meditate on God's Word (Joshua 1:8).

*Obey God's Word (James 1:21, 22).

We do all this and do it again. And then, Word in hand, we fulfill God's "so that" and respond as He intended: "The hand of the Lord is on us! The hand of the Lord has done this! The hand of the Lord is powerful!"

June 22, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 204: Home


Home

"Lord, you have been our home since the beginning. Before the mountains were born and before you created the earth and the world, you are God. You have always been, and you will always be." (Psalm 90:1,2 NCV)

If God is our home—and He is—then home cannot only be about location—and it isn't. 

God as our home is so much more about presence than place.

As believers, we follow a long line of the faithful here.

Abram left His location because He understood home was about the blessing that comes from obedience to God (Genesis 12:1-4).

Ruth left her location because she understood that home was about commitment (Ruth 1:16,17).

The disciples left their location because they understood home was about following the Truth (Matthew 4:18-20).

Jesus left His location because He understood home was about relationship...and He was willing to make not just a down payment on the most glorious home ever but to pay the full cost up front and to purchase that home outright for any who desire to dwell there with Him.

Have you been away from Home for awhile? Oh, beloved, He's waiting and watching for you. 

You don't have to roar into the yard. You don't have to march up the front steps and bang on the door. You just have to turn into the driveway, even if you're barely off the road you've been on. The God Who Comes To Us will run out to meet you. His royal robes will be flying out behind Him like a welcome banner. He'll get to you with the speed of the lightning He commands. He'll gather you in His everlasting arms, pull you close, and whisper tenderly, "I missed you. I'm so glad you came back. Welcome home."

June 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 203: God Who Comes To Us


God Who Comes To Us

"They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they said. 'God has come to help his people.'" (Luke 7:16 NIV)

A few weeks ago, my younger daughter told me, "I have an idea for a name of God. You know how sometimes people will say, 'I'll meet you halfway?' That's not how God is. He doesn't make us come halfway. You should do a name about that."

I had indeed heard that expression...at its best, a genuine offer of compromise and cooperation. But my daughter is right: this isn't how God is. The God Who Comes To Us meets us where we are. He comes and gets us. He goes the distance. He does all the heavy lifting. In the "if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain 'move' and it will move" equation (Matthew 17:20), our contribution is the mustard seed of faith; His is moving the mountain.

This lopsided imbalance is the most gorgeous kind of grace. It is a grace that left heaven to come get us on earth. It is a grace that climbed a hill and a tree to come get us and bring us to heaven.

When my girls were younger and we were in a busy public place like an amusement park or grocery store, I always told them, "If we get separated and you think you're lost, just stay in one place, and I will come find you."

I believe Abba gives a slightly different version of that directive to His children. He says to us, "If we get separated and you think you're lost, just stay in one place. I do not have to find you: I already know where you are. I always know where you are. I will come to you."

June 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 202: Carpenter


Carpenter

"But in the next breath they were cutting him down: 'He's just a carpenter—Mary's boy. We've known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?' They tripped over what little they knew about him and fell, sprawling. And they never got any further." (Mark 6:3 MSG)

The Carpenter is at His wood bench. He has an idea for something He wants to make. He knows what He wants the finished piece to look like. He has a model He's working from.

The Carpenter lovingly and carefully selects a chunk of wood that's about the right size and sets to work.

He chips away at the piece of wood to hew it into the basic shape He has in mind. Then he planes and whittles and shapes it to refine it. He keeps checking His model for reference. He knows what He wants the finished piece to look like.

There are some rough places on the chunk of wood that have to be smoothed down. There are sharp edges that have to be curved. The wood has to lose some of itself so it can gain the shape the Carpenter has in mind. It has to give way to itself so it can be molded by the Master.

Finally, after a long time, the Carpenter looks at His creation. He is pleased with it. He treasures it. He cherishes it. He is satisfied that what He has made fulfills the vision He had in mind to begin with. He has always known what He wanted the finished piece to look like. He has a model He's working from.

The Carpenter checks His model one last time: He looks into the crystal-clear river of the water of life and sees His own reflection. He nods with approval. He has finished His creation. It looks like Himself.

June 19, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 201: Friend of Sinners


Friend of Sinners

"The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and people say, 'Look at him! He eats too much and drinks too much wine, and he is a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved to be right by what it does." (Matthew 11:19 NCV)

Jesus is a friend of sinners. 

Jesus is a friend of sinners.

