November 30, 2019

Thank You, Thank You, Thank You . . . And, What's Next?

Thank you, thank you, thank you, sweet friends, for coming along with me on the 365 Days of the Great Names of God journey! I am so grateful for your companionship, encouragement, and faithfulness along the long way. He is the Beginning and the Amen and so many riches in between, which we will explore and extol—but never exhaust—forever. 

That journey and the accompanying daily posts have reached an end with the Amen, but I am planning (at my mama's request order) to compile the names into a book. I'm hoping to figure out the complexities of self-publishing and have that available in April. And I'm not going anywhere with this blog! I'll still put up posts from time to time on "faith, family, food...and, ocassionally, some funny."

I also want to invite you to join me, if you're interested, for an Advent series starting December 1 on my Guilty Chocoholic Mama Facebook page. I'll be reprising 25 of the names of God from the 365-day series that are specific to Jesus. (And if you're not on Facebook but would like to receive the posts, feel free to email me at, and I'll send them to you each day.)

Advent is a Latin word that means "to keep coming closer." Advent as a season leading up to Christmas is a time of expectation, invitation, and preparation.

One of my favorite ways to come closer to God is through His names, and so for the days leading up to Christmas, I'm going to try to put a name of Jesus at the forefront of my easily distracted mind.

If you could use some expectation, invitation, and preparation yourself, I'd love to have you join me for "That Worthy Name." I'll post a name of Jesus, a Scripture, a song suggestion, and a few thoughts on my Facebook page every day around 7 a.m. EST. There's nothing to sign up for or commit to or download or buy. 

Just come. May His worthy name be praised forever.

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 365: The Amen

The Amen

“To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me. To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” (Revelation 3:14, 20-22 NIV)

I never can start to write something without first knowing how I'm going to finish it. I never can begin without first figuring out how to end.

God the Author suffers no such constraint of creativity or knowledge, of course. When He began writing His story, He already knew its ending. It would be an ending that would really only be the best possible beginning to a story with no end. It would be His "Amen."

The word "amen" conveys confirmation, verification, certainty, and truth. As a response, it is a solemn nod of agreement: "so be it."

Jesus is the Amen to all of God's promises. He is the star Witness for the Ancient of Days. He is the Yes to every "I will" of the I AM.

Abba: "No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Joshua 1:5).

The Amen: "Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20b).

Abba: "
Then the LORD said to Moses, 'I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions' " (Exodus 16:4).

The Amen: "Then Jesus declared, 'I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty' " (John 6:35).

Abba: "I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs" (Isaiah 41:18).

The Amen: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life" (Revelation 21:6).

Abba: "I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them: (Isaiah 42:16).

The Amen: "
When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, 'I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life' " (John 8:12).

He is the Beginning. He is the Amen.

May His great name be praised forever.

* * * * * *
This name in a song:

November 29, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 364: He Who Is Coming

He Who Is Coming

"So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. For, 'In just a little while, he who is coming will come and will not delay.' " (Hebrews 10:35-37 NIV)


That's the number of references that came up when I searched for the word "come" in the Bible using one of my favorite on-line Bible study resources.


Of course, not all of these are in invitation, but those that are especially woo us to the heart of our welcoming God.

" 'Come, follow me,' Jesus said, 'and I will send you out to fish for people' " (Matthew 4:19).

" 'Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest' " (Matthew 11:28).

" 'Come,' he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus" (Matthew 14:29).

"Jesus said, 'Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these' " (Matthew 19:14).

God bids us come always, but in one particular season of the year, we specifically return the invitation to Him—although from us, it is more of a plea. 

Advent comes from the Latin word "advent," meaning "to keep coming closer."

"To keep coming closer."

Honestly, I think that has to be one of the most perfect things I've learned in a long time.

Jesus already came as close as it was possible for Him to come when He voluntarily left heaven, put on a full cloak of humanity without ever once compromising His divinity, and showed up on earth in a stable. To everyone who invites Him in, He remains "never-will-I-leave-you" close. He came, and He is coming again.

I believe the "coming" of Advent is for us.

"To keep coming closer" has a constancy, a perpetual movement to it. This is not only for one season of the year or for one season of our lives. We can always come closer to God. He is not moving away from us, of course; He is just so big, so grand that we never run out of new territory to explore.

"Come!" we cry out to Jesus, and He replies, "I did. I'm here. I'm with you. I'm not going anywhere. Come to me. Take an Advent journey.

"Come, with your hurts and your longings and your sins and your past and your questions and your messes and your burdens and your brokenness. Come with your joy, praise, worship, and adoration.

"Come. Keep coming closer. Don't give up. Your reward is waiting."

November 28, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 363: Giver of Every Good Gift

Giver of Every Good Gift

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NIV)

Early in our marriage, my wonderful, patient, loving husband sometimes suggested that I should "just chill out." For the record, he is the chillest human being I've ever met, and he only ever told me this when I was freaking out about something utterly insignificant in the big scheme of things.


His telling me to "just chill out" sounded to my ears like he was telling me to "just" feel differently about a situation. As if I could "just" flip some emotional switch, and whatever circumstances were upsetting me would suddenly no longer have a negative effect on my thoughts and feelings.

My husband is a smart and caring man, however, and he has since stricken "just chill out" from his marital vocabulary.

"Just" feeling a certain way about a certain set of circumstances is not a simple matter, which is why I love that 1 Thessalonians 5:18 does not tell us to "be thankful about all circumstances" but rather to "give thanks in all circumstances."

