8/21/17

but what if I don't disobey?



Nehemiah was scared, and he had good reason to be. People were opposing the building of the temple and wanted him to stop leading it. They would do anything to stop him.

In the face of being killed he's told to hide. Makes sense, right? Save yourself. God will understand. He doesn't want you to die, does he?

These questions seem to echo the sinister whispers of the serpent in the garden. "God told you to do what? He is holding out on you. He is not letting you know the full story. He is going to cause you harm by this. How can good come from this? Think of what benefit could happen if you disobeyed."

Thankfully, the wisdom of the Lord was guiding Nehemiah when these questions arose in his heart. Nehemiah saw the ploy of fear to get him to disobey. To get him to not do what God had told him to do. To get him to defy the Lord's command, not trusting that he who called him would sustain him.


Recently I found myself in the midst of someone who just got on my daggum nerves. What's more---I felt justified in getting irritated! This person was behaving poorly, was hurting other people, and it made me angry.

I wanted to do what I too often do: go and tell someone about it. I wanted to make this person look as bad as I felt in my heart that they were.

Why? What was my reason for this? There were several, I'm sure. I didn't want people to praise this person because I felt they did not deserve praise. I didn't want this person to get out of something. I wanted them to be seen as wrong. And you know what? There was a lot of judgement. A lot of "this is how they are and I would never be like that."

Lord Jesus, help me.


This particular time I thankfully heard the voice of the Lord and obeyed.

"Outdo one another in showing honor." Romans 12:10

"Death and life are in the power of the tongue." Proverbs 18:21

"Love your enemies, do what is good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you... Just as you want others to do for you, do the same for them... For [God] is gracious to the ungrateful and evil. Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful." Luke 6:27-28, 31, 35

Yeah, I guess you could say I knew better. But too often even in knowing what the Lord calls me to do I let the fear of what will happen if I don't disobey guide me. If I don't say something, will this person go unpunished? Will they be given undue praise?

I'm sure Nehemiah could be asking questions. If I do stop building will I save my own life? Will I gain the favor of these rulers? Will I be promoted in their eyes? Could they somehow grant me freedom?


In these questions we must remember our Great Answer: Jesus. He who "created the heavens, the highest heavens with all their stars, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to all of them, and all the stars of heaven worship you." (Neh. 9:6) He who does not destroy or abandon us, though we deserve it. He who keeps his covenant with us. He who works on our behalf.

The truth is we are not King. We are not the Ruler of our lives or this world. I am not King over that person who irritates me. I do not have the right to punish or give them "what they deserve." And what's more, I have not been given what I deserve by my King, so how can I demand someone who offends me gets their punishment?


When questions arise of what will happen if we don't disobey we can hold fast to the promise of what will happen when we do obey: "Let us not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up." (Gal. 6:9) "Follow the whole instruction the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, prosper, and have a long life in the land you possess." (Deut. 5:33) "Humility is the fear of the Lord; its wages are riches and honor and life." (Prov. 22:4)

Let your God be the ruler of your heart. Let him rule your actions, your words, your thoughts. Let him rule over the fear that tempts you to disobey. And let the glorious reward coming to us from the Father be what reminds us that it is better to not know how the Lord will work when we obey, than to try to manipulate situations in disobedience. Truly, truly, truly our God reigns and he is for us, not against us.

8/15/17

are you too good for this work?



I imagine hearing the clinking of hammers meeting nails. Of grunts as men and women lift heavy bricks. I can picture people taking measurements and wiping sweat from their brows and their necks red as the sun shines down.

Priests are beside goldsmiths who are beside rulers who are beside slaves. All for one cause: to rebuild the tabernacle, the place where their God dwells.

These people whose day jobs were so different, lifestyles were so different, backgrounds were so different came together for a singular purpose. They did the same sort of hard labor. There was no arguing over who was more worthy, who didn't deserve to do such hard work. They just wanted the tabernacle completed. They wanted to honor their God.

