September 30, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 304: Surety


Surety

"This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens." (Hebrews 7:22-26 RSV)

The accused stands before the Judge's bench. He is wearing the clothing he was assigned when he was taken into custody. His shirt reads, "Debtor." In his hands, he holds a single piece of paper.

The Judge looks at him sternly. "We are here today in the matter of your debt."

"May I approach the bench?" the accused asks haltingly.

"You may," the Judge responds.

The accused moves tentatively toward the bench.

"Please," he begs the Judge. "Let me go. I want to be free. I promise I will repay my debt. I take full responsibility for it."

The Judge responds, "Your debt is very large. I cannot let you go until you have shown me some guarantee it will be repaid."

"It will be," the accused insists. "I have my account right here."

The accused lays his single sheet of paper on the bench.

"Here it is," he tells the judge. "This is the record of my debt and a list of all my assets. You can see that I will be able to repay what I owe. Please let me go free."

The Judge looks at the piece of paper and then back at the accused.

"This is not your whole debt," He tells the debtor. "This is only a small portion of it. The accounts of the rest of your debt are there." He gestures behind the debtor, who turns to see a table piled high with black ledgers in towering stacks.

"THAT is my debt?" he asks incredulously. "It can't be!" he protests.

"It is," the Judge says. "There are debts you've forgotten about and many you didn't even know you incurred in the first place. I'm sorry, but I wouldn't be doing my job if I didn't require a guarantee that all these would be paid back."

The debtor hangs his head. "There is no way I can ever repay all that debt. I'll never be free."

A door at the back of the courtroom opens, and a figure walks down the aisle. He is dressed in a robe on which has been inscribed "Faithful and True." He walks straight up to the Judge's bench without asking for permission. The debtor is astonished and waits for the Judge's reprimand, but none comes. The Judge smiles at the robed figure.

"It's okay, Dad," the Faithful and True tells the Judge. "I'll take care of his debt. I promise it will be repaid. I guarantee it. I take responsibility for it."

The Judge looks satisfied. "Alright," He says. "I will mark this debt 'Paid In Full.' "

Then the Judge looks again at the debtor.

"You may go," He tells him. "The Truth has set you free."

September 29, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 303: God of Our Nights


God of Our Nights

"By day the LORD directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life." (Psalm 42:8)

I've often wondered why God created us to need sleep. As the Master Designer, He could have ordained one long day after another and wired our bodies so that we just click along without fading.

Perhaps He did not make us this way because the God who Himself rested on the seventh day of creation (though not because He was tired but because His work was done) knew that unless He required us to rest, we never would do it. The fact that He formed us with this ongoing need tells us there must be something more than necessity to our nights. And not only to our literal nights, but to our spiritual nights as well. In both, there is regeneration, reorganization, resetting.

In our literal nights, our bodies' cells are regenerated, turned over, and renewed. I have zero medical background, but from my reading on this, I've gleaned that this regeneration can happen at night while we're sleeping because our bodies are not busy doing all the things of the day.

In our spiritual nights, we are also regenerated. Our faith is turned over. Damage is repaired. Healing is undertaken.

In our literal nights, our minds reorganize. I often tell my daughters that after they've studied hard for some test, sleep is not a waste. While they sleep, their minds are able to take all the information, facts, and understanding they've piled on it and sort it out, filing it away in the proper places. Like any good organizational system, this makes the information easier to retrieve when it's needed.

In our spiritual nights, our minds and souls reorganize. All the truth we know about God is like a giant stack of papers piled on our mental desks. In the nights of our faith, this truth gets sorted and filed so that we can more readily access, say, "hope" or "perseverance" or "peace" when we need it.

In our literal nights, there is resetting. Some of our bodies' mechanisms are returned to their factory defaults, as preset by our divine Manufacturer. We are powered down for a time so that, afterwards, we can be powered back up for another day.

In our spiritual nights, we are reset, too. In our waking, there comes a point when we are just spinning around a hamster wheel, trying to solve the same problem or deal with the same challenge. We are so deep into it that we cannot, as the saying goes, "see the forest for the trees." During the night, we cannot see anything and so we stop trying, stop straining our eyes...and then find, with the light of new day, that we can suddenly see what eluded us before.

The nights of our lives—physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional—are not just wasted space between our days. Night was created by the same God who made the day, and He called them both "good." 

And if, in our nights, we need a lullaby, He has given us one: "at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life" (Psalm 42:8b).

September 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 302: God of Our Days


God of Our Days

 "Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:1-3 NIV)

For me, this lovely passage from Hosea falls into the category, "Who knew this was in the Bible?" Maybe I'm the only one. Maybe everyone else has this highlighted in their Bibles. But when I came across it inadvertently the other day, I felt I was seeing something brand-new. I was immediately transported to another raising up on the third day
"so that" we could "live before him."

"He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again' " (Luke 24:6,7).

Yahweh is God of planning and purpose, and it always thrills me to see these traits reflected in His Word (as of course they would be). He is beyond time, so He can work within whatever earthly frame He wants, but Scripture is filled with accounts of restoration and elevation in three-day increments.

"Within three days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your position, and you will put Pharaoh’s cup in his hand, just as you used to do when you were his cupbearer" (Genesis 40:13).
“Go through the camp and tell the people, 'Get your provisions ready. Three days from now you will cross the Jordan here to go in and take possession of the land the LORD your God is giving you for your own' " (Joshua 1:11).

"So we arrived in Jerusalem, where we rested three days" (Ezra 8:32).

We don't want to get too locked into literal days here, naturally: "But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day" (2 Peter 3:8).

But as we're living our days in anticipation of the Great Day, we can find encouragement in God's process as exemplified by the events of three days that changed everything: Good Friday, Holy (or Silent) Saturday, and Resurrection Sunday.

On the first day, there was a tearing: Jesus' body was literally torn in two, and at the same moment, the veil of the temple—symbolizing the separation between us and God—was also torn. On our own tearing days, God may tear us so that what is separating us from Him can be torn, too.

On the second day, there was a testing: the test of the faith of Jesus' friends in what must have seemed like deafening silence from God, who had been speaking so loudly through His Son up to that point. On our testing days, when God seems silent, will we hold onto hope? Will we worship in the wait?