"Thankful" is an adjective. To "be thankful," to me, requires a certain manipulation of my feelings about circumstances so that "thankful' is how I would describe myself in relation to them. Sometimes, this is no trick at all. Other times, though, it feels fake at best.

But "give thanks" is another matter entirely. To "give" is action, decision, will. To give is to offer, release, or put forth. "Thanks" conveys expressions of gratitude, appreciation, and awareness of blessings which may or may not be obvious. And "in"—as in, "in all circumstances"—is a little word with big implications. For one thing, it tells us where we are supposed to do our thanking: IN all circumstances. Right "in" the thick of them. IN the joy. IN the sorrow. IN the wanting. IN the having. IN the grieving. IN the dancing. IN the famine. IN the feast. And "in" all circumstances gives us an out from having to give thanks FOR all circumstances.

When we put all this together, we see the freedom and power of God's directive to "give thanks in all circumstances." In joy, sorrow, wanting, grieving, mourning, dancing, famine, feast, and "all" the other circumstances of life on this earth, we do not have to figure out how to make "thankful" our state of being in regard to them. We do not have to try to summon up some emotion we'd describe as "thankful" about them. But we are charged with the task of choosing to give thanks—to offer up expressions of gratitude and recognition that God is still and always the giver of good gifts—not necessarily *for* but *in* all circumstances.

Why make this choice, especially when it's hard? "This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

Our thanks is what God wants. Giving it to Him is His good, pleasing, and perfect will for us. And there is no better "circumstance" to be fully, totally, top-of-our-heads deep IN than that.

November 27, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 362: Giver of Thanksgiving

Giver of Thanksgiving

"What shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants. Truly I am your servant, LORD; I serve you just as my mother did; you have freed me from my chains. I will sacrifice a thank offering to you and call on the name of the LORD. I will fulfill my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people, in the courts of the house of the LORD— in your midst, Jerusalem. Praise the LORD." (Psalm 116:12-19 NIV)

The psalmist spends the first half of Psalm 116 recounting God's goodness to him: "he heard my voice" (v. 1); "he heard my cry" (v.1); "he turned his ear to me" (v. 2); "he saved me" (v. 6); he "delivered me from death" (v. 8).

Then he opens the second half of the psalm with a question: "what shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?" (Psalm 116:12).

Basically: what will I give back to God for all He's given me? 

This is a question we might ask ourselves. (And by "we," I mean first and foremost "me.")

The psalmist answers his own question several ways: "I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord" (v. 12); "I will fulfill my vows" (v. 14); and in verse 17, "I will sacrifice a thank offering to you."

I've often told my daughters that a sacrifice is something hard to give that costs us something. (I've usually said this on the way to church on grumpy Sunday mornings, in the context of shouting, "Sacrifice of praise! Give a sacrifice of praise!")

If indeed this is true—that a sacrifice requires something from us that is not easy to give and causes us some discomfort—how does that apply to our own "thank offerings"? When is thanks hard to give? When does thanks feel like a sacrifice we have to rip out of our hands, heads, or hearts to offer to God?

Look for a minute at the verse tucked in between the opening question of this stanza of Psalm 116—"what shall I return to the LORD for all his goodness to me?" (Psalm 116:12)—and the answer we're considering: 
"I will sacrifice a thank offering to you" (v. 17). Amidst this question-and-answering is what could appear to be a non sequitur ("it doesn't follow) statement: "Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his faithful servants" (v. 15). 

Sometimes, thanks rolls off our tongues. Sometimes, it gushes forth out of hearts overflowing with joy. But sometimes, we have to drag it out of the depths of our souls and offer it in voices hoarse with grief or distorted with tears.

Just in the last few weeks, our family has experienced the death of two of God's "faithful servants" in communities we're part of: one in our church community, and one in our college daughter's university community. Both deaths were utterly unexpected and shocking. One was a man in his 70s; the other was a young woman in her 20s. Both were faithful servants of the Lord..."saints" whose deaths were doubtlessly precious to Him.

For the families of these "saints," giving thanks may be a sacrifice for some time to come. And yet they have already been doing it, all along. They have sacrificed thank offerings to God for their loved ones' lives and for God's faithfulness and for joy in sorrow and for hope for eternity.

Perhaps some of you are this very day mourning the death of your own faithful servant. All of us, I believe, have some thanks to offer God that will be a sacrifice to give.

Let's lift up these thank offerings, sweet friends. These sacrifices are an aroma pleasing to God. And then, may we all shout the refrain together: "Praise the LORD."

November 26, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 361: Giver of "Ordinary" Days

Giver of "Ordinary" Days

"Open for me the gates of the righteous; I will enter and give thanks to the  LORD. This is the gate of the LORD through which the righteous may enter. I will give you thanks, for you answered me; you have become my salvation. The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes. The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad." (Psalm 118:19-24 NIV)

Yesterday ended up being a pretty ordinary day.

I got out of bed in the morning. I put together breakfast for my husband and a "lunch" for my high schooler (if a 90-calorie protein bar, a bag of baby carrots, and a container of grapes to be eaten at 10:40 a.m. can be considered "lunch"). I checked some emails and scrolled through social media. I put on my tennis shoes and headed out on the road in front of our house for my morning walk.

It was all just like I do almost every other weekday morning. The routine. The norm.

My inclination, though, is to be dissatisfied with ordinary days. I want something interesting or exciting or post-worthy to be happening.

And yet I think of so many people just in my little circle of life whose lives have been thrown off-center...friends who would give almost anything to go back to a nondescript, "ordinary" day.

I also know the shoes of peace in my spiritual armor are laced up by gratitude. I know I need to be thankful for the gift of any "ordinary" day.

