Living in the New-Covenant Kingdom Now

Purple Flower“But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.” –Deuteronomy 8:18

A new thought came to me when I read this verse this morning. When we compare the old and new covenants of the Bible, we talk often about the fact that anything accomplished by the old sacrificial system was temporary, so that those sacrifices had to be offered again and again and again. Jesus’ sacrifice, the sacrifice of the new covenant, happened once for all people for all time. No sacrifice for sin will ever be required again.

Deuteronomy 8:18 hints at another difference between the two covenants, though. Whenever the old covenant is referred to, the rewards for honoring it are temporary things. Throughout the Old Testament, God promised His people wealth, land, long life, big families, and status. Jesus, in the New Testament, didn’t promise any of those things. In fact, regarding this life, He promised suffering!

Don’t get me wrong. People in the Old Testament suffered, too—and sometimes for reasons they couldn’t understand. But when they did, their restoration or “happy ending,” so to speak, involved only temporary things. Joseph became a ruler, second only to Pharoah, and was reunited with his family. Job got his wealth, family, and reputation back. The Israelites in exile looked forward to the day when God would restore His Kingdom on earth.

But God had a bigger plan. Jesus talked about it all the time before His death and resurrection, but His followers couldn’t understand until after those events. When Jesus died and rose again, He brought the hope of eternal life into the picture in a whole new way! He tore the veil between the physical and the spiritual. Because of Him, we live with a dramatically different understanding of what it means to be saved. Before the resurrection, people expected to be saved for this life. After, they knew Jesus had saved them for eternity!

None of the disciples got a “happily ever after” ending like Job did. All were martyred except for Judas, who took his own life, and John, the beloved disciple, who probably suffered more than any who were killed! At the very least, he had to wait the longest to be reunited with Christ in that promised heavenly home.

New-Covenant KingdomBut none of them were looking for Job’s happy ending. Their hearts were set on eternity. Yes. Jesus promised them suffering, but He also promised freedom from sin, comfort, strength, character, wisdom, His Presence, the fruit of the Spirit, citizenship in His Kingdom, adoption into His forever family, a new name, an eternal home in Heaven, crowns they’d be honored to throw at His feet and so. much. more.

If we’re looking for wealth, health, and status in this world, we’re living with an old covenant mindset. Jesus invites us to follow Him and His disciples into His New-Covenant Kingdom now.

Jesus, this life can be confusing, disheartening, even hurtful sometimes. But we choose to trust You. Our hope is not for the rewards this world can offer but for the eternal ones that You promised. Help us to keep our focus on eternity with You as we faithfully serve you here. Help us to boldly follow the example those early Christian set, knowing that eventually, just like Your beloved disciple did, we’ll see You face to face in our new home. Nothing can separate us from Your love! Amen.

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Full Life

SnapdragonsThe thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” –John 10:10

Jesus came that we might have life–full life, also known as abundant life, life overflowing with blessings from above. When I think about this statement that Jesus made, I often think of eternal life–in Heaven, with Jesus, some day. But I think Jesus meant more than that. I know that life–with Him, on Earth, right now–is richer because of His presence. When I let Him, He helps me see troublesome things in a more positive way by reminding me that He’s in control and working for good in spite of the bad. Jesus also helps me enjoy the real significance of life’s blessings: they are gifts from Him.

Unfortunately, there is a thief out there waiting to steal, kill, and destroy my positive outlook and joy. He doesn’t want me to be happy, now or ever, and will grab any opportunity to mess with my friendship with Christ. When problems come, this con artist tries to discourage and depress. When all is well, he tries to make me forget from Whom the good times came.

Thankfully, Jesus warned us about this troublemaker as He promised full life. If we focus on Him, He’ll protect us from the thief. He’ll stand by us when life seems dark or sad. He’ll send reminders of His love through good and bad, surprising us with blessings we’d never expect. We need only look to Jesus to enjoy abundant life.

Jesus, You came to give me life–a life that begins right now! I’ll count on You to protect me from the thief, while thanking You for every good thing that I see. Your friendship comes first. Thank You, Lord! Amen.