And on the third day, there was a triumph. The triumph of life over death. Of good over evil. Of righteousness over sin. Of love over all. On our days of triumph, will we glean these lasting prizes that are greater than any earthly gain? Will we allow the process of all three days—tearing, testing, and triumph—to change us forever?

Oh friends, if you're on a tearing day, look for what God is revealing to you of Himself on the other side of what's being torn. If you're on a testing day, hold onto hope while you're on hold. And if you're on a triumph day, give thanks and celebrate: you are not who you were.

Raise us up, O God of Our Days, that we might live before You.

September 27, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 301: God is Near (Elohim Qarob)


God is Near (Elohim Qarob)

"What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him?" (
Deuteronomy 4:7 NIV)

The places in my life where I most profoundly felt God's nearness were, without exception, the places where all other sources of strength and comfort felt most distant.

Of course, God had not gone anywhere. He was where He always is and always will be. When God seems far away, He is never the one who has moved.

When we are in empty places, His fullness feels nearer.

When we are in dark places, His light feels 
nearer.

When we are in needy places, His provision feels 
nearer.

When we are in grieving places, His comfort feels 
nearer.

When we are in thirsty places, His living water feels 
nearer.

And here's the thing: this heightened sense of God's steady nearness doesn't happen on the fringe of these places.

Daniel had to be IN the lion's den.

Joseph had to be IN jail.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego had to be IN the fiery furnace.

Jesus had to be IN the tomb.

In—IN—these places where every other kind of help and power seems (and is) distant, we recognize the big nearness of God. Again, He has neither shrunk nor moved. In these places, when we cry out to Him, He answers us, "I'm right here. I never left. I never will."


September 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 300: Planner


Planner

" '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 NLT)

God's plans are always forward-facing.

"The plans I HAVE for you," God says in Jeremiah 29:11. "Have," not had. 


The very word "plans" points ahead; we don't make plans for yesterday.

"Hope." This, too, looks forward; we don't hope in what has already happened. We might hope it has some outcome, but that result will lie in the future—the "future" being exactly what God says He plans to give us.

Yet while we're waiting on God's plans to unfold, there is (to state the obvious) the waiting. Sometimes this feels like when we're stuck at a standstill on the highway, with no obvious cause and for no obvious reason. How many times, once we're finally moving again, do we see nothing up ahead to explain the slowdown? Or we see some minor incident like a barely disabled car just off on the shoulder? The delay seems to have been nothing but a waste.

God's pauses, though, always have a purpose.

God's holds never hinder; they always help.

Lazarus was on hold to be resurrected...which helped the power and glory of God to be more fully on display and many people to come to faith.

Elizabeth was on hold to have the baby she longed for...which helped her be in a position to comfort her cousin Mary when the teenager's world had been turned upside down.

I was on hold to meet my future spouse after the man I thought I was going to marry broke my heart...which helped me meet the man who would capture and protect it forever.

With the clarity of hindsight, we can see so many examples in God's Word and in our own stories of holding patterns God used to help and not hinder. But sometimes, our vision is not so clear. Sometimes, we're on-hold in a way that never seems to end. Sometimes, we start moving again and find ourselves wondering, as if in that traffic slowdown, what the wait was for. 

These are the testing places of faith. God must be good and loving and wise and compassionate when we either don't see what He's doing or don't like what we do see—or He is not truly any of those things at all. And He is all those things (and infinitely more), so in these pauses that seem to have no purpose, we make our choice: to stay on God's road or try some detour of our own. I've taken unmarked detours before. They usually lead to bumpy back roads that eventually dead-end.

Oh, Master Planner, help us to stay on Your path...one that fully faces a future and a hope.

September 25, 2019

10 Things To Say To Your Teens When They're Stressed


About halfway through my college student's freshman year, I was text-talking to her one day when she was between classes. She was using the time to look for shoe boots online and was sending me pictures to get my feedback.

I was asking mom questions like “are they lined?” and “do they have grippy soles?” and then told her to send me the link so I could order them. A few hours later, I got a follow-up text from her that said, “I’ll send the link later.” 

Just. That. No exclamation point (“Hey! These shoe boots are going to change my life!”), no happy-face emoji (“I’m so excited that I found shoe boots that are going to change my life!”). Just the words.

My mom problem-radar, which has a 95% accuracy rate of detecting emotional distress, went into high alert, and I texted back, “Are you alright?”

One second later, she replied, “No. I’m so alone. I’m so stressed out. I think it was a mistake to come here.”

I LOVE getting this kind of message from my child. And by “love,” I mean NOT LOVE, because I HATE getting this kind of message from my child. I hate it when my girl is unhappy and there is next to nothing I can or should do about it.

I could have told her it would be okay. Because it almost certainly would be. (Spoiler alert: it was.) But over the years as the mom of one current teenager and one former teenager, I’ve road-tested a few other pieces of parental wisdom that seem to carry more weight and evoke less “you are so old and do not get how hard my life is” than the standard “it will be okay.” In quite particular order, they are:

1. I love you. The first thing because it’s most important thing. There’s a difference between classic and cliché, and this is classic because it’s the foundation for everything else worth saying. I’m saying it even though I hope you know it’s true without being told. I’m saying it even though you might give me an eye-roll in return.

2. Take a deep breath. Slow breath in, slow breath out. Repeat. You might have to fight yourself to do what feels like nothing when what you want to do is something, but the point is to hit the pause button and reset your racing mind and emotions so you can fix the problem, not feed it.

3. I’m already proud of you. How I feel about you does not hinge on how this test or this paper or this project or this semester or this game or this application or this interview or this audition or this try-out turns out. Entirely apart from any of this, I’m proud of who you are and of who you’re becoming. I’m proud of what you’ve already done and of the effort you’ve put into the doing.

4. This is not your whole story. Whatever is going on right now is not your entire life right now. And it is not all there ever will be to your life. This is part of your reality, but it is not all of it. There’s more to today and more to the future than this.

5. How you feel at this moment is not how you’re going to feel forever. (But go ahead and feel it right now.) I will sit with you while you give your feelings their due. But just know that you’re not going to be stuck here for the rest of your life. This is not your new normal. I know getting to the other side might seem like it’s taking an eternity, but at some point (probably sooner than you’re expecting), you’ll suddenly realize you’re looking back on this instead of staring straight at it.