The truth is, I need to be flat-out in awe any day I'm able to choose to do ordinary things...any day circumstances beyond my control do not take those choices away from me.

Any day I am physically and mentally healthy, so I'm able to choose to get out of bed in the morning.

Any day we have food in our pantry and in the refrigerator and my husband has a job, so I am able to choose to make him breakfast before he goes to his office.

Any day I have a relationship with both my children, so I am able to choose to have conversations with them.

Any day we live on a safe country road, so I'm able to choose to put on those shoes and go for that walk.

Any "ordinary day" is an extraordinary gift.

"The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad," the psalmist exhorts (Psalm 118:24).

"The Lord..." Let's be clear about who's doing the doing here.

"Has done it..." Whatever "it" might be.

"This very day..." The day we're on right now. 

"Let us rejoice..." Let's also be clear about who's supposed to be doing the rejoicing.

"Today..." As in, TODAY.

"And be glad." The choice of gladness.

Oh, God, You have done it this very day! Let me rejoice today and be glad!

November 25, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 360: Giver of New Life

Giver of New Life

"What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus are baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life." (Romans 6:1-4 NIV)

Gardening. Giving birth. Making bread dough.

I know it looks like we're playing "one of these things is not like the other," but I promise each of these is related to God as the giver of new life.

I was thinking about planting things the other day (which is how you know this must have been from the Holy Spirit, since gardening is not in my mental wheelhouse). I was thinking how, when you plant something, you first work up the soil. You turn it over to redistribute the nutrients and aerate it and prepare it to nurture new life.

In giving birth, there are the contractions and all the work that makes "labor" well-suited to its name. These are necessary for new life to be born into the outside world.

In making bread dough, there is agitation, stirring up. The yeast is a living organism, but without activity and without being subjected to heat, it will not give rise to something new. And even once the life within the yeast has been released, unless the dough is pulled, pushed, worked, turned over, shaped, rested, and subjected to yet more heat, the bread will never be what it could be.

When we're in a season of new life, we may very well feel we are being dug up, turned over, contracted, worked, agitated, stirred up, pushed, pulled, shaped, and subjected to heat. But this is all for our good. It is all necessary to what is being grown, born, created.

If we're in a season when we wish for new life—wish for growth or birth or creation—we may have to ask ourselves if we need some holy agitation, some sacred stirring.

In either case, we can trust the Grower. We can trust the Creator. We can trust the Maker.

God never gives us new life just for the sake of pushing us around. He only gives new life to pull us closer to Himself.

November 24, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 359: Giver of Love

Giver of Love

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NIV)

Love is patient. It restrains itself. It holds back that which it is "justified" in giving. It waits. 

Love is kind. It shows itself useful. It goes out of its way to make the way easier for someone else. It lightens a load.

Love does not envy. It does not want what someone else has. It wants the best for others. It is glad for them when they have it.

Love does not boast. It is others-centered. It does not inflate itself but builds another up.

Love is not proud. It does not brag about what it knows. It does not insist on doing everything on its own.

Love does not dishonor others. It wants their best good. It guards their purity and reputation.

Love is not self-seeking. It is not that love thinks less of itself but that it thinks of itself less. It looks for what will bless others.

Love is not easily angered. It doesn't fly off the handle at the slightest provocation. It isn't quick-tempered or always ready to be upset about something.

Love keeps no record of wrongs. It doesn't have a running tally of offenses. It doesn't put checkmarks for bad behavior on a mental chalkboard.

Love does not delight in evil. It doesn't want bad things to happen, even to its enemies. It isn't glad to see people "get what they deserve."

Love rejoices with the truth. It celebrates when good and right triumph. It is happy when justice prevails.

Love always protects. It watches out for others. It looks ahead for potential harm and wards it off. It defends.

Love always trusts. It believes the best. It assumes honorable intentions. It does not allow suspicions to multiply.

Love always hopes. It holds onto confident expectation in what is possible, even when it doesn't look probable. It sets its sights long and high.

Love always perseveres. It keeps on keeping on. It tries again. It pushes forward. It does not give up.

Love never fails. It can always be counted on. It doesn't wear out or trip up or let down.

"This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us" (1 John 4:9-12).

November 23, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 358: Giver of Victory

Giver of Victory

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing." (2 Timothy 4:7,8 NIV)

The runner has started his race. It is a marathon, so he knows he has a long journey ahead of him, but he is determined not only to finish but to win. He wants the victory.

The race course has already been marked out by the Forerunner. The Founder of the race has sent a Companion to help the runners along.

The runner is on his way and making good time, but before long, he comes upon a fellow racer who is on the ground, crawling. The runner does not stop. He wants to win. He wants the victory. He can't afford to lose time. But his conscience pulls him back, and he circles around and returns to the figure who is on his hands and knees. "What's wrong?" the runner asks, and the other man tells him, "I can't go on. I'm already tired. It's too hard and too far. It's lonely, running all by myself."

The runner tells him, "You can do it. Just take one step, one section of the course at a time. I'll run with you." He helps the other man up, and they resume the race together. After awhile, the second runner says, "I'm getting my second wind. I know I can do this now. Thank you." He sprints ahead. 

The Companion comes up beside the runner. "Well done," He says.

But the runner is dejected. "I lost too much time. I won't win now. I won't get the victory."

The Companion tells him, "That was the victory."

The runner continues on. He knows he won't finish first, but he thinks he can still make the top three. He can still be victorious. But soon he comes upon a fellow racer sitting by the side of the road, looking sick. The runner stops and asks what's wrong. "I'm so thirsty, and I'm out of water," he says miserably.