This past summer I spent time in a church with a mosaic of differences. Some grew up atheist, some Hindu, some Christian. Some are now doctors, pastors, teachers. Some like jazz music and some like rap. Some are just now finishing high school and some are in their seventies.

But we came together for one cause: to honor our God.

During this time I saw distinguished men doing dishes after a church supper. I saw busy parents making time for a dinner in their chaotic home. There were many times when someone could have said I'm too good for this or I am not the one who should be doing this. 

But they didn't.

They knew that just as our Jesus came from his safe place in heaven where he was given the worship he deserved to a dirty, lowly manger to live a life often forgotten, overlooked, belittled, and bullied we could also step down from our "place of position" to serve in ways that might seem beneath us. The way of our Lord was not a way of exaltation but of embarrassment. It was not a way of self-glorification but of self-sacrifice. It was not a way of what can you do for me but what can I do for you.

I can imagine the sound of hammers meeting nails. Of a man grunting as he lifts up a heavy block. Of him taking measurements and wiping the sweat from his brow, his neck red from the heat of the sun.

This is our Jesus. A carpenter coming to make a life among us. Coming to tabernacle among us. All for one purpose: to honor God.





if you're interested in reading up more about nehemiah:

why nehemiah @ the gospel coalition

matthew henry's commentary @ blue letter bible

8/9/17

what do we do with our sin?




The trees bustle as a breeze moves through the garden. A deer comes up to a stream and drinks its fill. All is quiet, yet all is not right. "Adam, where are you?" God asks. Adam cringes. Hidden behind some bushes with his wife they feel naked and exposed. They have sinned and in response have tried to hide.

Years later we find this couple's child caught in sin. His brother's blood is still on his shirt  as God asks him, "Where is Abel?" "How should I know?" Cain replies. In response to his sin he blurts out a lie.

David stands before Bathsheba as she rubs her telling belly. She feels a kick and looks up at the man who did this. David, bug-eyed and frantic, does all he can to cover up what he has done, going so far as to murder. David covers up, believing if no one knows there is no harm.

The waves start crashing and the sailors start worrying. What is happening and what can we do? They wonder. Little do they know the man called Jonah is running away in disobedience. The Lord has called him to a people he has no desire for and so he does all he can to avoid this call. He does so much as to jump into the stormy waters just so long as he doesn't have to admit to God that he messed up. Jonah is living in sin and he does all he can to run away from the Lord.

In Ezra we find the people of Israel in sin. The Lord has told them to separate themselves from those of other nations and yet the report to Ezra is that the Israelites have married Canaanites and Hittites and Perizzites and the list goes on.

It'd be so easy to want to cover up their sin, to pretend they didn't know or had forgotten the command of God. Although we may judge the reactions of Adam, Cain, David, and Jonah to their sin don't we often find it much easier to respond the way they did?

Ezra doesn't do this, though. He hears of their sin and this is his response: "As soon as I heard this, I tore my garment and cloak and pulled hair from my head and beard and sat appalled."

Ezra knows that the only thing he can do is admit that there is nothing he can do. There is nothing he can do to make himself right before God, to make the people of Israel right before God, to take away their sins. So he admits that the people of Israel have messed up, there is no going back, no excuses, no ignorances. He admits that blatantly the Lord's will was defied and there is nothing he or anyone can do to make it better.

He confesses.

"O my God, I am ashamed and blush to life my face to you, my God, for our iniquities have risen higher than our heads, and our guilt has mounted up to the heavens."

What do you do when confronted with your sin? Do you hide? Lie? Try to cover up? Run?

Psalm 51 tells us that God doesn't want us to figure out how to make up for our sin or remove it on our own. God doesn't want this because it's impossible for us to do this.

What God desires is a heart that knows its own brokenness and brings the pieces to the Father. He wants us to leave our attempts at self-sufficiency and denial and to move into recognition, confession, and repentance.