6. Remember how you’ve gotten through tough times before. This isn’t the first time you’ve felt this way, and it won’t be the last. But so far, you have a 100% success rate of surviving things you thought you’d never get through. Don’t let this current struggle make you forget your past successes.

7. Just do the next thing. The next right thing you can figure out to do. The next thing that needs to be done. The next thing that seems wise and productive. The next one thing, not the next ten things.

8. Is there anything I can do to help? I know you have to figure this out on your own. I know I can’t do it for you. I know it’s not my job to fix it. But if there’s something I can and should do to help you get from here to there, tell me, and I’ll try to do it.

9. I’m here for you. I’m not going to check out of this situation. I’m thinking about you and thinking about it and thinking about you thinking about it pretty much all the time. Life is full of changes, but there are some constants you can count on, and my love and support are two of them.

10. How about some ice cream? Or a walk? Or a funny movie?

My daughter never did send me the link to those shoe boots. But later on her Very Bad Day, after we’d texted more and talked on the phone, I got this follow-up message from her: “as always, talking to you made me feel so much better.” 

Which is pretty much the best mom compliment I ever hope to get, on any kind of day.



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

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 299: The Way


The Way

"Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' " (John 14:6 NIV)

A child wants to see his daddy.

His father is a very important person. The child goes to the office building where his father works and tries to open the front door. But the door is locked, and he does not have a key.

Someone appears nex
t to the child. "I have a key," he tells the child. He puts his key in the lock, and the door swings open.

The child goes through the door. He needs to take the elevator to the top floor where his father's office is. But the elevator requires a pass code, and he does not have that code.

Someone appears next to the child. "I have the pass code," he tells the child. He enters the code, and the elevator doors slide open.

The child rides the elevator to the top floor. He gets off and makes his way to the double doors that lead back to the suite of offices where his father works. A uniformed guard is standing at these doors. He grimaces at the child. "You're filthy! You can't go to your father looking like that!"

The child's clothing is indeed filthy. It is black with dirt and is torn almost to rags.


Someone appears next to the child. He is dressed in layers of white, spotless and pristine. His top layer is a white robe. He tells the child, "You can wear my robe." He takes it off and puts it around the child's shoulders. The guard opens the double doors, and the child walks through. 

The child has almost made it to his daddy. He knows there is a long hallway he has to walk down to get to the door that opens into his father's private office. He rounds the corner to the hallway, but in his excitement, he bumps into a table holding an irreplaceable vase. It is one-of-a kind, of inestimable value.

The table wobbles, and the vase crashes to the floor, shattering into hundreds of pieces. The child runs away, down the long hallway leading to his father's office. He gets to the door and puts his hand on the knob, but another hand—a rough, forceful hand—pulls it off. An angry voice barks, "You can't go in there! I saw what you did to that vase. You have to pay for it."

The child begins to cry. "I can't pay for it," he says. "I don't have any money."

"You have to pay for what you've done," the angry voice tells him again. "You'll have to work off the cost of what you owe."

The child protests, "But no matter how hard I work, it won't be enough."

Again, the voice tells him, "You have to pay for what you've done."

Someone appears next to the child. "I'll pay for the vase. I'll pay what is owed."

Someone puts his hand on the doorknob and turns it. The door swings wide open. The child can see his father sitting at his desk.

"Go on in," Someone tells the child. "Your daddy is waiting for you."

"Do you know my daddy?" the child asks.

"Yes," Someone answers. "He's my Daddy, too."

September 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 298: Source


Source

"Christ did not honor himself by assuming he could become High Priest. No, he was chosen by God, who said to him, 'You are my Son. Today I have become your Father.' Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered. In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him." (Hebrews 5:5,8,9 NLT)

My family and I live in an old farmhouse. It has lots of character. What it does not have are lots of outlets. Which is why what it also has, besides character, are lots of extension cords.

We've got extension cords plugged into extension cords. We've got extension cords plugged into adapters that expand our outlets from singles to triples. We've got other adapters that convert our old two-pronged outlets into the three-pronged variety.

It's all an electrician's nightmare, but we do try to plug the big-ticket items like our window air conditioners (central air being another thing we traded for "character") directly into actual wall outlets. We want them hooked up as directly as possible to the main source of our power.

Jesus is the—THE—Source of our spiritual power. But too often, I know I try to hook up to Him via extension cords: fellowship with other believers; worship music; Bible studies; devotions; good works. These are all such good things! I believe they are appointed and blessed by God. They are the heavy-duty, grounded, professional-grade extension cords of the life of faith. But they are not the Source. They are akin to those gas generators that keep a few basic things running when the electricity is out: wonderfully helpful to have close at hand, especially during stormy weather. But to keep things really running along without interruption, we need to be reliably hooked up to the equivalent of a generator that is wired directly into the circuit board of a house.

We need to be hardwired into the primary Source of our salvation.

We access this Source through worship: our own, not dependent on other people doing it or leading us in it.



We access this Source through prayer: various forms, at various times, using various words and, sometimes, no words at all.

We access this Source through God's Word: opening our Bibles and asking God to teach us, independent of any other teacher.

And then there is one more thing we must do to access the power of this Source, and Hebrews 5:9 tells us what is it: "obey." To obey—to do what God tells us to do through His Word, to do what Jesus tells us to do through His example, to do what the Holy Spirit tells us to do through His prompting—is to flip the power switch and gain full access to the Source of our salvation.

And this is salvation by adoption, not by extension. This is salvation that plugs us into the family and lets us, too, hear Abba's words: "You are my child. Today I have become your Father."

September 23, 2019

Parents of Teens, Your Big Kids Still Need You . . . And That's a Very Good Thing



By the time I drag myself into the kitchen every weekday morning, my high-school junior is already sitting at the table, eating breakfast and starting in on her 64 ounces of total daily water consumption. This is after she’s gotten herself up via a two-level alarm system, gone through her daily stretching routine, and washed her face.

When I see her at the table, I always ask, “Do you need me to do anything for you?” And she almost always answers, “Nope, I think I’m good.”

For a while now, I’ve been training my children not to need me (much) anymore.