The problem with being raised in the church (which is otherwise a blessing I hope never to take for granted) is that I can get so "used to" this truth that I miss how radical it is.

I can get to a point where I accept it as fact and forget how fantastic it is.

Jesus is and was a friend—a FRIEND!!—of sinners. Not just someone who tolerated them. Not just someone who paid them a little attention. But someone who befriended them. Someone who loved them.

The religious elite of Jesus' day had no idea how to truly be in relationship with God, and so they did what they knew: made and followed rules. People who broke those rules—the "sinners"—were outside their frame of reference for relating to God.

Then came Jesus, the rule-breaker who talked to "those people"! And touched them! And let them touch Him! And took part in the personal, intimate act of eating together IN THEIR VERY HOMES!

"'Justification by grace through faith,'" wrote Brennan Manning in "The Ragamuffin Gospel," "is the theologian's learned phrase for what [G.K.] Chesterton once called 'the furious love of God.' He is not moody or capricious; He knows no seasons of change. He has a single relentless stance toward us: He loves us. He is the only God man has ever heard of who loves sinners. False gods—the gods of human manufacturing—despise sinners, but the Father of Jesus loves all, no matter what they do. But of course, this is almost too incredible for us to accept. Nevertheless, by His mercy, we have been restored to a right relationship with God through the life, death, and resurrection of His beloved son. This is the Good News, the gospel of grace."

I read this, and I am shaken a little from my lethargy. I think, "Wow...it really WAS a big deal that Jesus was a friend to sinners." But then I hear God's voice taking me further.

"Elizabeth, don't you understand? Don't you see? The sinner I am a friend of is you."

Oh my friends and fellow sinners, hear God's voice speak that radical truth to you today, too...

"_______________, the sinner I am a friend of is you."

June 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 200: Only True God


Only True God

"This is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and the One You have sent—Jesus Christ." (John 17:3 CSB)

When I was in college, I worshiped an idol.

I bowed down to it. I gave it all my time, energy, and attention. I put all my hope on it. I believed in it to fulfill me.

My idol was not a shiny statue or any actual object. My idol was a number: the almighty 4.0 GPA...and I was fiercely loyal to it. Nothing else—not relationships with potential friends, not opportunities for service beyond myself, not peace or joy—mattered more to me.

I worshiped this god more than the only true God because I thought it could do something for me. I thought it would give me a sense of accomplishment and distinction...that I would not be just one of hundreds in my class but someone who stood out. I would have something to be known for. (And if you're thinking this reeks of that dangerous combination of pride and insecurity, you're 100% right.)

I realized the folly of my false worship somewhere along about spring of my senior year. With the 20/20 perspective of hindsight, I could see the stark contrast between my idol and the I AM.

When tested, false gods fail, but the only true God answers every question.

When tried, false gods wither, but the only true God surges.

When questioned, false gods stutter, but the only true God responds without hesitation.

When sought, false gods hide, but the only true God reveals Himself.

When called on, false gods are silent, but the only true God speaks.

Even as I was typing this post, God grabbed my attention with one sentence above: "I worshiped this god more than the only true God." It wasn't that I wasn't worshiping God at all; it's that I was worshiping my idol more. It wasn't that I worshiped my idol instead of God but that I worshiped it in addition to Him. The enemy was very happy with that arrangement: he takes the path of least resistance and grabs onto any piece of our loyalty he can get, because he knows that's all it takes to make our relationship with God less than it could and should be.

But God, whose name is Jealous, is not a God who settles. He is not just one good choice among many; He is the One and Only above all. And He wants all of us, because He knows that's what's best for us.

I know the enemy would love nothing more than to lull me into thinking my idol-worshiping days are as much in the past as the electric typewriter I hunched over for hours, writing college paper after college paper. But the temptation of new idols remains; I don't have to stray very far from my past to worship them in the present. There are new numbers I can bow down to: my bank account or online followers or likes on social media posts.

I need to keep being schooled by the lessons of my college days. I need to be on guard again the lure of idols I think can do something for me...and instead put my thoughts, time, energy, and affections on the only true God who can do something in me.



June 17, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 199: Arm of the Lord


Arm of the Lord

"Awake, awake, arm of the LORD, clothe yourself with strength! Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old. Those the LORD has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away." (Isaiah 51:9,11 NIV)

Have you spent some time in a pit lately? Or maybe you're in one now?

Maybe it's pit of regret. A pit of despair. A pit of hopelessness. A pit of separation. A pit of bitterness.