The Imaginary Israelite and His Secret Sacrifice

“Any Israelite who sacrifices an ox, a lamb or a goat in the camp or outside of it instead of bringing it to the entrance of the tent of meeting to present it as an offering to the Lord in front of the tabernacle of the Lord—that person shall be considered guilty of bloodshed; they have shed blood and must be cut off from their people.” –Leviticus 17:3-4

Pink FlowerBecause being cut off from one’s people is a pretty harsh sentence, I took some time to think about this crime of sacrificing something somewhere other than where God says one can. Not that I’m planning to offer any sacrifices anytime soon. Thanks to Jesus, our Savior, there’s no need for that. But I still wanted to understand this crime and its punishment.

The crime has to do with location and lack of obedience. Imagine that one of the Israelites has sinned, feels guilty about it, and wants to make things right. God has given clear instructions to him on how to do that: bring a sacrifice to the entrance of the tent of meeting to present as an offering to the Lord in front of His tabernacle. This Israelite is more than willing to offer a sacrifice, but he doesn’t want to offer it in front of the tabernacle.


The answer is probably shame with a healthy dose of pride. This person wants to be rid of sin but doesn’t want to deal with the shame of having sinned. He doesn’t want to admit in public that he’s a sinner. He wants to offer the sacrifice in secret. Just like Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden after the Fall, he is hiding, even from God.

Unfortunately, it’s not the sacrifice itself that brings forgiveness and cleansing from sin. It’s the going before God. It’s the humble confession and the asking God on His terms which restore relationship and allow us to receive grace.

When our imaginary Israelite offers his sacrifice his way, he isn’t taking his sin to God. Rather, he is trusting in his own actions to save himself from sin. He is offering his sacrifice to a false god he’s created in his mind, one who will let him keep his secrets while privately paying for them. But with the secret stays the shame, and the real God says the shame has to go. That happens only with a public admission of guilt.

And because this person refuses to follow God’s instructions, insisting on doing things his own way, he is declaring himself not one of God’s people. Therefore, God won’t accept his sacrifice. This Israelite, by his own choice, must go on his way.

What’s this mean for us today? As I’ve said, Jesus already offered His own life as the only sacrifice needed for our sin. His was a very public sacrifice, removing all our sin and shame. Therefore, to be part of His Kingdom, we become living sacrifices (Romans 12:1-2) for Him.

  1. We admit that we are sinners; we have sinned. (This does not mean that we always tell everybody everywhere every gruesome detail of anything wrong we’ve ever done. We share those details with discretion, as the Holy Spirit leads, if we need to talk about it in order to heal, if we need someone to hold us accountable so we won’t fall into that sin again, if our story can help someone else to overcome.)
  2. We ask God for forgiveness and for help to always live His way.
  3. We accept Christ as our Savior.
  4. We make a public confession of our faith. (In other words, we tell people what Jesus has done for us and that we’re living in His Kingdom now and for eternity.)
  5. We live for Him every moment of every day.

The Israelites had to offer sacrifices every time they sinned. But Jesus is the only sacrifice that we will ever need. We go to Him daily, however, for the strength and wisdom to live the way He wants us to live, sacrificing any part of our lives that displeases Him, not because that’s what saves us but because we love Him, we’re grateful to Him, and we want our lives to honor His name!


Finding Forgiveness in Leviticus

I’ve been reading Leviticus this week. Not an easy book to read, but full of meaning once we come to understand that its theme is holiness. Our holy God had just pulled His newly chosen people out of Egypt, setting them apart for Himself, and now He was beginning the process of making them holy, too.

Finding ForgivenessThe word holy, as I understand it, has three meanings: set apart for a particular purpose, pure, and unique. When reading the story of God’s people, by the time we get to Leviticus, God has already set them apart for the purpose of revealing Him to the world. He plans for them to be unique, so the rest of the world will take notice and want to get to know Him, too. He also provides for their purity, though this won’t be complete until the death and resurrection of Christ. Leviticus is God’s Word to His people about the unique lives they are to live and the means He’s provided for their purity, a way for them to receive forgiveness for their sins.

Thus Leviticus opens with seven morbid chapters on how to offer sacrifices followed by an account of the ordination of Israel’s first priests, Moses’ brother—Aaron, and Aaron’s sons.