I’ve been trying to teach, advise, assist, and instruct myself right out of a job. I never was raising my babies to stay babies: I was always raising them to be future adults who would be able to care for themselves and others. (And also come home and visit me A LOT.)

And at the risk of sounding braggy, it looks like I’ve done a pretty good job of my job. (Actually, it’s almost entirely grace and the fact that my kids are wonderful all on their own. But I’ve tried to do my part the best I can.) 
My big kids are organized, determined, and trustworthy. They plan their own lives and manage those lives and generally run their own show. My role has shifted, as it should, from director to support staff.

But for all this independence, my children still need me. 

For all their independence, our older kids still need their parents. For all their independence, our teenagers still need to be nurtured, cared for, and looked after.

Our teenagers need us to do things for them, sometimes, that they could do for themselves so that they have time and energy to do the things only they can.

They need us to remember how hard it is to be a teenager and to love them through that hard.

They need us to be a safe place they can come back to and be built up again when life has worn them down.

They need us to speak truth to them when their peers and their own minds tell them lies.

They need us to comfort them.

They need us to cheer for them.

They need us to believe in them even when—especially when—they don’t believe in themselves.

They need us to show up.

They need us to listen.

They need us to let them vent without trying to fix anything. 

They need us to help their still-under-construction brains think further down the road than they’re likely to on their own.

They need us to be steady when their moods are swinging all over the place.

They need us to walk with them through heartbreak and disappointment.

They need us to pay attention.

They need us to advocate for them.

They need us to reassure them that at a time in their lives when so much is changing, the things that matter most stay the same.

They need us to love them unconditionally

I see lots of social media posts from young parents lamenting the day when their infants and toddlers and little kids won’t need them any longer. But I’ve found that in many ways, our big kids actually need us more.

And this is a good thing: all their lives, we try to show our kids they can depend on us to meet their needs. So when those needs shift from the frequently physical to the mostly mental and emotional, we can only hope they still feel they can count on us. The fact that our older kids need us—and in deeper and bigger ways even than they did when they were little—does not mean we haven’t done our jobs. It does not mean we have failed as parents. It means we have succeeded at building trust and relationship, and that feels like the most important job of all.



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

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 297: The One Who Is Able To Keep You From Falling


The One Who Is Able To Keep You From Falling

"Give praise to the One who is able to keep you from falling into sin. He will bring you into his heavenly glory without any fault. He will bring you there with great joy." (
Jude 1:24 NIRV)

When the lights came up on my daughters' dance recital two years ago, I sat in the audience, praying a two-word prayer over and over again: "Please God, please God, please God, please God..."

I knew something most everyone else didn't: my younger daughter had to strike and hold a tricky pose during that opening montage. A very tricky pose. A pose she'd fallen out of many times, including when she'd attempted it earlier that day. And when she'd tried it the night before at dress rehearsal.

Her pose was an elbow stand: essentially hoisting her entire body up and over her forearms. Her torso and legs were supposed to be elevated and curved so that her toes essentially hovered almost over her forehead. And she was doing this on a wooden cube from which falling off was a very real (and potentially injurious) possibility. And the costume she was wearing at the time had long, shiny, slippery sleeves which did not help her case with any sort of grip. And she was nervous.

So I prayed.

"Please God, please God, please God, please God..." Inherent in this was, "Please God, keep her from falling." Which He did. She got into position. She held her pose. Afterwards, as she danced, her beatific smile told a tale of triumph.

In real life, I often find myself trying to strike and hold a pose. A pose of faith, of wisdom, of patience, of endurance, of perseverance. Sometimes I'm not even sure what cube it is I'm balancing precariously on. Love, maybe, or commitment or hope. I only know I feel as if falling off is a very real possibility. I could falter in faith. I could make a foolish choice. I could lose my temper. I could slack off. I could quit the race.

In these moments, when I need the steadying hand of the One who is able to keep me from falling, sometimes the simplest supplication will do: "Please God, please God, please God, please God...." 


And He reassures me, "I'm here. I won't let you fall. Hold your pose. Then do your dance."

September 22, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 296: God Who Loves (Elohim Ahavah)


God Who Loves (Elohim Ahavah)

"The LORD appeared to us in the past, saying: 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness.' " (
Jeremiah 31:3 NIV) 

"Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things." (
1 Corinthians 13:7 ESV)

I’ve never forgotten one definition of “bears” I learned years ago around the women’s Bible study table: to “put up with.”

Oh, friends, is there ever some putting up with to be done on this earth: with ourselves, with our coworkers, with our spouses, with our children, with our friends, with our churches.

This is the stuff of real life, and yet as believers, we are called to something more than mere survival, more than just getting through each day. We are aiming at the goal of a love so radical, it has to come from the world’s only perfect example: the God who loves.

This God puts up with me all the time. I do not mean He merely tolerates me. Nor do I mean He overlooks or excuses sin. I do not mean He does not hold me to a standard. I do not mean He delivers me from all the consequences of my actions. But He loves me in spite my failings and my disobedience and my lukewarmness...in spite of myself. And, He loves me enough to show me something better.

On our own, we just get by (if that), but when we ask for the strength God gladly and lavishly gives, we can put up with what would otherwise undo us. We can believe when we would otherwise give up. We can hope when we would otherwise despair. We can endure when we would otherwise quit.

And so each morning as we get out of bed (whether by leap or by straggle), we can ask Elohim Ahavah to renew us in a bearing, believing, hoping, enduring way. And when we do, we can trust that His love-driven “yes” is at the ready.

September 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 295: Caring God

Caring God

"Throw the whole of your anxiety upon Him, because He Himself cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 WNT)

I'm sorry.

I tell my girls this when they're going through something difficult, painful, or troubling.

"It's not your fault," they usually respond.

And I say to them, "I'm not sorry because this is my fault. I'm sorry because what hurts you hurts me. I know I didn't cause it, but I'm sorry because of it."

What I'm trying to do—however imperfectly—is to model the compassion of Abba. The caring nature of God is on display time and time again in His story. I love how these verses, in particular, reveal so clearly that what hurts us hurts God.

On your behalf and my behalf, the tender heart of God is:

Distressed. "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" (Isaiah 63:9).