"There's a water station just ahead," the runner tells the other man. "I'll get some for you and bring it back." He does this, and the other man thanks him and continues, rejuvenated, on his way.

The Companion comes up beside the runner. "Well done," He says.

But the runner is dejected. "I lost too much time. I won't even finish in the top three now. I won't get any victory."

The Companion tells him, "That was the victory."

The runner keeps going. He thinks he might still be able to finish in the top ten. He can still have a victory. But soon, he hears heavy footsteps behind him. A hard blow to his back knocks him down. Another runner has hit him with a heavy pack. The runner is hurt. His assailant does not stop, does not apologize, does not look back. He continues the race. The runner picks up the heavy load. He thinks he will carry it all the way to the finish line. He will not set it down. He will show his offender what he has borne. The pack is slowing him down, but he will not let it go. It is proof of how he has been hurt.

The Companion comes up beside the runner. "Why don't you leave that pack?" He asks. "Your foe used it to hurt you, but you don't have to keep carrying it. It's not going to do you any good to keep lugging it along."

Reluctantly, the runner sets the pack down. It is hard to let go. He wants to show his enemy how long he has carried it. He wants proof of the offense. But he slowly loosens his grip and leaves the load by the side of the road.

"Well done," the Companion says.

But the runner is dejected. "I lost too much time. I won't win now. I won't get the victory."

The Companion tells him, "That was the victory."

After a long time, the runner crosses the finish line. He is not first. He is not in the top three. He is not in the top ten. He thinks he has not won any victory.

But the Founder of the race comes up to him. "Well done," He tells him.

The runner protests. "But I didn't win. I didn't get the victory."

The Founder of the race tells him, "You encouraged others along the way. You were kind. You showed compassion. You let go of an offense. Those were the victories."

He hands the runner a crown. It is engraved with a single word: "righteousness."

"Well done," He says to the runner. "Welcome home."

November 22, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 357: Giver of Abundance

Giver of Abundance

"How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house; you give them drink from your river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light." (Psalm 36:7-9 NIV)

It only takes me about a minute once I'm up and around on any given day to start thinking about what I "have to" do that day.

I know.

I should think about what I "get" to do, not have to do. But "have to" is my default setting, which is why I've started trying to deliberately reframe my "have to's" in terms of what I have.

This prayer helps, for starters: "God, remind me to be intentionally thankful that the things I *have to* do today are because of things I *have,* from 'the abundance of your house.' "

I *have to* make dinner for my husband and daughter…because I *have* a family.

*have to* go out and walk…because I *have* my health to preserve and protect.

*have to* clean my house…because I *have* a home.

*have to* do laundry...because I *have* clothes to wear.

*have to* do my job...because I *have* meaningful work.

*have to* do my Bible study homework...because I *have* access to God's Word.

*have to* pay bills...because I *have* money to cover expenses.

*have to* fulfill my ministry commitments...because I *have* a church that gives me opportunities to serve.

And I 
*have to* do these things today…because I *have* today.

November 21, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 356: Giver of Contentment

Giver of Contentment

"I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." (Philippians 4:11b, 12, 13 NIV)

“You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exodus 20:14, 15, 17 NIV)

One of my all-time favorite quotes—in a "gotcha" sort of way—is this one from Theodore Roosevelt: "comparison is the thief of joy."

I don't think I've ever once allowed comparison to break into my mental house and not had it walk out the front door with an armful of my joy.

But I would add this: comparison is also the thief of contentment.

To be content is to be settled, at rest, at peace with what I have and with my situation in life. It is a ceasing of straining for something more or something else. It is looking at what I have and being grateful for it.

Comparison, on the other hand, drags my gaze away from what God has given me and locks it on what He has given someone else. From there, I assign greater value to what someone else has and start to want it. I fixate on it and think about how to get it and determine I am incomplete without it.

Cue covetousness...the "shall not" of the 10th Commandment.

From there, comparison and covetousness work together as a team, leading me to take what is not mine (which is the heart of the 7th and 8th commandments, forbidding, respectively, adultery and stealing).

The thief that is comparison is always looking for an open window he can climb in and steal my contentment and my joy. But prayer, thanksgiving, and worship are guards. These guards work because they avail me of the "secret" the apostle Paul "learned" (I love the process and effort conveyed by that word) about how to be content "in any and every situation": the strength of Jesus.

The thief whose name is comparison whispers, "Look...look over there. See what they have that you don't? See who they are that you're not?"

But prayer, thanksgiving, and worship tune me into the voice of Jesus, and I hear Him say, "Eyes on me, beloved. Eyes on me. My joy is your strength, and my strength is your contentment, and there is no comparison to these."

November 20, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, day 355: Giver of Relationships

Giver of Relationships

"Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery,' 'You shall not murder,' 'You shall not steal,' 'You shall not covet,' and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." (Romans 13: 8-10 NIV)

The Creator knew exactly what was needed, of course.

God had made the sky, land, sea, plants, trees, sun, moon, and stars...and it was all, every bit of it, "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Then He made man...and decided it was "not good" for him to be alone (Genesis 2:18). So God fashioned "a helper suitable for him" (Genesis 2:18). 

Thus, the first human relationship was not born but made. And with the latter six of His Ten Commandments, God told us how those relationships should work. 

"Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor" (Exodus 20:12-17).

We should honor each other.
We should respect each other's lives and property and other relationships.
We should keep promises to each other.
We should represent each other truthfully.