Whatever the specifics, a pit is a place our souls do not belong.

Sometimes, we're thrown into a pit through no wrongdoing or choice of our own. We have no say in the matter. Something is done to us or happens to us, and we find ourselves in a hole we had no hand in digging.

Sometimes, we're lured into a pit. We drag our feet at first, but in the end, we make the decision to sit on the edge, put our feet over the side, and let ourselves down.

Sometimes, we jump feet-first into a pit. We know it's a pit. We know we shouldn't. We know better. We do it anyway.

However we got into the pit in the first place, the choice is up to us whether we stay there or not. If we put our name on the mailbox and hang some pictures and arrange the furniture and get comfortable, we have made it our home, though our hearts can never be truly at home there. It is not where we belong. It is not where God wants us.

So out of the pit we must climb. Yet the walls are high and steep. We cannot get a good grip. We will have to have help from above. We look up from the bottom and cry out to God in conviction and confession, and over the side, He extends His strong arm, His powerful hand.

He does all the lifting; we must only grab on and hold on.

When sin has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His forgiveness.

When ignorance has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His wisdom.

When persecution has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His vindication.

When apathy has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His passion.

When depletion has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His renewal.

When heartbreak has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His healing.

When hate has landed us in the pit, the Arm of the Lord lifts us out with His love.

"My soul, praise the Lord, and all that is within me, praise His holy name. He redeems your life from the Pit; He crowns you with faithful love and compassion" (Psalm 103:1,4).

Dear ones, if you're in a pit right now, look up and see the Arm of the Lord extending down to you, eager to redeem your life and pull you out. Reach for His strong arm in faith, and then add your voice to the Psalmist: "The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I called to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I have been saved from my enemies. He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me" (Psalm 18:2,3,19).

June 16, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 198: Abba


Abba

"So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, 'Abba, Father.'" (Romans 8:15 NLT)

I didn't meet my dad until I was eight months old, on account of the war. We've been making up for lost time ever since.

Because my dad is who he is, I have an idea who Abba is.

Abba—an Aramaic word equivalent to our English "daddy"—evokes the image of a small child climbing onto the lap of a loving, caring, strong, safe father.

These are characteristics of my own dad, whom I often still call "Daddy," and I am so grateful for them and for him. I do not have to fight my past memories or my present realities to appreciate, cherish, and love this name of God.

Yet I understand this is not the case for everyone. I know this is not how it is for some of you, dear friends. For some of you, the image of Abba wars against the fact of a father who was absent or disinterested or worse...maybe far worse.

How my heart goes out to you. But even more than that, how God the Father's heart goes out to you.

He knows the track in your mind that runs on automatic repeat and distorts your image of Himself as Abba.

There is another father who wants that track in your head to run forever: the enemy of all that is good whose name is the father of lies (John 8:44).

But by the power of God's Spirit in you, Abba writes over that track of lies with His truth.

If the false track tells you a father cannot be trusted, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Covenant-Keeper.


If the false track tells you a father is selfish, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Giver of every good gift.

If the false track tells you a father will let you down, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Lifter of your head.

If the false track tells you a father will abandon you, the truth track tells you that Abba is the Rescuer.

Run to Abba today. Feel His strong arms pull you onto His lap. And hear His voice of truth telling you, "My child, my child...oh how I love you. All I am, I am for you."

June 15, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 197: Horn of Salvation


Horn of Salvation

"Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and provided redemption for His people. He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, just as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets in ancient times." (Luke 1:68-70 CSB)

Maybe it's because music is my second language, but when I first read this name of God, I immediately thought of a trumpet.

"Horn," though, as it is most often 
used in Scripture, refers not to sound but to strength. On a bull, for example, the horns show the power of the whole creature. These protrusions are what ultimately allow the animal to accomplish its mission, to defeat its enemies, to achieve victory.

This is such an important distinction, because I can blast at the top of my lungs that I want someone to be saved—from themselves, from separation from God, from trouble—but I do not have the strength to save them. I can make all the noise I want about eternal life for a loved one, but I don't have the power to make it happen. I can scream until I'm hoarse that a person I care about is being crushed by the weight of sin, but I don't have the muscle to lift that weight off them.

Jesus, though, has both the will to save us and the way to save us. He has the power to accomplish His purpose. He has the muscle to rescue us.

The Horn of Salvation is the strength of our salvation. And one day, the trumpet will sound this triumphant truth as it's never been sounded before:

"The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: 'The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever'" (Revelation 11:15).