Dismayed. "When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 'Where have you laid him?' He asked. 'Come and see, Lord,' they replied. Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, 'See how He loved him!' " (John 11:32-36).

Dissatisfied. "As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, 'This is a remote place, and it's already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.' Jesus replied, 'They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat' " (Matthew 14:16).

Displeased. " 'I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering' " (Exodus 3:7).

Disturbed. "Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress...The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a light has dawned. You have enlarged the nation and increased their joy; they rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, as men rejoice when dividing the plunder. For as in the day of Midian's defeat, You have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor..." (Isaiah 9:1-4).

El Shaddai—God Almighty and all-sufficient—is sorry for our sorrow, not because it is His fault but because it hurts those He loves.

In the person of Emmanuel, He has walked among us and has been one of us, and so He feels what we feel.


God's heart is moved on our behalf because He is caring and compassionate. His hand is moved on our behalf because He is passionate and powerful.

Abba feels deeply about what troubles His children, but unlike us so often as human parents, He is not helpless to do anything about it. He is I AM. He can do anything He chooses.

He could—and did—redeem Israel.

He could—and did—resurrect Lazarus.

He could—and did—feed the hungry crowds.

He could—and did—free His children from slavery.

And He could—and did—save the whole world.

O my soul, bless the Lord.

"Bless the LORD, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name! Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy. As a father shows compassion to His children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust...But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting" (from Psalm 103).

September 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 294: The One Who Is Coming


The One Who Is Coming

"The Lord God says, 'I am the Alpha and the Omega. I am the One who is and was and is coming. I am the Almighty.' " (Revelation 1:8 NCV)

One of our family mottos is, "Looking forward to something is at least half the fun of it."

We milk this hopeful anticipation for all it's worth. We pull up pictures of places we've reserved for lodging and read all the reviews. We research what we'll do when we're there. We count down. We talk it up.

Of course we know the future is promised to no one. Of course we know each of us only has the current breath we're taking "guaranteed." Of course we know plans change. Of course we know anything can happen. But we are hoping, not assuming. It is a cautious looking-forward.

By contrast, every person whose name is written in the Lamb's book of life can look forward to certain future realities with bold confidence and unrestrained expectation. This is anticipation undiluted by uncertainty. I'd go so far as to say the only thing we don't know about these future events, other than the "when of them," is how incredible they'll be. With our finite minds, we can't truly know...but we can look ahead to them nonetheless.

We look forward to the day when "sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isaiah 35:10).

We look forward to the day when "there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain" (Revelation 21:4).

We look forward to the day when "joy comes in the morning" (Psalm 30:5).

We look forward to the day when we see clearly and know fully (1 Corinthians 13:12).

We look forward to the day when our living Redeemer stands on the earth (Job 19:25).

God is the One Who Is...so we are mindful of today.

God is the One Who Was...so we are grateful for yesterday.

God is the One Who Is Coming...so we are hopeful about tomorrow.

As a matter of fact, we are looking forward to it.

September 19, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 293: The One Who Was


The One Who Was

" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.' " (Revelation 1:8 CSB)

" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,' says the Lord God. 'I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.' " (Revelation 1:8 NLT)


I love the New Living Translation's version of Revelation 1:8 because of one word it includes that most other versions do not: "always." As in, "who always was."

God is beyond time. He is uncreated. He simply always has been. He is the Beginning and the End, but He Himself has no beginning and no end. I find this to be one of the many pieces of truth about God that I can't wrap my human mind around...which is fine with me, because I so very much need God to be beyond what my mind can comprehend.

God as "the One who is" reveals Himself to be God of the present. Yet the One Who Was is also God of the past. 


We're cautioned not to live in the past, and it is true we don't want to dwell there. Yesterday isn't our home.

We're told not to look back, that we're not going that direction—and it is true that if we're always glancing over our shoulder, we're going to stumble over what's in front of us.

Yet our past is part of our present and our future. 

Where we've been affects where we are and where we're going.

Who we were has something to say about who we are and who we're becoming.

We can't just brush our history aside as if it has no weight, yet with God, our history becomes part of His story. He takes our lessons and transforms them into wisdom. He takes our pain and transforms it into purpose. He takes struggles and turns them into victories. 

I'm so thankful that, because the Almighty has worked on me, I'm not who I was. And I'm so hopeful that, because the Almighty is still working on me, I'm not who I'm going to be. 

September 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 292: The One Who Is


The One Who Is


" 'I am the Alpha and the Omega,' says the Lord God, 'the One who is, who was, and who is coming, the Almighty.' " (Revelation 1:8 CSB)

God is a present-tense God. A 
here-and-now God. 

The One Who Is made that perfectly, profoundly clear in one of the all-great conversations in the Bible (summarized here very loosely from Exodus 3):

God: "Moses, go get my people out of slavery in Egypt."

Moses: "I'm not the right guy for the job."

God: "Don't worry about it. I'll be with you."

Moses: "What if people ask who sent me? What if they want a name? What do I tell them then?"

God: "I'll tell you what you tell them: you tell them 'I AM is His name.' "

Basically, God's answer to Moses' question, "Who am I that I should do this?" is, "Never mind who you are. This is about who I am. And who I am is I AM."

I AM. Present, ongoing, unending. God of today, of right now.

"I am your shield" (Genesis 15:1).
"I am with you" (Isaiah 41:10).
"I am keeping watch" (Zechariah 9:8).
"I am your salvation" (Psalm 35:3).

And on and on the I AM is.

Because the One Who Is is beyond time and in charge of time, He also was and will be. God balances this flawlessly...but I have a hard time with it. My natural bent is to dwell (literally, camp out or pitch my tent) in the past or worry (fret, be anxious over) the future.

The One Who Is shows me the waste of this. If I throw away today because of what happened—or didn't happen!—yesterday or because of what might happen—or not happen!—tomorrow, I forfeit the gift of right now.

"This is the day the Lord has made," the psalmist declares (Psalm 118:24). THIS. Not, "yesterday was the day the Lord made" (even though He did). Not, "tomorrow is the day the Lord will make" (even though He will, if He chooses to tarry). "This is the day."

And what are we supposed to do with "this" day? God's great instruction manual provides a response that is both intentional and uncircumstantial.