Of all the commandments that speak to our relationship with other people, the sixth—"you shall not murder"—feels like the one I can put an automatic check mark next to...until I read this twist on it in the New Testament: "Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer" (1 John 3:15 (NIV). 

At this point, I have a few stumbling blocks. For one thing, I'm not sure I can define hate, so it's hard to know if I'm guilty of it. Also, I always think of hate as bad, and yet God has things He hates. And then there is the matter of Jesus' warning that "if anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

A little digging around, though, clarifies. Hate is a strong, emotional response, and the object of our hatred is detested and despised. God hates "wrongdoing," but thank goodness He loves "wrongdoers." God is passionately opposed to wrongdoing precisely because it separates wrongdoers from relationship with Himself.

As for "hating" our family, we understand that Jesus was utilizing the technique of stark contrast to make a point: namely, that our love for Him should be so strong, so total, so all-encompassing that our relative love for, well, our relatives would seem like hate by comparison.

This is all pretty easy to digest until we have to grapple with the fact that God loves and wants to redeem some people whose wrongdoings are so heinous, so repulsive, so "unforgivable," our hatred crosses over from hating the sin to hating the sinner. It feels like justifiable hate. But God loves these wrongdoers just as He loves us. We can barely process this, and yet we desperately need God's love to be incomprehensible in some ways. We need it to be beyond us. We need it to boggle our human minds. And then we need to ask God to help us put hate in its proper place.

God, help me to hate what you hate and love whom you love. Help me to passionately hate sin but passionately love sinners, of which I am the worst. In my relationships, help me to honor others, respect them, keep my promises to them, represent them truthfully. And in all this, help me seek one standard: Your voice, saying, "It is very good."

November 19, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 354: Giver of Worship

Giver of Worship

"Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Go to Pharaoh and say to him, 'This is what the LORD says: 'Let my people go, so that they may worship me.' ' ' " (Exodus 8:1 NIV)

"You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not misuse the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy." (Exodus 20: 3, 4, 7, 8 NIV)

Love God. Love others.

In this order, this is what life on this earth comes down to. We would add "in the simplest possible terms," except we know full well our sin nature makes fulfilling these two greatest commandments anything but simple.

Yet God is for us and wants us to get this right, so He gives us much guidance and instruction on how to keep these commands, including His original "rules for living" list. With the first four of His 10 Commandments, God shows us how to love Himself, and with the last six, He shows us how to love others.

When I look at the commandments that specifically turn us in the direction of God, one thread jumps out: worship.

Oh friends, we were created to worship. Our minds, hearts, and souls long to worship someone or something. That is their bent, their natural inclination. This isn't something that has to be taught or learned; we are born into this earthly life with a craving to worship, and one way or the other, we will satisfy that craving.

Isn't it fascinating that when God sent Moses to deliver His message of "let my people go" to Pharaoh, His "so that" was, repeatedly, "so that they may worship me"? (If you glance through Exodus 7-10, the repetition is striking.) God knew that of all the good things His people would be able to do if they were freed, worshiping Him was what they needed to do first and foremost.

The first four of the Ten Commandments (otherwise known as the Decalogue..."dec-" meaning ten) tell us how to truly satisfy our inborn need to worship by telling us Who we should worship...and how we should worship Him.

God commands us to worship Him and Him alone not because He's on a power trip but because He knows us and knows we can't obey any of the other of His laws if we haven't established our loyalty first. And, He knows we can't handle divided loyalty. Dividing our worship dilutes it—and so it does not satisfy us. Only when we experience the full-strength worship of God alone can our craving be quenched.

Then God tells us what worshiping Him looks like.

It looks like being on guard against "little-g" gods...those people and pursuits we assign, in our minds and heart, a place of honor that belong only to God.

It looks like getting rid of our idols. If I walked into a room and God (in some sort of representation) and someone or something else were both in that room, which would I look at first? Which would I move toward first? If my attention would go first toward anything or anyone other than God, that thing or person is my idol. In real life, this scenario plays out ALL THE TIME in my mind, which is why I have to repeatedly and deliberately force my mind to "look at" God. That is, in fact, how this whole names of God series got started. Speaking of God's name...

Worshiping God looks like reverencing and respecting His name. God's name reflects who He is and so to devalue it by using it in a throw-away manner shows that I have devalued who He is...the opposite of worship. How beautiful it is, though, that speaking God's name in a reverent and respectful way is in itself a profound act of worship?

Worshiping God looks like devoting time to Him that is not just leftover after we've done everything else. We give our time to what matters to us, and what matters most to us is what we worship.

Remember: this is all for our good! God created our souls; He knows what will satisfy them. He knows they yearn to worship, but He also knows if they direct that yearning toward someone or something that can't handle being worshiped, we will be let down. But when we lift Him up, our satisfied souls are lifted up, too.

November 18, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 353: Giver of Protection

Giver of Protection

"But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you. Surely, LORD, you bless the righteous; you surround them with your favor as with a shield." (Psalm 5:11,12 NIV)

If most of the laws of the Old Testament no longer apply to us as New Testament believers, why do we still care about God's top-10 list of commandments?

I've heard people ask this question. I've asked it myself.

The best explanation I've come across for this tricky Bible bit is that the laws about everything from what to do about mildew to what kinds of cloth could be worn together are ritual laws from which we were released by Christ's great once-for-all sacrifice. The Ten Commandments, on the other hand, are moral laws concerning our relationship with God and our relationship with others. These Jesus summarized and emphasized in rather jaw-dropping fashion: 

"Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?' Jesus replied: ' 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments' " Matthew 22:34-40).