Victory is His. Mission accomplished.

* * * * * *

Song suggestion: "The Trumpet Shall Sound;" from "Messiah;" George Frideric Handel; The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVxOf6Zok1I.


June 14, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 196: Peace-Keeper


Peace-Keeper

"You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you." (Isaiah 26:3 NIV)

I've read Isaiah 26:3 dozens of times and always bee-lined for the peace.

The other day, I ran across (or, rather, God steered me across) this verse again, but this time, I hovered over that third word: "keep."

"Keep" as it is used here has less to do with storing something and more to do with maintaining something. (Think of "keeping" a house.) It conveys present-tense constancy and ongoing attention.

God does not just take us to a point of peace, drop us off, and then leave us there to ration out that peace for the rest of our lives. Instead, He keeps refreshing our peace. He keeps tending to it. He keeps polishing it up.

But we have to do our part, too, and this is where I need to borrow from the King James Version of Isaiah 26:3: "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee." I love that word "stayed," which in other versions is translated "steadfast" or "fixed."

Improbably, when I was thinking about this particular word, my mind went to colonial women's foundational garments. (I told you it was improbable.) "Stays" were those boned contraptions that essentially kept everything in place and supported proper posture.

When my mind is "stayed" on my Peace-Keeper, it's going to be in the right place, with the proper posture toward God: upward-looking; reverent; worshipful.

There is one other hinge word in this promise of peace: "because."

"Because" in this instance is answering an unspoken "why." When there are so many reasons for my mind to be unsteady and so many places other than God where it could go, why should my mind be steadfast? Why should I "stay" it on God? The answer: "because" I trust in Him. Because I know I can count on Him to bear the full weight of my sin and my weakness and my incompletion and my neediness without dropping me.

This trust is not misplaced, because God is in fact fully able to bear my weight. If I "trust" in a decrepit, termite-eaten chair, I cannot blame it for falling apart when I lean into it; it is only doing (or not doing) what it's capable of. But I can trust God to keep my peace completely when I stay my mind on Him as a demonstration of my trust in Him.

I keep God in my mind. God keeps His peace in me.

Perfect.

June 13, 2019

When 18 Summers Are Over, This Is What's Just Beginning


My first baby is 20 years old.

She just finished up her sophomore year of college and is back home for the summer.

Clearly, she’s not a baby anymore. Technically, she’s not even a child anymore, even though she’ll always be my child, and she’ll always be a little bit my baby.

She’s a young adult, with her own life and her own schedule and her own job and her own habits and her own dreams.

According to post after post I’ve seen on social media, I’ve already burned through a lot of parenting real estate. I have a lot of mom mileage in my rearview mirror. 


I’ve used up the 940 Saturdays between my child’s birth and when she left for college.

I’ve emptied out the jar of 936 pennies representing all the weeks I had to raise this child.

I’ve had my turn at the 18 summers between when she was born and when she was considered “grown.”

I guess I’m supposed to feel done, somehow. I guess I’m supposed to feel like something has ended.

But I don’t feel either of those things. I’m sure part of it—probably a big part—has to do with the fact that she hasn’t completely moved out or moved away or moved on…yet. But I think the other part—probably the biggest part—is that during all those weeks and summers and Saturdays, I didn’t feel like I was counting down to anything. I felt like I was counting up to something.

I didn’t feel like I was emptying anything out. I felt like I was filling something up.

I didn’t feel like I was using up anything. I felt like I was storing up something.

I didn’t feel like I was losing. I felt like I was gaining.

A lifelong relationship.

Memories I’ll cherish forever.

Trust that goes both ways.

Time spent together by choice.

Joy. Pride. Encouragement given and received.

A friend who knows me better than almost anyone else but likes and loves me anyway.

A confidante.

Someone who worries about me sometimes the way I worry about her.

A cheerleader.

A gift to myself and others.

Gratitude for the past. Hope for the future.

All those years ago, I didn’t have a baby just to have a baby. I had a baby to bring a new life into my world and into the world at large—and to make both those worlds better. Which she has.


Over the first 18 years of that baby’s life, it was my job to teach her and correct her and train her and support her and guide her and provide for her. But the salary for all that teaching and correcting and training and supporting and guiding and providing is still paying dividends. In some ways, I feel like I just cashed the check and am starting to enjoy spending it.