"We will," rather than "we might" or "we should." 

And, "rejoice and be glad in it"—not necessarily about everything the day holds but in everything the day holds.

In this day...that the One Who Is has made...we will rejoice and be glad.

September 17, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 291: The Name


The Name

"Now the son of an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father was among the Israelites. A fight broke out in the camp between the Israelite woman's son and an Israelite man. Her son cursed and blasphemed the Name, and they brought him to Moses." (Levititus 2: 10, 11a CSB)

"God also said to Moses, 'Say this to the Israelites: Yahweh, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is My name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.' " (Exodus 3:15 CSB)


Don't you just love the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah in the fiery furnace?

If you're thinking "huh?" right about now, you're not alone. This trio is more familiarly known to us as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They, along with Daniel-renamed-Belteshazzar, are four of the leading players we meet in the drama that unfolds in Daniel's namesake book.

Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and Daniel are the quartet's given Hebrew names. Each contains a reference to the Lord God: to "El" or "Yah." Hananiah means, "Yah has been gracious." Mishael means, "Who is what God is?" Azariah means, "Yah has helped." And Daniel means, "God is my judge." In freedom and at home with God, these faithful men carried pieces of the one true God with them. And they clung to these pieces of freedom and home even when they were taken captive and exiled to Babylon. There, they were assigned new names intended not only to change what they were called but their very identities; each of their Babylonian names contained a reference to a false god. King Nebuchadnezzar's intent was to cause them to forget who—and Whose—they were.

And yet they did not forget. They did not bow. They did not shift their allegiance. They did not trade in their God-given identities. 
They remained faithful to the Name.

In our own seasons of captivity and exile, we might give ourselves or be given new names as well.

Condemned.

Hopeless.

Broken.

Lost.

Incomplete.

Yet when we remember who and Whose we really are—when we remember that we bear the name of the Name—we can boldly reclaim our identifies as people who are free and at home with God.

Redeemed.

Hopeful.

Healed.

Found.

Whole.

To the Name whose name we bear, in the fire or in freedom, may we be forever faithful.

September 16, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 290: Sure Foundation


Sure Foundation

"He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure." (Isaiah 33:6)

Imagine "your times" are a house. In it are all the things and people you love, your work, your rest, your valuables, your activities, your comings and goings...your life.

This house sits on a sure foundation. Yahweh. The Lord. The Rock. As the stability for the house of your times, He is steady, unshakable, firm, reliable, solid.

Built into this Sure Foundation is a locked box...a treasure chest, if you will. It is protective and safe. It is fireproof...when the flames of life burn hot. It is windproof...when the storms of life blow fiercely. It is waterproof...when the rains of life pour down.

This locked box contains a "rich store" of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. It is so rich and valuable a store that the box must be locked to safeguard its contents. A key is needed to unlock this box, and there is only one that fits.

We cannot force our way into this locked box with the sledgehammer of our own pride and will. Neither can we jimmy it open with some flimsy paperclip of our good works and righteousness. Only the strong, perfectly shaped key of reverential, respectful fear of the I AM will gain us access to the valuable contents of this box.

And so we open the box with the key of our fear of the Lord. We gain access to the treasure. All around our house, fire, wind, and rains of uncertainty and trials burn, blow, and pour. But the house of our times—enriched with the rich store of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge and built on the sure foundation of God Almighty—feels like home.

September 15, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 289: God Who Is To Be Feared


God Who Is To Be Feared

"Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you." (1 Samuel 12:24 NIV)


"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

Awhile back, my teenager asked me, "What does it mean in the Bible when it says I am 'fearfully and wonderfully made'?" (Psalm 139:14).

I understood her confusion. After all, fear in the Bible is both prescribed and proscribed. It is encouraged and discouraged. It is required and restricted.

After some hemming and hawing, I told my daughter that fear as it is used in Scripture often refers to awe, respect, and reverence. It can mean to hold something in proper esteem. The fact that I am "fearfully made" tells me God formed me with respect for His own creation...that He had reverence for the important work He was doing...that He gave value to my life...that He was deliberate and careful.

When God says, "Do not fear," He is telling us not to give something our respect, our awe, our reverence. When He tells us to fear Himself, He is telling us to give that respect, awe, and reverence to Him.

Do not fear shaky ground: fear the Stability of Your Times. Do not fear the enemy; fear the Lord of Heaven's Armies. Do not fear death; fear the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Do not fear the unknown; fear the God Who Knows.

There is misplaced fear, and there is well-placed fear.

Misplaced fear is fear that binds. It enslaves us. It ties us up. It limits us. It clenches our fists.

Oh, but well-placed fear is fear that frees. It releases us. It loosens our knots. It opens our hands so we can lift them in worship to the God we reverence...the God who made us "fearfully and wonderfully," on purpose, for a purpose.


September 14, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 288: Supplier


Supplier

"And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen." (Philippians 4:19,20 NLT)

What do you need?

If someone asked you that question out of the blue right now, how would you answer?

What do you need?

A nap? A vacation? Chocolate? A break? Help? Prayer?

Most of our physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional needs can be filed under one of three broad headings:

1) We need guidance.

2) We need reference.

3) We need sustenance.

In other words, we need a way, we need truth, and we need life. And in Jesus—the Way, the Truth, and the Life—our Supplier has met each of these needs. And His is not just some barely-there, drop-in-the-bucket, token meeting of needs, either; it's open-up-heaven, give-us-His-Best, full and faithful supply.

When we need guidance, Jesus the Way shows us the road to take: the way of love, the way of worship, the way of prayer, the way of forgiveness, the way of servanthood.

When we need a reference point, Jesus the Truth paints bold strokes of black and white in a world that is increasingly gray. Yet He does it with wide compassion and tenderness.

When we need sustenance, Jesus the Life nudges us to check whether we've eaten the Bread of Life lately or taken a long drink from the fountain of Living Water.

"What do you need?" the Supplier asks.

"I need You," we tell Him. "And in You and with You, I lack nothing."

September 13, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 287: Revealer of Mysteries

Revealer of Mysteries

"The king asked Daniel (also called Belteshazzar), 'Are you able to tell me what I saw in my dream and interpret it?' Daniel replied, 'No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come.' " (Daniel 2:26-28a NIV)

"It's a mystery to me."