Psalm 149 says that the Lord adorns the humble with salvation.  Does your heart hear that? You don't have to try to make yourself right or cover up the issue. In fact, it's he who admits a screw up that gets salvation. It's he who owns up to his mistakes and need for a Savior that finds true forgiveness.

So come to the One who knows where you are hiding, who knows the sins you have done, who sees through the cover up and will chase you when you try to run. Come to the One who sees your brokenness and longs for you to bring that brokenness to him.

7/11/17

all things are your servants



He stood stammering for an excuse, any excuse, to get him out of his current situation. The belief that he was the most inadequate man for the job was ringing loud in his heart, and what's worse is this belief wasn't unfounded. He had screwed things up and he knew walking through the doors of the place he once left would mean returning to his past, all of his “I should haves” and “I shouldn't haves.” He was a hypocrite at best, a coward at worst. How could he return?

Have you ever felt this sort of hopelessness? Have you ever believed that you couldn't be the one to speak truth, bring justice, preach the Gospel because you knew just how deceptive, wrong, and merciless you are?

Or maybe you were aware of the hardness in the hearts you were going to. The people, the situation you were being called into---hadn't everyone else given up on it? Hadn't others tried? Wasn’t that place far too difficult? Those people far too lost? 

She was staring into his eyes and quickly prayed, “Lord, please save him.” He who she had been married to for fifteen years. He who saw his wife leave her once firmly fixed belief in Hinduism for this “Christianity nonsense.” He who refused to listen to her. He who refused to join her at church. He who for five years she had prayed for. Would he ever come to know you, she prayed. Would his heart ever soften? 

The king's heart is like a stream of water directed by the LORD; he guides it wherever he pleases. -proverbs 21:1

What if we lived like we believed that God is in control? That the word of the Lord truly directs the path of the hurricane and the king’s heart. Psalm 119 says, “your word, o Lord, is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your faithfulness endures to all generations. You have established the earth and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day for all things are your servants.”

I want to sing for joy as I read this verse! In a world where you cannot control anything, we serve a God who commands the tossing and turning of the waves, along with the tossing and turning of man’s heart. 

What person is the Lord calling you to love who seems unlovable? What place is the Lord calling you to live which feels unlivable? What position is the Lord calling you to take which feels unattainable? 

The Bible is full of broken, inadequate people called to do the impossible. A murderer with a speech impediment called to be a spokesperson for the oppressed. An elderly couple with no children called to be the father of many. A terrorist and Pharisee called to be a missionary of grace. A greedy, friendless tax collector called to the table. A scandalous woman called to anoint our holy God for burial. 

It's easy to look at the road set before us and think there is no way---no way we can walk on it, finish it, remain on it. 

The unsettling truth is that we can't. We can't keep in step with the spirit. We can't obey the word of the Lord. We can't be a spokesperson for the oppressed, a parent in old age, a missionary, a friend of Jesus, we can't anoint our Lord. We are far too selfish, far too sinful, far too weak. 

The outrageous truth is that the Lord is with us, behind and beside and before, and he will make the impossible possible, the unnatural happen, the weak strong. 

Throughout scripture we see the Lord at work. We see victories come by his hand and missions accomplished because of his doing. 

His word says Pharaoh's heart was hardened by the Lord. It says that Ezra succeeds because his God is with him. We see Esther chosen by his favor and plan. We see Ruth brought in to the family of Christ by his mercy. 

“The heart of a man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” -proverbs 16:9-

We can walk confidently into the path set before us, no matter how hopeless it looks, because we know by him the impossible becomes possible.

4/30/17

returning



If I'm being honest, it's been a week since I've really thought of God. Other than a couple prayers of desperation like "Lord, please somehow stop time for a couple minutes so I won't be late" I have thought an awful lot about me. About what others think of me. About anything other than God.

I can always tell when I am in this place because suddenly I can't stand silence for a second. I download all the podcasts, always have a show or music playing in the background. I know if I let myself stop I will realize... Shoot. I did it again.



I read a Psalm because it has to start somewhere. I have to pick up the Bible, I have to eventually get to the place of humiliation and confession and repentance crying, "God I am sorry. How do I continue to wander? Please forgive me."