The first 18 years my daughter’s life were only the first act of parenting. I hope there are second and third and maybe even fourth acts still to come. I hope there are summers and Saturdays and, if I counted weeks this week, pennies still to accumulate.

I know that in a lot of ways, I have to let this adult-in-the-making of mine go, even though she’s still here a lot of the time.

I know I have to let our relationship shift, as it should.

I know I have to step back and step away.

I know I can’t expect this summer to be like the first 18—even though every one of those 18 was different from the one before it anyway.

But for all the looking back I’m doing these days, I’m looking ahead, too.

For all the letting go I’m doing, I’m holding on to so much more.



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

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 195: Glorious Crown

Glorious Crown

"In that day the LORD Almighty will be a glorious crown, a beautiful wreath for the remnant of his people. He will be a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment, a source of strength to those who turn back the battle at the gate." (Isaiah 28:5,6 NIV)

There came a day when the Glorious Crown wore the most inglorious of crowns.

The roots for this crown were planted the moment Adam and Eve chose their way over God's way, and sin contaminated creation's perfection. Divine justice demanded this sin be dealt with, and so God meted out His right punishment, telling Adam, "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field" (Genesis 3:17,18).

The curse followed Adam and all his descendants along every road they walked until one day, its roots climbed a hill called Calvary, and its thorns—heavy with the accumulated sin of every person who had come before and the anticipated sin of every person who would come after—were woven into the cruelest of crowns and set on the head of the Glorious One.

The worst cruelty of Jesus' crown of thorns was not the piercing of His flesh with their sharpness but the piercing of his soul with our sinfulness.

Yet in wearing that crown of death, the King of kings purchased for us the crown of life.

"Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him" (James 1:12).

The crowning is coming, my friends. Keep on keeping on. Stand up for the test. Wait for your crown. It will be worth it, and it will be glorious.

June 12, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 194: Sower


Sower

"He presented another parable to them: 'The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while people were sleeping, his enemy came, sowed weeds among the wheat, and left.' Then He dismissed the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached Him and said, 'Explain the parable of the weeds in the field to us.' He replied: 'The One who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.'" (Matthew 13:24,25,36,37)

Everything I know about sowing, I learned from "Little House on the Prairie."

Specifically, I know what I know from the books series by Laura Ingalls Wilder and "Farmer Boy" in particular. In the chapter titled "Springtime," Laura describes her future husband working with his father at planting time:

"While Father sowed the grain, Almanzo followed him over the fields, harrowing the seeds into the earth. Almanazo could not sow grain yet; he must practice a long time before he could spread the seeds evenly. That is hard to do. The heavy sack of grain hung from a strap over Father's left shoulder. As he walked, he took handfuls of grain from the sack. With a sweep of His arm and a bend of his wrist he let the little grains fly from his fingers. The sweep of his arm kept time with his steps, and when Father finished sowing a field every inch of ground had its evenly scattered seeds, nowhere too many or too few. The seeds were too small to be seen on the ground, and you could not know how skillful a sower a man was, till the seeds came up."


Galatians 6:7 also has something to say about sowing: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." Of course, this is true teaching.

But thanks be to God, we often do not reap what we sow..and this is mercy. 

Thanks be to God, we often reap what He sows...and this is grace.

We sow sin, but the Master Sower allows us to reap forgiveness. 

We sow foolishness, but the Master Sower allows us to reap wisdom.

We sow weakness, but the Master Sower allows us to reap strength.

We sow the temporary, but the Master Sower allows us to reap the eternal.

With a sweep of His mighty arm, the Sower scatters seeds on His fields of faith. They are often too small to be seen at first, but the hand of the skillful Sower lets them fly evenly and perfectly, in just the right measure...and when what He has planted comes up, He gathers unto Himself a harvest of souls.


June 11, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 193: Potter



Potter

"Yet Lord, You are our Father; we are the clay, and You are our potter; we all are the work of Your hands." (Isaiah 64:8 CSB)

I couldn't think about this name of God without hearing the worship chorus "Change My Heart, O God" running like a soundtrack in the back of my mind.

When I read the story behind the song in "The St. Augustine Record" (https://www.staugustine.com/living-religion/2016-11-19/story-behind-song-change-my-heart-o-god), what struck me most was songwriter Eddie Espinosa's testimony that before he wrote the song, he had become "complacent" in his faith.

"I saw a lot of things in my life that needed to be discarded. I prayed to the Lord, ‘The only way that I can follow you is for you to change my appetite, the things that draw me away. You must change my heart!’”