Sometimes we say this in our family...but it's usually about mysteries a lot less profound than a prophetic dream.

I love Daniel's response to the king's confusion about his nocturnal disruption: Daniel told the king exactly who couldn't explain it AND pointed him to the One who could.

I see two responses to this lesson that I need to get going on straight away.

First, when I am pondering some "mysteries" in my own life, I need to intentionally shift my thoughts toward the One who can solve them.

I don't know why this is happening...but there is a God in heaven who does.

I don't know how this is all going to turn out...but there is a God in heaven who does.

I don't know when things are going to change...but there is a God in heaven who does.

I don't know how I'm going to get through this...but there is a God in heaven who does.

One of the many facets of God's perfection is that not only does He know the when, why, and how of everything, He IS the when, why, and how. He is the timing. 
He is the reason. He is the provision. He doesn't just have an answer to my questions, He IS the answer. He doesn't just know the meaning behind my mysteries, He IS the meaning.

Which leads me to my second response: to the point where everything else is stripped away, and I simply declare, "I don't know ___________. But I do know this: there is a God in heaven."


September 12, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 286: Willing Spirit


Willing Spirit

"Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit." (Psalm 51:12 NAS)

My second and last baby just got her driver's license, and suddenly she has lots of errands she needs to run. 


Last weekend, she "needed" to go into town (as we country folk call it) to get lip balm. She came home from her errand very satisfied with her lip balm but very dissatisfied about something that had happened while she was out.

She told me that when she was at a light, getting ready to pull out onto a main road that would lead her toward home, she saw a woman standing on the corner of the intersection. We often see men and women positioned there, holding up signs seeking food or money, and my daughter always notices them. She told me, "I just felt convicted that I should do something." She pulled (safely) into the fast-food restaurant that was easily accessible from the lane she was waiting in and went in to buy a gift card. But they were out. "I was so disappointed," she told me. "I really wanted to be able to give her one."

"Honey," I told her, "I can understand your disappointment, and I'm sorry things worked out that way. But don't you see? You responded to the Spirit's prompting. You obeyed. You had a willing spirit when God convicted you. That was already a win."

This is how it goes, sometimes, when the Willing Spirit convicts our spirits toward action. We want to see the story play out. We want to see a victory...not for ourselves, but for someone else. But when the Spirit prompts us to act, our job is obedience, not the outcome. Our job is response, not the result. This Spirit sustains us, keeps us moving forward, keeps us running the race.

On our page of our own stories as written by the Willing Spirit, faith is the victory. Obedience is the victory. Response is the victory.

And the favor of the Father—"well done, good and faithful servant"—is our prize and crown. 

September 11, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 285: Lord of Hosts


Lord of Hosts

"For thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Once more in a little while, I am going to shake the heavens and the earth, the sea also and the dry land. I will shake all the nations; and they will come with the wealth of all nations, and I will fill this house with glory,' says the LORD of hosts. 'The silver is Mine and the gold is Mine,' declares the LORD of hosts. 'The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former,' says the LORD of hosts, 'and in this place I will give peace,' declares the LORD of hosts." (Haggai 2:6-9 NASB)

"Lord of hosts" is not referring to God as the world's best party planner...although Scripture does seem to indicate He's got a pretty spectacular wedding banquet in the works.

"Lord of hosts"—the English translation of the Hebrew "Yahweh Sabaoth"—names God in His role as Commander of all the angelic forces.

The Hebrew root for Sabaoth, "tsaba," refers to people gathering together. Set into a divine context, a gathering—a "company"—of these hosts led some shepherds in song one night: "Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests' " (Luke 2:14).

Often, "tsaba" specifically references people gathering for war, and the Lord of hosts' armies do gather for war at His command and on our behalf. It's just that we have a hard time seeing them with earthly eyes. We are in good fellowship here, though, because one of the most fascinating stories from the Bible recounts a time when the servant of one of God's own prophets needed a little supernatural eye-opening.

"When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. 'Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?' the servant asked. 'Don’t be afraid,' the prophet answered. 'Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.' And Elisha prayed, 'Open his eyes, LORD, so that he may see.' Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:15-17).

With earthly eyes, the prophet Elisha's servant saw human forces surrounding the city. But when God cleared his vision, he saw other forces. Angelic forces. The hosts of heaven, led by their Leader and Lord. And the servant knew the truth of Elisha's confident declaration: “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kings 6:16).

Let's ask God to open our eyes. Let's see the hills around us full of warriors under the command of the Lord of hosts, all fighting for us, His beloved. And then let's take a jab at the enemy with our sword of the Spirit: "Those who are with us are more than those who are with you!" 

September 10, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 284: Yahweh-Sabaoth



Yahweh-Sabaoth

" 'From the nations where the sun rises to the nations where the sun sets, my name will be great. Incense and pure offerings will be offered everywhere in my name, because my name will be great among the nations,' says Yahweh Tsebaoth." (Malachi 1:11 Names of God Bible)

For a long time, I thought "Lord of the Sabbath" and "Lord Sabaoth" were the same. Every time we sang "Lord Sabaoth, His name" in the great hymn "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" in church, I thought we were singing about the Lord of the Sabbath. I assumed "Sabbath" was just an English translation of the Hebrew "Sabaoth."

Now, thanks to the guidance of our great Teacher, I understand they are entirely different names of God.


And yet, I still see in them a profound connection.

The Lord of the Sabbath is the God of "rest": of restoration and renewal; of a ceasing of labor; of comfort; of the relaxing of a burden.

Yahweh-Sabaoth is a name of God translated several ways, including:

  • Jehovah of hosts (ESV)
  • Lord of heavenly forces (CEB)
  • ADONAI-Tzva'ot (CJB)
  • Lord of Hosts (CSB)
  • Lord Almighty (GNT)
  • God-of-the-Angel-Armies (MSG)
  • Lord All-Powerful (NCV)
When we put our trust in Yahweh-Sabaoth to fight for us and bring us out on the winning side of a battle, we enter into the comfort and renewal of the Lord of the Sabbath. 