In each of God's "top 10" specific moral laws, we find a gift of protection God has for us. I need to be reminded of this, because all the times in His Word God says "you shall have no..." and "you shall not...," I tend overlook the blessing on the flip side: His resulting "you shall have" and "you shall."

In other words, "Don't have this...because I want you to have this better thing instead." And, "don't do this, because I want you to be able to do this better thing instead."

God's regulations are not meant to keep us from something so much as they are to keep us for something. His commands and precepts are not for our restriction so much as they are for our protection.

Our good God does not want to keep us from good...He wants to keep us for good.

My other tendency where God's commandments are concerned is to read the original ten and think, "I'm in the clear here. I don't have a golden calf I worship. I haven't murdered anyone. I've been faithful to my husband." But here again I'm missing the bigger point.

I need to dig deeper. Maybe you'd like to dig with me. Over the next several days, let's see what gifts of "you shall" are wrapped in God's "you shall nots"...for our good and for His glory.

November 17, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 352: Giver of the Future

Giver of the Future

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'" (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

For months now, our family has been looking forward to my older daughter's 21st birthday. We are celebrating the past—what God has done in her, for her, through her. But we are also anticipating the future.

Of course, it is promised to one. Of course God alone knows it and holds it. But His Word gives us a glimpse into His view of our future. 

Jeremiah 29:11 is my one of my firstborn's life verses, and for her birthday a few years ago, we commissioned a personalized watercolor print of it for her with the words from the verse presented as if they were a letter God had written just to her.

I believe if we listen to these ancient echoes, we can hear Him speaking the future to each one of us.

"My Dear Child,

"I know" (I have complete understanding and insight, because I am omniscient—there is no ambiguity or confusion about my knowledge)...

"The plans" (not the guesses or the wishes, but the certain intentions of my pleasing and perfect will)...

"I" (I, I who made you, I who formed you, I who call you by name, the I AM)...

"Have" (these are current, up-to-date, ongoing, perpetually present-tense plans)...

"For you" (specific to you, tailored to who you are, what you need, and the gifts I've given you—my plans are one-of-a-kind and made to order)...

"Plans to prosper you" (my plans aren't meant to just get you by, they are meant to make you thrive)...

"And not to harm you" (what I have in mind for you comes out of my heart of love, goodness, and protection for you)...

"Plans to give you" (this is a gift—it's not something you have to go scrounge up for yourself)...

"Hope" (of all the things my plans could give you, the first thing I want them to give you is hope, because that drives all other good things forward)...

"And a future" (there is more to your life than what you can see from the day you're standing on right now).

How do we respond to this, as in answering a letter? Maybe like this.

"God, I know You know the plans You have for me. I know they are to prosper me and not to harm me. I know they are plans to give me a hope and a future. While I'm waiting for You to do the next thing, help me to do the first thing: help me to know You."

November 16, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 351: Giver of Direction

Giver of Direction

"Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, 'This is the way you should go,' whether to the right or to the left." (Isaiah 30:21 NLT)

My college daughter is an early childhood education major, and when she's home and talking about her classes, her dad and I love to hear what she's learning. (We joke that it's our tuition dollars at work.)

One of the lessons she shared with us is that current approaches to preschool and early elementary education advise not only telling a child what not to do but what to do instead.

I understand there's some controversy over this philosophy (and certainly, there is a need for respect for authority that does not require explanation or options), but I do believe God himself takes this tack sometimes as He directs us in what we should do and not do while we're walking in faith with Him.

"Don't do this," He tells us. "Do this instead."

"Do not be anxious about anything," He says. Instead, "in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).

"Do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live," He says. Instead, "teach them to your children and to their children after them" (Deuteronomy 4:9).

"Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged," He says. Instead, "be strong and courageous, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go" (Joshua 1:9).

"Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh," He says. Instead, "serve one another humbly in love" (Galatians 5:13).

"Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves," He says. Instead, "do what it says" (James 1:22).

Can you hear His voice behind you?

"Don't go the way of worry, forgetting, fear, indulgence, deception. Instead, go the way of prayer, thanksgiving, teaching, strength, courage, service, and action.

"This is the way you should go. Walk in it."

November 15, 2019

If I Had a Mom Do-Over, I’d Do These Things All Over Again

The following is a short list of my mistakes as a mom just with my first (a.k.a., "learner") child, who, as of this weekend, is officially no longer a child but a young adult.

  • High-pressure potty training.
  • Starting her in kindergarten and ballet and church kids' club all in the same week. 
  • That accidental half sumo wrestler/half alien hula girl birthday cake. 
  • Letting her sign on for a killer academic and extracurricular load her sophomore year in high school just because we knew she'd be able to handle it.
  • Not having her take a math class the semester before she took the SAT. 
  • All the yelling. (Mine.) 
  • All the meltdowns. (Also mine.) 

The thing is that when you are a new mom (and that means "new" at every stage), everything seems to matter. And it seems to matter a lot. In fact, the mattering seems to start even before you have the child who will make you a mom in the first place. It matters what doctor or midwife you choose. Then it matters what detergent you buy to prewash your baby clothes. Then it matters where you give birth and how you give birth and what baby-wearing device you have and, eventually, if you should send your child to preschool and, if you should, which preschool, and on it goes. 

I know, because I worried about these things, too. But the blessing of being a mom with some mileage on her is that you have the keen perspective of hindsight. The older your children get, the more you're able to see how the story you've been writing turns out.

With a bunch of years behind me and my genuinely delightful older children in front of me, here are five things that seem to have mattered most...things that, unlike that hula girl cake, I'd do again.