I read and I see myself, an Israelite in the desert, rescued from oppression yet wishing to go back because I'm tired of walking and this food isn't so hot and are we there yet?


It's a frustrating thing, isn't it? To find yourself there once again when you thought you would never return to the place of apathy. When the previous season was so sweet and then all of the sudden you need both hands to count the days since you last talked with God, thanked your Father, read his Word.


"Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love." psalm 106: 44-45

God is not a god who holds back, who tries to rub it in your face how weak and wandering we are. God is our Father running towards us with open arms crying we must celebrate! This child of mine left and now has returned! Call the caterer, send out the invitations, now is the time to dance and delight in a wandering child returning home, the place of belonging.


Yes we are prone to wander, prone to leave the God we love. And he is faithfully there when we return, ready to remind us why we never should have left, ready to be found by a broken heart.


In the place of wandering do not let another moment go by. Return to the one who is waiting. Don't get to bogged down by guilt that you feel you can't confess and repent. Now is the time. Return to the one with open arms. 

2/12/17

so many options, so little time

We live in a time of opportunity, don't we? We can be anything we want to be, do anything we want to do. The possibilities are endless.

Have you ever sat down to watch Netflix with someone and spent the whole time trying to pick a show? There's so many options it's hard to pick one. Or tried to figure out where to go for dinner? Well, you have to pick between Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Italian.... On and on, options keep coming (though the obvious choice is Mexican food).

I hear it over and over in my generation that sometimes this seemingly endless amount of options can be scary more than exhilarating. If I can do this that or the other, what should I choose? Often it leaves us at a stand still. In the face of so many options we can lose focus and struggle to pick just one thing, so maybe we pick nothing because we are overwhelmed or pick a lot but do nothing well.


I find so much peace this when I think of the hope of heaven. In a time where our bucket list could be miles long I remember where we are going: to a place where all of our bucket list items will be fulfilled. 

I want to see the Great Wall of China someday, but how beautiful a thought that if its not during my short time here it will be with my brothers and sisters on the new earth. 


As I find freedom in this I try to remember to live well while I am here. I have many options but I want to be strategic in what I pick. I want to make the most of my little life here for the glory of God. This means I can't do it all, because I won't be able to do it all, and do it all well. Neither do I want to pick nothing because I'm overwhelmed. Instead I pray I seek to choose each day to live for the glory of God and the love of people, whatever that may mean my days look like. 

And I remember that what I say no to now isn't no to forever. The time will come when our bodies won't grow weary, our time won't be limited, and our desires will be fulfilled. 

2/8/17

coming closer



It happens, as it always does. The one you thought would never hurt you, hurts you. They betray your trust, leave you with your mouth hanging open as you try to stammer through your questions of how could you and your protests of I thought you were different. 

It always happens because we, the fallen and the broken, are living with, eating with, loving with, dealing with the fallen and broken. We should expect it.

But it stings, doesn't it? 

In these moments I want nothing more than to walk to my bed, curl up in fetal position and stay there for a quick three years. I want a bright screen in my eyes. Chips and guacamole by my side.

I want to retreat from people and their questions, from responsibilities, from any potential for more heartache. 

My prayer for you and me is this: don't. Don't turn away. Don't close off. Don't harden your heart. 

I look at the life of a parent. Endlessly they meet ungrateful hearts, tantrums, little people who are so dependent and so wretched. Yet how beautiful when they continue to move toward their kid. What a picture of grace as they continue to extend love, laughter, kindness, gifts on their children. 

And even more I look and remember how Jesus is ever moving toward us. As we run away, or sit in silence and ignore, or apathetically look at him he is moving fiercely toward us. He is jealous for his people. 

Move toward others, even in the hurt. Forgive and forgive and then forgive some more. Let grace be the pen you write stories with. Let kindness be on your lips. Resist the urge to retreat and choose to do the hard thing... Choose to embrace even in the hurt.