Faith in Yahweh-Sabaoth—the all-powerful Lord of all the angelic armies of heaven—is what allowed David to rest in confidence when he was facing a giant. Faith in Yahweh-Sabaoth is what allows us to rest in confidence when we're facing our own giants.

This is not the rest of the tired. It is the rest of the triumphant.



September 9, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 283: Lord of Heaven's Armies


Lord of Heaven's Armies

" 'Who is this pagan Philistine anyway, that he is allowed to defy the armies of the living God?' Then David’s question was reported to King Saul, and the king sent for him. 'Don’t worry about this Philistine,' David told Saul. 'I’ll go fight him!' Saul finally consented. 'All right, go ahead,' he said. 'And may the LORD be with you!' Then Saul gave David his own armor—a bronze helmet and a coat of mail. David put it on, strapped the sword over it, and took a step or two to see what it was like, for he had never worn such things before. 'I can’t go in these,' he protested to Saul. 'I’m not used to them.' So David took them off again. He picked up five smooth stones from a stream and put them into his shepherd’s bag. Then, armed only with his shepherd’s staff and sling, he started across the valley to fight the Philistine. Goliath walked out toward David with his shield bearer ahead of him, sneering in contempt at this ruddy-faced boy. 'Am I a dog,' he roared at David, 'that you come at me with a stick?' David replied to the Philistine, 'You come to me with sword, spear, and javelin, but I come to you in the name of the LORD of Heaven’s Armies—the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. Today the LORD will conquer you...and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel! And everyone assembled here will know that the LORD rescues his people, but not with sword and spear. This is the LORD ’s battle, and he will give you to us!' " (1 Samuel 17:26, 32, 37, 38-43, 45-47 NLT)

Picture the scene in your mind: the giant Goliath is a fierce and feared warrior, experienced in battle and armed for it. He is ruthless and terrifying. No one dares defy him, save one bold but ill-prepared volunteer: not a man, even, but a mere boy who is neither experienced nor armed.

When Goliath looks at David, what he sees with his human eyes is a shepherd boy, all alone, equipped only with a sling, a staff, and some stones. But what David sees with spiritual eyes of faith is a willing servant of the Lord Most High, advancing against a foe not by himself but in the company of an army of heavenly warriors led by Yahweh-Sabaoth, the Lord of Hosts.

David knows it is not he himself Goliath has defied; it is God he has defied. David knows it is not he himself who will conquer the giant; it is God who will conquer. David knows it is not he himself who will rescue God's people; it is God who will rescue. David knows it is not his battle he is fighting; it is God's battle—and the Lord of Heaven's Armies will fight...and win.

You might be facing a giant today. It might look big and impressive...fearsome, armed, and experienced in battle. When this giant looks at you, it might see only a lone opponent, unprepared and unarmed. When you look at yourself facing this giant, that might be all you see, too. 


But look again. Look with spiritual eyes that are focused by faith. See yourself being carried along by a company of divine warriors, sent by their Leader who calls you His child, and tell this giant, "I come to you in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Today the Lord will conquer you."


*   *   *   *   *   *
Song suggestion: "Whom Shall I Fear [God of Angel Armies];" Chris Tomlin; 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOkImV2cJDg.

September 8, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 282: Lord of the Sabbath


Lord of the Sabbath

"Then Jesus said to them, 'The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.' " (Luke 6:5 NIV)

Dear friends, I have to tell you: I did not really want to write about this name of God.

It wasn't because I don't "like" it. It's because I didn't know what to do with it.

When I think of Sabbath, I think not doing. And in our do-more, be-more, have-more culture, not doing feels unfamiliar and uncertain.

But of course this is all the more reason to consider this name and what it means for you and me in the middle of our everyday lives.

Sabbath means "rest," and the various Hebrew and Greek words that our English translations render as "Sabbath" convey such meanings as "ceasing or coming to an end of activity," "being settled down," "finding tranquility," "to calm," "to comfort," "to refresh," and "a rest that comes from freedom or from the relaxation of a burden" ("New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words," Lawrence O. Richards).

Against this backdrop, here are four observations about the Sabbath from Scripture...threads you might want to weave into your own day of rest.

1. God rested on the seventh day of creation because He had completed His work; we rest so we can continue ours. "By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work" (Genesis 2:2). 


As long as God allows our lives on this earth to continue, He will always have something else for us to do. But we cannot keep doing if we're running on empty tanks; our reservoirs of energy and passion and commitment need to be regularly refilled, and a Sabbath—"ceasing" our ongoing activity for a time—is one way to do that.

2. A Sabbath day is a set-apart day. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy" (Exodus 20:8). 


"Holy" means set apart for some sacred use. Other than God (who is holy not because He is set apart for but because He is set apart from), "holy" objects, people, days, etc. are ordinary on their own but become "holy" because they are reserved for God's use. God, of course, is a 24/7/365 kind of God, and every day of the week belongs to Him. But to keep a certain day holy implies that we reserve it for sacred use. We do things, maybe, that we don't do other days. Or perhaps we don't do things that day that we do do other days.

3. Sabbath rest is meant to renew. "But in the seventh year the land is to have a year of sabbath rest, a sabbath to the LORD. Do not sow your fields or prune your vineyards
" (Leviticus 25:4).

God prescribed a dormant season for His people's fields and vineyards for the same reason He commanded a Sabbath for His people: to give them—the fields, the vineyards, and the people—time to be renewed. Time to allow life deep within soil and souls to be replenished.

4. The Sabbath is not about restrictions; it's about restoration. It is not about rules; it's about relationship. "Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to bring charges against Jesus, they asked him, 'Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?' He said to them, 'If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a person than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.' Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other" (Matthew 12:9-13).

The Pharisees, who liked to make rules where there didn't need to be any, put restrictions on the Sabbath and, as usual, missed the entire point of relationship with God. But, also as usual, Jesus went a different, radical way. He cared for people. He showed them their value. He brought new life. He made whole. We can ask God to do this for us, too—not only the Sabbath but maybe in a special way on the Sabbath. And then out of our restored, renewed, refreshed selves, we can follow Jesus' lead...and do good.

God, in all my striving, let there also be ceasing. In all my running, let there also be resetting. In all my doing, let there also be devotion. And in Your rest, may I be reminded that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath, and the Lord of the Sabbath is Lord of all.