1. I’d still do the time.

By which I do not mean that motherhood is some kind of prison sentence. (Well, except maybe during the fifth round of Candyland.) I mean that the classic line really is right: kids spell love "t-i-m-e." I don't think I'm the only mom who wishes this wasn't quite so true. Sometimes, we wish we could press the express-wash button on motherhood and condense things so that they still have their full effect but don't take so long.

We are busy. We have other things we need to do and want to do. Good things. Necessary things. Important things. We want quantity to equal quality, but I have found the reality is that quantity often leads to quality.

By all appearances, my teenage and young-adult daughters love to spend time with me. I am beyond grateful for this. But I don't think we got to this point last week or last month. I think we got to it in a hundred little moments when they were toddlers and elementary students and pre-teenagers. Day in and day out, in ordinary moments, I think we laid the foundation for something that feels pretty extraordinary.

My older children want to spend time with me, ask to spend time with me, seek out time with me, and tell me how much they love time with me. This is an enormous privilege I dare not take for granted. If you're a mom of littles and you're wondering if all the time you spend with your children really makes a difference in the long run, I'm here to tell you it does.

2. I’d still let my children be who they are and feel what they feel.

One of our family's guiding principles is "we welcome weird." I was never interested in forcing my children into some sort of societal "acceptable personality" mold. Do I want my children to be happy and act happy? Of course! Would I be concerned if moody and sullen and withdrawn were the main characteristics I saw in them? Of course! But we were created intentionally with a full range of emotions and diverse possible personalities. To expect my children to be cheerful, optimistic, easy-going extroverts would have been unrealistic and unfair.

My girls tell me they feel they can come to me with anything that's on their minds and hearts, and one reason I think this is true is because they know I am not going to try to talk them out of how they feel or instruct them to react to something in a way that dishonors their personalities. Of course, I want to teach them to manage their emotions in a healthy ways. I want to teach them that they cannot only act and react according to what they feel like based on their default settings. There is growth and maturity and self-sacrifice, and these are good things, too. But my husband and I want have always wanted our house to be a safe zone where sorrows can be shared and divided and joys can be shared and multiplied. Besides, I want my girls to love and cherish and accept me in all my mom messiness, so how can I offer them any less?

3. I’d still speak my kids' love languages.

I'm not talking about tween/teen slang here, although my high schooler did inform me recently, "Mom, you can still say 'hashtag whatever,' but you'll be the only one." (Noted.) I want to speak love to my girls, but I need to try to do it in their dialects as much as possible. Words of encouragement are huge to my older daughter, while quality time—especially if I'm using that time to tell her the "stories" from my childhood she loves to hear—is what sounds like love to my younger daughter.

4. I’d still schedule selectively.

By most measuring sticks, my girls did not rack up very impressive resumes of extracurricular and social activities. Their lives—especially in middle school and beyond--primarily consisted of family, church, school, band, dance, and friends, in that general order. We've said "no" to things that a lot of other families say "yes" to—not because there's anything inherently wrong with those things but just because they weren't right for our family.

We weren't denying our girls their future happiness; we were preserving their present happiness. Our little family prioritizes time at home together—which is hard to accomplish if no one is ever home or together. Both my teenagers have commented recently how much they love it when we're all hanging around the house and eating meals as a family, which tells me we made the right call for us.

5. I’d still recognize the big value of little things.

Motherhood is a great, grand calling to shape eternal souls and mold the minds and hearts of people who are given to us as gifts. But what that great, grand calling looks like on your average Tuesday is made up of a thousand small decisions and acts that give love a voice and hands and feet. Again and again, I have seen how much these little things matter.

Awhile back, I tucked a sticky note into my daughter's lunch: I'd taped a couple Rolo chocolate-caramel candies to it and written "I Rolo-y love you" on it. A few hours later, my daughter texted me: "Thank you for my Rolo-y note! It made my day." Little thing...big impact.

I know there are no guarantees in motherhood. I know anything could still happen. But this far in, what my children seem to remember most is not the mistakes but the love.

And that tells me that for all I got wrong, I somehow, by the grace, got more that mattered right.

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 350: Giver of Kindness

Giver of Kindness

"May the LORD now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this." (2 Samuel 2:6 NIV)

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22,23 NIV)

Like all the best ideas, kindness was God's idea first

Kindness shows up early in the Old Testament, in Genesis, and continues through most of the New Testament. And when it does, we see again the gorgeous, instructive synchronization of God's Word, because both under the old covenant and under the new, kindness is often linked to other character traits we're supposed to be putting on and clothing ourselves in as God's image-bearers.

In the Old Testament, kindness is frequently linked to faithfulness, which reflects the Hebrew word our English versions translate as kindness: "hesed." Hesed speaks of faithful love. This is not merely the kindness of doing something nice for a stranger or being friendly to a casual acquaintance; this is long-term commitment in relationship. Which leads us so beautifully to the trait kindness is often connected to in the New Testament: patience.

In the description of how followers of Christ should represent Him (2 Corinthians 6:6): there are kindness and patience.

On the list of characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22): there are kindness and patience.

In the "wardrobe" God's beloved are supposed to put on (Colossians 3:12): there are kindness and patience.

Of course, with our intentional God, the intertwining of faithfulness, patience, and kindness is no fluke.

We make a commitment to someone in relationship: a friend, a spouse, a brother or sister in Christ. We offer them our faithfulness...our promise that our love for them is not going to come and go with circumstances or our moods. This might be easy at first (think, "honeymoon phase"), but before very long, we're going to come to a place where we feel justified in lashing out or getting even in ways that seem (and maybe are) entirely our right. Which is where the restraining power of patience kicks in, and we hold back that which we would very much like to dump out.