In the Bible I’m currently reading, Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, share insights scattered through the text. Regarding these chapters in Leviticus, they say, “The sacrificial system prepared people for understanding the meaning of the death of Jesus (see 1 Peter 3:18) and showed that people have a great need to be forgiven.”

This caught my attention. People have a great need to be forgiven. This is absolutely true. It’s built right into us—which may be why so many of the ancient cultures had sacrificial systems of one kind or another. People knew—they just knew!— that they were doing things that were wrong. And they were desperate to clear their consciences in the name of appeasing their gods. Even today in our modern world, people who don’t know Christ (and even some who do but don’t understand what He’s done for them) find ways to offer sacrifices of a sort to make things right when they do wrong. A guilty conscience is a heavy burden. People want to get rid of it!

Without hope of forgiveness, people respond to guilty consciences in one of two ways: depression (not clinical; that’s something else entirely) or denial. The first response is one of hopelessness: “I’ve done this bad thing. I’ve ruined my life. There is no hope for me.” Taken to an extreme, this kind of depression can lead to withdrawal, cutting, or suicide—all three, in this case, a misguided attempt to punish the self, in a sense to offer a sacrifice.

The second is one of rebellion and defensiveness: “I haven’t done anything wrong. How dare you judge me? I’ll show you. I’m going to keep on living my life my way, and I’ll be perfectly happy.” Methinks, perhaps, some of these people doth protest too much. If they are so happy, why do they spew so much anger? Why does what other people think matter so much to them? Why must the rest of the world affirm their decisions?

I’m not sharing these thoughts in order to define what is sin or what is not. My point, rather, is that deep down inside of us, regardless of how we act or what we say, we know the truth. If we are doing something sinful, God’s Spirit is working inside of us to help us face the truth—not so God can punish us or demand a sacrifice (The sacrifice has already been made! See 1 Peter 3:18.); but so we can confess, so we can receive forgiveness, so He can make us pure. 1 John 1:9 proclaims this most clearly: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

Our job is to be open to the truth, to pray with the Psalmist, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” –Psalm 139:23-24. Choosing depression or denial leaves us carrying a load of guilt whether we acknowledge its presence or not. Choosing forgiveness through Christ sets us free to be the people God designed us to be, to find the purpose we were made for, to enjoy life abundantly.

If you haven’t already, I pray you will choose forgiveness. Talk to God (just like you’d talk to a friend). Agree with Him that you have sinned. Tell Him you’re sorry and that, with His help, you won’t do it again (no matter what you’ve done, no matter how many times you’ve failed and had to confess this sin again). Receive His forgiveness and walk with His Spirit in righteousness, peace, and joy. (See Romans 14:17.) You are forgiven. You are free!

Father, thank You for this lesson from Leviticus. Thank You for setting us apart, for giving us purpose, and for making forgiveness available through Your Son’s sacrifice. Help us to live for You; Your way is best—always! Amen.

This post is linked to Grace & Truth: A Weekly Christian Link-Up. Visit that site to find devotional posts by other Christian writers.


God Gives and Enables, So We Can Practice Faith

“Bear in mind that the Lord has given you the Sabbath, that is why on the sixth day, he gives you bread for two days. Everyone is to stay where they are on the seventh day; no one is to go out. So the people rested on the seventh day.” –Exodus 16:29-30

When I read Exodus 16 this morning, my attention was drawn to some truths about our God. In case you’re not familiar with the passage, though, I’ll quickly summarize:

God Provided for His GiftGod has just set the Israelites free from Egypt and led them safely across the Red Sea and into the desert. They are hungry. And they are complaining about it. Rather melodramatically, in fact. They wish they were back in Egypt. They wish they were dead. And I kind of wonder if Moses doesn’t wish they were back in Egypt or dead, too. Just what has God gotten him into?

God doesn’t waste any time diffusing the situation. He tells the people that He will provide. He will be sending manna in the morning and quail at night, and when the people receive it, they will know He is their God.

God gives specific instructions about the manna, though. The people are only to gather what they need for one day, trusting God to provide for the next. Some of the people gather more and try to hoard it, though. That ends in a stinky mess. On the sixth day, however, God tells the people to gather enough for two days, so they can rest on the Sabbath. Those who obey discover that the manna doesn’t go bad overnight when stored for the Sabbath. (And those who don’t obey go hungry on the seventh day.)