Complacent. 


Comfortable. 

And as far as the enemy is concerned, safe.

I don't want the enemy to mark me as "safe." I don't want him to get comfortable around me. I want him to put me on the dangerous list.

If I'm going to be dangerous for God, though, I'm going to have to be willing to be remade over and over by the Potter so that just when the crafty one thinks he has me figured out, I'm changed again by the Craftsman.

Things are going to get messy. I'm going to feel like I'm being spun around in circles. It's going to be dizzying. Just when I think I'm the right shape, the Potter might press me down and start over again.

But think of a potter. Hands that are firm but gentle, intending no harm. Respecting and appreciating the medium—the clay—and simply wanting to form it into something beautiful and useful.

The clay's job is not to form itself; the clay's job is to yield to the heart and hand of the Potter. And that's my job, too.

"You are the potter,
I am the clay.
Mold me and make me,
This is what I pray.

Change my heart, oh God.
Make it ever true.
Change my heart, oh God.
May I be like You."

(From "Change My Heart, O God;" songwriter Eddie Espinosa; Maranatha! Music; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IlSmG-_eJTU.)




June 10, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 192: Understanding


Understanding

"Advice and priceless wisdom are mine. I, Understanding, have strength." (Proverbs 8:14 GW)

"I understand how you feel."

On my life's mental voice recording, I can hear myself saying this to friends who are hurting or struggling.

My intent is to both sympathize and empathize...to try to provide my friends with the "I'm not the only one" comfort I myself have received.

I believe my friends have known my intent, and yet no one can truly understand exactly how another person feels. No one except the One and Only.

Only Jesus can say, "I understand how you feel" without needing to sidestep or backtrack.

We say, "I'm hurting," and Jesus, who was wounded for our sake and not just physically, tells us, "I understand."

We say, "My friend has betrayed me," and Jesus, whose friend denied even knowing Him, tells us, "I understand."

We say, "I don't want to do this," and Jesus, who went to a garden to plead with His Father not to have to go to the cross, tells us, "I understand."

We say, "I feel so distant from God," and Jesus, who cried out to Abba from that cross and heard only silence, tells us, "I understand."

But here, as everywhere, what God knows is matched by what God does. Jesus not only understands, He undertakes.

He understands our loneliness and undertakes as our Friend. He understands our separation from God and undertakes as our Bridge to the Father. He understands our pain and undertakes as our Healer.

"His understanding no one can fathom," the prophet Isaiah definitively declares. Aren't you glad we can't fathom God's understanding? Aren't you glad it is so much bigger, wider, higher, and deeper than our human minds can possibly wrap themselves around? But at the same time, aren't you thankful we can trust His understanding? That we can pour out our hurts and hearts to God, hear Him say,"I understand how you feel," and respond with full assurance, "I know You do."

June 9, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 191: Refiner


Refiner

"I will bring that group through the fire and make them pure. I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘These are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:9 NLT)

"If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

I think this classic adage applies in a very small way to the life of faith. It is NOT (!) that God wants us to get out of it (faith, that is, not the kitchen), but that when we're journeying toward heaven, there are going to be some hot spots on the road.

I know this, and yet I always seem to be surprised at how hot my kitchen is getting.

"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).

"When you walk through the fire..." God assures us. 

When. Not if.

So, when—when!—God allows fires to burn in our lives, we can endure them with the confidence that He's up to something for the good of our faith.

Sometimes, God delivers us from our fires. He lifts us up and plucks us out of them. Done. At which point our faith is strengthened, especially when we do not forget that deliverance...when we never quite go back to normal life because we keep on being a little stunned and a lot grateful.

Sometimes, God delivers us through our fires. He gives us the provision and protection we need to come out on the other side. At which point our faith is refined...a tested, strengthened version of what it was before.

Sometimes, God delivers us by our fires into His presence. We stand before His throne and see Him face to face. At which point our faith is perfected. It is complete. It lacks nothing. We lack nothing.

I'm not who I was, on the other side of some fires I've been through. And I wouldn't want to be. The dross that the flame of God burned away—that inferior material that contaminated my faith—needed to go. I needed to look less like myself so I could be a better reflection of my Refiner.

Refine us, O God. Burn away all the pieces of us that don't look like you. Take us from, through, or by the fire to the place where we hear you, the Refiner, say, "These are my people" and where we, the refined, say, "This is our God."