Yet, we do not stop there. After faithfulness drives us on and patience puts on our brakes, kindness emerges as the best course. But we need some direction, because kindness is not just about being nice. Kindness offers itself up in a way that makes someone's life better.

Direction comes from God, who does not ask us to take a course He Himself has not marked out first. In faithful love, He wants relationship with us. In patience, He waits to mete out the judgement we deserve. And then, to this wanting and waiting, He adds the Way.

"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the  heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do" (Ephesians 2:4-7,10).

"Good works...prepared in advance for us to do."

Sounds a lot like kindness to me.

Good idea, God...good idea.

November 14, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 349: Giver of Perseverance

Giver of Perseverance

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4 NIV)

The summer after I finished second grade, my family moved from a bungalow in the city to a house trailer on my grandparents' land in the country. The trailer was a temporary home while my parents built the house they'd been planning all their married lives.

I still remember my dad taking us to what would become our new address and telling me, "You're standing in your bedroom." At the moment, I was standing on the ground, with no room in sight. But over that summer, I thrilled to watch the house being built until finally, one day, I really was standing in my bedroom.

In the house of faith, we all find ourselves at one point or another standing in an unfinished room...a room that is, in fact, not a room yet at all but rather the hope and promise of what will become a room, if we do not give up.

The land for the house our room is in has been given to us: "Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you" (Genesis 13:17).

We have a blueprint: "Direct my footsteps according to your word; let no sin rule over me" (Psalm 119:133).

The foundation has been laid: "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).

We have a Master Architect: "The plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations...From heaven the LORD looks down and sees all mankind; from his dwelling place he watches all who live on earth" (Psalm 33:11, 13, 14).

As we stand in our room in faith's house, we see that we have work to do. It will be hard sometimes. Things will not go according to plan. We'll be tempted to give up and abandon the building project. But if we will choose to "consider"—to frame, to look at, to construe—these slowdowns and moments when what we ordered isn't what's delivered as "pure joy," we'll start to see our room take shape.

The floor under our feet will be finished. Sturdy walls will go up, and a protective roof. If we keep on keeping on and don't settle for a bare-bones room but push through to the point of paint and furnishings—choices we have to make along the way—we will find ourselves one day standing in our finished room.

And on that day, we'll hear the voice of the Builder saying, "It's perfect. There's nothing else it needs. Come. Move in, and live with Me here forever."

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going" (John 14:1-4).

November 13, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 348: Giver of Patience

Giver of Patience

"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." (Colossians 3:12 NIV)

Did I lose you on this one, my friends? I probably would have lost me, because on a patience scale of 1 (not patient at all) to 10 (very patient), I am approximately a minus 100.

As God's beloved, we're supposed to be "clothed" in His patience. We're supposed to put it on. We're supposed to wear it.

But patience is not the comfy sweatshirt of my spiritual wardrobe. I usually have to struggle into it. It almost always feels a little tight. 

I think part of the reason is that I equate patience with passivity. But God's patience is much more about power that's restrained in the interest of mercy. Godly patience isn't about being on hold nearly so much as it is about holding back and holding on for a greater gain. This is patience with purpose.

The purpose of God's patience is repentance: "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4).

The purpose of God's patience is redemption: "Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him" (2 Peter 3:15).

The purpose of God's patience is restoration: "What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? As he says in Hosea: 'I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,' and, 'In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God' ' " (Romans (9:22,25-27).

The purpose of God's patience is relationship: "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

In repentance, there is a turning away from sin. In redemption, there is a freeing of what sin has held captive. In restoration, there is a rebuilding of what sin has torn down. In relationship, there is a bridging of the gap sin created.

This is not passivity. This is passion.

May God help us put it on and wear it well.

November 12, 2019

365 Days of the Great Names of God, Day 347: Giver of Daily Bread

Giver of Daily Bread

"Give us today our daily bread." (Matthew 6:11 NIV)

When Jesus, the Bread of Life, taught the disciples to pray, "Give us today our daily bread," He was building on precedent. 

The manna God rained down on His people en route to the Promised Land was nothing if not daily, and it was surely given by God.

The manna was "given": it literally fell from God's storehouse by His hand. It wasn't something the people could make for themselves. They could collect it, but they couldn't create it.

The manna was "daily": God promised to supply it for each new day and asked His kids to trust Him for that provision by only gathering as much as they needed for that day...not to try to store it up. (And knowing they'd try anyway, God built in a VERY short shelf life on His daily bread.)

The manna was "bread": here we are not so much talking about the actual composition of the manna—a white substance that resembled coriander seed—as we are about its nourishing, sustaining, supplying powers. It fed. It strengthened. It energized. 

My problem (well, as it relates to daily bread as given by God, anyway) is that, in my natural self, my prayer goes something like this: "Oh, God, enable me to make sustenance for myself so that I can control it and don't have to rely on you. Help me to store up months' and years' worth so that I don't have to trust you day by day. And instead of bread, I'd really prefer something more like cake...something sweet and appealing."

But of course this is not how God works. All the lessons taught by God's provision of manna in the wilderness—lessons later reinforced by Jesus' model prayer—inform a different kind of request.

Oh, God...

"Give me" (for I cannot supply it for is only from Your hand)... 

"This day" (today, not yesterday, not tomorrow, but the day I'm living right now, which is itself a gift from Your hand)...

"My daily" (I trust You to know and supply the amount I need for this 24 hours)...

"Bread" (lasting nourishment for mind, body, and soul that will strengthen me for service to you and to my family and community).