So here are the truths that caught my attention this morning:

1. When God gives His people commands, He also gives them the means to keep them. He told His people to rest on the seventh day. He knew they would be hungry, though, so He kept the manna from going bad. He made it possible for them to rest by meeting this basic need.

2. When God gives His people good gifts, He also gives them all they need to enjoy them. Imagine giving dinner in a nice restaurant and tickets to a musical as an anniversary gift for a couple with young children. To be sure they could enjoy the gift, you would also offer to watch their children that night and, if necessary, pay for parking in the theatre lot. The gift would be no good if the couple couldn’t leave their children or afford extra expenses that went along with it.

Likewise, Sabbath rest was a gift from God to His people. He wanted them to enjoy it, so He provided all they needed, so that they could. In covering all the details, God gave the Israelites no excuse to disobey Him. He showed that He is not unreasonable. He is aware of all that His children need. He is able to provide. The Israelites learned to trust Him (at least for a time). They rested on the Sabbath day.

Father, thank You for Your provision, Your generous gifts, and Your attention to all of the details surrounding these. You’ve given us every reason to trust You with our lives. Help us to follow You in faith. We love You, Lord. Amen.

  • How has God revealed Himself to you as the God Who provides what you need?
  • What is God asking You to trust Him with right now?
  • What can you do about it to exercise Your faith?


Congratulations to Marina B., winner of the Parachute Prayer book giveaway! Thank you to everyone who participated.


Approaching God’s Word with Awe

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”Hebrews 4:12

Because the Bible is God’s Word, it is unlike any other book. The writer of Hebrews tells us it’s alive and active! It’s on the mission God created it for: “teaching, correcting, rebuking, and training in righteousness,” equipping God’s people for every good work. (See 2 Timothy 3:16-17.)

For this reason, we’re wise to approach it with awe. Reading the Bible is a privilege; it is a meeting with God! Here are a few ideas for you to consider to make the most of each meeting:

1. Schedule a regular time to meet with God through His Word every day. I like to read first thing every morning as I enjoy my first cup (or two) of coffee. Others like to read just before going to bed. Some listen to Bible CD’s or MP3’s on the way to work or receive daily Bible readings in their e-mail inbox or through a Bible app on their phone or tablet. Creatively choose a time and place that works for you; God will be there waiting each day. And, if you can only find a few moments each day to spare, give these to God. He will make use of them. Like the little boy with the loaves and the fish, offer what you can.

2. Prepare for your meeting with prayer. Before you even open your Bible (or turn on your reading device), ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God’s message for you for that day. Because God’s Word is living and active, God’s Spirit is able to deliver a custom message straight to you. No. The words don’t ever change, but God will use your life experiences and prayer concerns to open your heart to new layers of Truth. This is why it’s so important to keep reading the Bible, every day throughout your life. You can cross other books off your To-Be-Read list after you read them through, but when you finish reading the Bible, flip it over and start reading again.

Bible Verse Parachute3. Pay attention when you stumble across Bible verses in other places. Many of the books I read, even fictional stories, quote Bible verses within their pages. Christians who use social networking sites like Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ love to share Bible verses they find. And sometimes you’ll find Scripture used in home or business décor. If you have the time, don’t skim over these. Recognize them as God’s Word and read what He has to say.

Father, help us to remember, please, that Your Word is more than just another book to read. Help us to approach it with respect and anticipation, knowing it’s our link to You. Call us to read it daily and as we obey, reveal Your message that we’ll come to know ever more and more of You. Adjust our thoughts and attitudes. Make us better able to serve in Your Kingdom. Please make us more like You. We thank You for this priceless gift. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Note: Don’t forget to enter the drawing to win two copies of my new book, Parachute Prayer! The entry post is here.


Insights from Genesis 2

Insight JournalI got to flip The Book yesterday! That means I finished reading Revelation and got to start again in Genesis. I love the book of Genesis. Personally, I think it’s one of the most dramatic books in the whole Bible, full of amazing stories combined with great truths about our loving, Creator God, Who makes His intention to have a relationship with us, in spite of us, clear.