June 8, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 190: Sanctuary


Sanctuary

"Thus says the Lord Yahweh...yet will I be to them a sanctuary." (Ezekiel 11:16 WEB)

When I read the word "sanctuary," I tend to think of part of a church building. But God is not limited by location, so there must be more to this description of Him than that.

God as our Sanctuary has less to do with place than with presence.

I was helped along in my understanding of this name when I broadened my viewpoint of sanctuary to something more along the lines of a bird sanctuary.

A sanctuary is protected...and God is the Protector.

A sanctuary is beautiful...and God is the Beautiful One.

A sanctuary is peaceful...and God is Yaheweh-Shalom.

A sanctuary is quiet...and God is the Quieter of His People.

A sanctuary is set apart...and God is the Holy One.

Do you need to sit a while in the Sanctuary today? I know I do. Maybe the place you'll find His presence is in your car. Maybe it will be a pew in a traditional church. Maybe it will be a blanket on the beach. Maybe it will be in the woods. Maybe it will be along a walking path. 

Wherever the place, while you're there, do what the people of God did in the sanctuary: worship. This could mean singing. It could mean speaking Scripture out loud. It could mean praying. It could mean mentally thanking God for the things He's made that you can see around you. It could mean journaling your journey. It could mean being still.

"I have seen you in the sanctuary," wrote David in Psalm 63.

Look for the Protector, the Beautiful One, Yahweh-Shalom, the Quieter of His People, the Holy One in your sanctuary, sweet friends—for this reason above all else: "because Your love is better than life."

June 7, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 189: Shiloh


Shiloh

"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff between his feet, until Shiloh comes. And to him shall be the obedience of nations." (Genesis 49:10 LEB)

When I sat down to make a list of 365 names (also attributes, titles, and descriptions) of God, "Shiloh" was not all that near the top.

Actually, it wasn't on the list at all.

I'd never even heard of "Shiloh" as a name of God until I came across it in a devotional book originally published in 1925 that my mom had given me "in case" it might be useful on our journey. (Thanks, Mama.)

In most Biblical references, Shiloh—known as "a place of rest"—is the town in central Palestine where Joshua placed the tabernacle (Joshua 18:1).

But in Genesis 49:10, we see Shiloh not as a place but as a person: the foretold person of the Messiah, the Christ.

As it refers to Jesus, "Shiloh" means "the peaceful one"—and now we hear, from our position on the other side of Jesus' earthly existence, an echo of the Messiah's own words: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9).

At this point, "Shiloh" requires some action of us, because Jesus is not supposed to be just a nice guy we admire. He is supposed to be the Redeemer we reflect. He is supposed to the the I AM we imitate.

I love the way this brings Shiloh the name and Shiloh the place together. When we strive to be "peaceful ones," we imitate the name of Jesus. And in so doing, we are used by God to make the places we spend our time—our homes, workplaces, churches—"places of rest."

Oh God, help us to be imitators of Shiloh. To Him, may our obedience be.

June 6, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 188: Resting Place


Resting Place

“My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray and caused them to roam on the mountains. They wandered over mountain and hill and forgot their own resting place." (Jeremiah 50:6 NIV).

If ever I needed a fresh example of the timeless, to-the-point power of God's Word, this Scripture from Jeremiah is it. How incredible is this? An ancient prophet spoke words that would have gotten the attention of the people of His day, yet they still arrest us now...thousands of years later.

"My people...forgot their own resting place."

I read this and think, "Yes. I have forgotten my own Resting Place."

I've tried to "rest" on my own accomplishments, on my reputation, on what other people think of me, on how good of a mom I am, on my plans, on my comfort zone—and the list goes on. I've followed other shepherds instead of sticking close to the Good Shepherd...the only One who can lead me to my true Resting Place.

If the opposite of forgetting is remembering, then I need to "remember" my "own resting place." I know I act on what I remember, so how would I act—what would I do—if I didn't forget but actually remembered my resting place?

Maybe during the Sunday sermon at church, I would wrest my mind away from my work for the week ahead and back to the Word being preached.

Maybe I wouldn't rush through my Bible study homework like it's a fifth-grade math assignment.

Maybe I wouldn't substitute looking good for God with looking for God.

I don't want to be a modern-day member of the "they" Jeremiah wrote about. I don't imagine you do, either. Let's insert our names into the blank—"_____________ remembered her own Resting Place" or "__________ remembered his own Resting Place"—and then ask God, "Make it true of me, O God...make it true of me."