This time through, I’m reading the NIV Life Journey Bible with insights from Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. The NIV is the NIV regardless of whose thoughts we’re reading alongside the Bible words, but I enjoy reading those thoughts from authors I respect. If you haven’t heard of them, Cloud and Townsend are renowned Christian psychologists, authors, and radio personalities. Boundaries is their most popular work; it’s a book I recommend.

But that’s enough about them. Back to Genesis! When I read through the Bible, I keep a journal of new or revisited insights, verses I feel called to pray about or for others, and questions I want to think about more. Some of these find their way onto this blog, but many don’t. I want to share so many ideas with you but become overwhelmed at the idea of transforming them all into clearly-articulated blog posts.

Maybe I don’t have to take them so seriously, though! Maybe I don’t have to spell every thought out so completely. Maybe it’s enough to take what I’ve been thinking about and give you something to think about! Then maybe, you can tell me what you think of it, so together we can learn. I’m willing to give it a try.

Here goes:

This morning, I read Genesis 2. (I also read Genesis 1, but nothing jumped out at me this time through. That’s okay. God directs our thoughts as we read, leading us to think about what we most need to as we read.) As I read Genesis 2, an outline of sorts began to form about God’s work in our lives. Here is what I saw:

1. “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dustof the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”Genesis 2:7

God gives us life. He breathes it right into us!

2. “The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden . . .”Genesis 2:15a

God places us where He wants us to be. He’d created this whole, big earth but chose to place Adam in Eden. We could probably even go so far as to say, God designed Eden especially for Adam (and Eve, but she isn’t in the picture just yet).

3. “. . . to work it and take care of it.”Genesis 2:15b

God gives us meaningful work to do. Note: This was before the Fall. Work gives people purpose; it allows us to participate in God’s Kingdom. Having to work wasn’t the curse that resulted from the Fall. The curse was that work became a drudgery, goals harder to reach, toil more painful after the Fall.

4. “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’”Genesis 2:16-17

God tells us what He expects of us. He told Adam directly. He tells us through the Bible, His Word.

5. “The Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.’”Genesis 2:18

God gives us everything we need. In fact, He anticipates our needs and provides at just the right time. Verse 18 of this chapter is just one example. The whole chapter describes all that God provided for His new children in the brand new world.

Father, we thank You for thinking everything out so carefully on our behalf. Please forgive us for going our own way, failing You and Your creation. Please help us to live according to Your plan, for the good of Your Kingdom and the glory of Your name. Amen.


A New Understanding for Any Age

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”1 Timothy 4:12

DSC00248eI came across this verse during my devotional time one recent morning and couldn’t help but feel a little sad. You see, it used to be one of my favorite Bible verses. It’s a call to be bold and take on the world in spite of youth with the energy, idealism, and strength of youth. Who doesn’t love that?!

Someone who’s reluctantly beginning to realize that there are fewer and fewer people out there looking down on her for being young. Let’s face it, when you’re praying this verse for your adult children . . .

Heavy sigh.

God didn’t let me mourn for long. He drew my attention right back to that verse and helped me understand it in a currently applicable way.

Timothy was a young minister working with the church Paul had established in Ephesus. Because he was young and, perhaps, a lot of members of that church were a little older, Paul knew Timothy’s age could become something that would hold him back. Timothy might have been tempted to let himself be intimidated by others because of his age. So Paul told him not to let anyone look down on him because he was young. So . . .

  • If Paul were writing to you, what potentially intimidating factor might he see?

Don’t let anyone look down on you because . . . you’re quiet? You have a disability or chronic illness? You’re, um, not as young as you’d like to believe people think you are? You don’t have as many credentials as someone else? You’ve been abandoned by someone you counted on?

  • How would you fill in the blank? Don’t let anyone look down on you because . . .

This is what Paul might have written to you.

But that’s only half the point of this verse. The truth is that none of us, not even Timothy, has the power to control what others think of us. If someone in the Ephesian church wanted to look down on Timothy, he wouldn’t have been able to stop them. Timothy’s only power was to keep their opinions from keeping him from doing what God called him to do. In other words, Timothy was to “keep people from looking down on him” by proving their opinions wrong, by capably doing what God called him to do—in spite of his age.

New UnderstandingWhat a relief! This favorite verse of mine can still be a favorite because, in truth, it applies to people of any age. It remains a bold call to take on the world in spite of whatever we think people may look down on us for. We do so with the energy, optimism, and strength God provides. We do so for the glory of His name.

Father, please help us to identify anything in our lives that we fear others look down on us for. Then help us to entrust that thing to You. You created us at the perfect time with all we need to fulfill Your purpose for our lives. Therefore, we shouldn’t let anyone intimidate us, even if we think they’re looking down on us. Please fill us with your energy, optimism, and strength regardless of our age or any other thing. We thank You, Lord. Amen.


Wrestling with God

God showed me something perplexing this week: He invites us to wrestle with Him. All out. He welcomes our challenges.

DSC01503eThis goes against my very nature, though. I was the compliant child. As an adult, I take getting along with others as far as it depends on me seriously. (See Romans 12:18.) I really, really want to get along with everyone. I don’t handle conflict well.

But conflict with God? I don’t think I’ve ever handled that at all. He’s God. He’s the boss. What He says goes. If I don’t like it, tough—I must accept it and move on. My opinion on the matter doesn’t matter at all.

Turns out, it matters to God. In fact, because He loves me, it matters to Him very much.

In Genesis 32:22-32, we read of Jacob wrestling with God all night. It’s a bizarre, little passage in the Bible, but the timing makes sense to me. Jacob had been away from home for years. He’d run away because he’d wronged his twin brother, Esau, who declared his intention to kill Jacob. While away, Jacob had worked for his Uncle Laban, acquired wives, fathered several children, and accumulated great wealth.

Now Jacob is returning home and preparing to meet Esau. It’s the night before the big reunion, and Jacob is spending it wrestling with God. And I kind of think this was a gift from God.

Jacob was preparing to face his life’s greatest failure. In the world’s eyes, he was a success. He knew he’d been blessed by God. But at this moment, he probably had to deal with a lot of self-doubt, self-recrimination, and fear of the future. The wrestling match showed Jacob that he had overcome (v. 28). He had seen God’s face, and yet, his life had been spared (v. 30). He could move forward with confidence in spite of his past. Jacob needed to know this. And he probably also needed the limp that would stay with him as a result. It would remind him of what he had been through and learned.

DSC01481Two other Bible passages come to mind when I think of wrestling with God. In Psalm 13, David challenges God. He asks, “How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Then he demands either an answer or death!

Two verses later, he prays, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.”

What?! When I first read this, I had to go back over the first few verses to make sure my eyes hadn’t skipped to another chapter. They hadn’t. David’s emotions reversed just that quickly. He told God exactly how he felt about his circumstances, and in the telling he found the strength to trust.

Paul describes a similar thing when he tells the Corinthians about his thorn in the flesh (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). Three times he asked God to take it away from him. That’s not meek submission; that’s wrestling with God. Paul pled with God to take that thorn away until he found peace in living with it. And then he took delight in it because his weakness revealed God’s strength.

Wrestling with GodWhen we’re facing something scary but unavoidable, when God has the power to change circumstances we don’t like but refuses to do so, when we’re tired of enduring to the point of despair, God invites us to wrestle with Him in prayer. He doesn’t want to hear the right words, the submissive words, the sanctified-holy, perfect words. He wants us to tell Him how we really feel. He wants us to voice the honest words. (He knows we’re thinking them anyway—even when we don’t or won’t admit, even to ourselves, that we are.)

It’s in the wrestling we learn that God is strong enough to trust. He can handle us, and He can handle whatever threatens us. We may not like a situation, but we will learn through the experience, through our patience and perseverance, through our very survival—or not, God’s strength will show through our weakness. With Him, we’ll eventually overcome all.


The Ugly Cactus and 1 Peter 4:8


This cactus captured my imagination a few summers ago. It was so big and so ugly, yet the Showy Primroses chose to decorate it well. Then I found 1 Peter 4:8, and it seemed to go with the picture, too.

Only Jesus can remove sin from our lives, yet when our transgressions wound others, we must ask their forgiveness then show them much love to help them cover the memory they may bear. Better yet, if we have already loved them deeply, our careless transgressions might not hurt so much, for they’ll know our hearts and know pain wasn’t our intent. The memory won’t be so severe.

Either way, as we love each other deeply and live with forgiveness and grace, life is more beautiful.