"My faith has found a resting place—
Not in device nor creed;
I trust the Ever-living One—
His wounds for me shall plead.
I need no other argument;
I need no other plea.
It is enough that Jesus died,
And that He died for me."

(From "My Faith Has Found a Resting Place;" words by Lidie H. Edmunds, music Norwegian Folk Melody; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hccUVINhB1c; Don Moen, from "Hymns of Hope.")

June 5, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 187: Flame


Flame

"The LORD, the Light of Israel, will be a fire; the Holy One will be a flame. He will devour the thorns and briers with fire, burning up the enemy in a single night." (Isaiah 10:17 NLT)

One of my favorite fea
tures of the house my husband and I bought almost 20 years ago is that it came with a fireplace. And the fireplace came with a fireplace tool set. And the tool set came with a bellows...the wood-and-leather contraption used to feed oxygen to a fire.

I'm always amazed at how a little air can ignite a fire that's dying out. Of course, God the Flame never dies out, but I know I need to be constantly fanning the flame of faith in myself. As usual, my first stumbling block in doing this is remembering to do it, and the second one is being able to mentally access tools (like those bellows) to do it. So once more, I'm calling a mnemonic acrostic into action. (I do try not to bombard you with these every day, but I couldn't resist here. Of course, I didn't try very hard. Thanks for your grace, friends.)

F = Fellowship. As an introvert, this is a hard one for me, but I know that when I spend time with people who are on fire for God, my own flame gets ignited.

L = Love. (The action.) Faith on the inside often looks like love on the outside. What can I do today to show love to my people in a way that looks like love to them?

A = Ask. God is big on saying "yes" when we ask Him for things He's in favor of. His affirmative answer may not always be in the form or timing we have in mind, but when we ask for something He's already made clear He wants us to have
—like hot faith—His "yes" is a pretty sure thing.

M = Move. I've worked on enough wood fires to know that moving the logs around usually gets the thing going again. When my flame of faith is dying out, maybe that's the time for me to move some things around: my schedule, my habits, my thoughts, my choices.

E = Expect. If I'm asking God to fan faith's flame in my mind and heart, I need to do it with a mental posture of expectation and be looking for those flames to leap up.

Author Madeleine L'Engle wrote, "We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it."

Oh God, You are the eternal Flame. Fan the flame of You in me so that I might be for you a light so lovely that others are drawn to You, the loveliest Light of all.

June 4, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 186: Restorer


Restorer

"Restore us, LORD God Almighty; make your face shine on us, that we may be saved." (Psalm 80:19 NIV)

My husband has some clients who are painstakingly restoring one of the historic houses in the tiny village that's home to his business.

This project epitomizes the phrase "labor of love": my husband's clients—a long-married couple—are giving the project and its end product back to the community for its use and enjoyment out of love for the people who have been their friends and neighbors. They are pouring into it the powerful combination of passion and backing.

In the process of restoring the house, workers are renewing, replacing, refurbishing, and rebuilding. Some old parts of the house are being discarded entirely in favor of better versions. (The windows, for instance.) Other elements, like the woodwork, are being kept but are being given new life. The benefactors' goal is to transform the house into the best authentic version of itself.

God, our Restorer, also works on us as a labor of the most profound kind of love. He starts with our souls and works outward. He loves who we are to begin with, so His goal is not to toss all that we are into the trash heap. His aim is to transform us into the best authentic version of ourselves: the version we can only be with the passion and backing of the Creator who knows all the rotting or cracked pieces of us that need to be replaced, along with the parts that are tarnished or dulled from neglect and are crying out for the hand of the Craftsman.

Sometimes, God takes us down to our studding...down to the foundations of our faith and relationship with Him. Sometimes He strips off our wallpaper...the false facades that look pretty in polite society but are covering up crumbling walls behind. Sometimes, He polishes up hidden treasures...strengths and talents we didn't even know we had hidden in our closets that, once gleaming, can bring joy to others.

As with most restoration projects, when we're in the middle of the middle of the middle of the thing, not only does it not look or feel like we're being made better, it appears to all the world like we're being destroyed. We might feel as though we were better off before we let God have His way with us. If you're raising your hand just now, I pray you'll clutch tightly to faith in your Restorer. I pray you won't bail on the project before it's completed...before you're completed. 


God sees the final masterpiece on the other side of  all His labor, and He knows that if we let Him finish His work on us, what will be left standing will be a house that is, in fact, His home.