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Questions to Ask When People Bring Hurt

1 Peter 3-8n9“Finally, all of you, be like-minded, be sympathetic, love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.”1 Peter 3:8-9

If only everyone would follow Peter’s instructions found in these verses, our world would be a happier place. Just imagine if everyone tried to see the other’s point of view, to be sympathetic, to love, to show compassion, and to act with humility in all situations.

Sadly, not every does. In fact, everyone doesn’t—at least not in every situation all the time. This may be why Peter devoted one sentence to how to conduct ourselves positively and two to what to do when others don’t. In this world, we will encounter evil and insults. We need to know how to respond.

Here are three things to ask when deciding how to repay evil with a blessing:

1. If Jesus were in this situation, how would He handle it? When we don’t know the answer, we can study to gospels and ask God’s Spirit for help. The better we know Jesus and His way, the more naturally we’ll follow in every circumstance.

2. What might God be trying to accomplish in this other person’s life? Depending on how well we know this person, the answer may be obvious or hard to determine. Either way, we can take what we know to God as we talk with Him about the situation and pray for the other person.

3. How might God be able to use our response to this event? Asking this question takes the focus off ourselves and our personal injuries. We can trust God to help us and to heal us regardless of what the other person does or has done. Therefore, we are free to pray for the one who hurt us, to seek that person’s good.

When we repay evil with such a blessing, we enjoy personal peace, we help to bring healing to the situation, we offer good to the one who hurt us, and we send a message to the world. All of these honor God because as Christians, we are being watched every day. Unbelievers want to see, to test, how we handle life. Our reactions to evil and to insults teach them about Jesus Christ.

Father, that’s a sobering thought. When someone hurts me, my response can’t be all about me. But, thanks to Jesus, it doesn’t have to be. I can trust You to take care of me. Help me to offer blessings to others to encourage the world to seek You and to do good. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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We Follow the One We Choose to Trust

We Follow Who We TrustA few years ago I did a series at Wildflower Thinking called The New Spice Rack Recipes. My brother had learned that salt was my seasoning of choice and decided to correct that by buying me a new spice rack for my birthday. I decided to take the hint and determined to find at least one new recipe every month that featured one of the spices from my new spice rack. The series ran until I’d used each spice at least once.

The series came to an end, but my cooking adventures did not. Since then, our family has had to give up soy and gluten, and I’ve had to learn a whole new way to cook. But the spice rack project prepared me for this adventure. I’m not a great chef, but I can no longer say I’m not a good cook. I’ve been practicing and learning to enjoy the process, too. In fact, I suspect my earlier cooking issues came from being impatient, from trying to hurry the science up. (And if you don’t believe that cooking is a science, then you haven’t really learned to cook.)

For Christmas this past year, my son and daughter-in-law gave me a new cookbook called The Gluten-Free Table by Jilly Lagasse and Jessie Lagasse Swanson, aka Emeril’s daughters. I’ll confess, it intimidates me. I’ve only tried one of the recipes so far—but it was so good! Pan-fried Flounder with Lemon Garlic Butter. It totally takes the healthy out of gluten-free! That’s probably why it’s such a hit in our house.

I made this recipe the other day. The sisters excel at step-by-step instructions. (Something I’ll need to remember as I boldly attempt some more of their creations.) But as I was following these instructions, I found myself revising them. I’d see a simpler way to get from one step to another—less mess, fewer dishes. I’d wonder why they included the extra steps. Then I’d figure there probably was a perfectly good reason, but since I couldn’t ask them, I’d do things my way. The recipe came out fine, but I can’t help but wonder if following the recipe exactly would have made a difference—would have made it even better! What do these sisters know that I don’t? (Probably, quite a lot!) I may never know, however, because the fish turned out really good, and I had less mess to clean up. (Remember that theory of my earlier cooking issues? Evidently I’m still a work in progress.)


Mark 8:34 says, “Then [Jesus] called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: ‘Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.’” Earlier Jesus had called Peter and Andrew to follow Him (Matthew 4:18-20). They did. He called Matthew to follow Him (Matthew 9:9). He did. He told the rich young ruler to sell all his possessions and follow Him (Matthew 19:21). This man did not. Finally, Jesus called anyone who wants to to follow Him (Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23). The choice is ours.

This decision to follow Jesus, however, isn’t just a one-time choice. We choose to follow Jesus, then we choose to keep following Him. Just as I had to choose to follow the Lagasse sisters’ step-by-step instructions or not as I worked my way through their recipe, we have to choose to follow Jesus’ leading moment-by-moment, every day, as we work our way through life. Some people in the Bible followed Jesus, then turned back when the journey got rough (John 6:66). There will be times when our journey gets rough, when our journey gets messy, when we think we see a simpler way. In these times, we’ll choose to follow—or not. And life may become easier for a time if we do not, but, unlike with the flounder recipe, in the end we won’t get the desired result unless we follow Jesus and do everything His way.

Earlier I mentioned that as I was preparing the pan-fried flounder, I often wondered why the Lagasse sisters told me to do some things. I don’t know them personally, so I couldn’t ask. It’s similar with Jesus. I do have a personal relationship with Him, and He doesn’t mind if I ask why. But He doesn’t always choose to answer this question. I think this is because He is teaching us to trust. We show our trust, we practice our trust, when we choose to follow Him no matter what. And in the end, this is healthy for us.

Jesus loves us. He wants what’s best for us. He’s continuing the work He has begun in our lives. Let’s cooperate. Let’s follow. Let’s trust.

Jesus, thank You for being perfectly trustworthy. Please help us to follow You faithfully each day.

Disclosure

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Of Dead Keys and Fruitless Fig Trees

The Dead Key BagIn our house, I’m the Keeper of the Keys. I don’t know why. Maybe it’s similar to being the one who is expected to carry every else’s papers and books at church because I’m the one who carries a purse. (I usually refuse to live up to this expectation, but it’s there just the same.) I don’t carry a purse around the house, yet I’m still the one who gets to keep track of all the spare keys.

Whenever we move into a new home, every responsible inhabitant gets a set of house keys—and I get any extras to keep in a drawer—just in case. Every time we purchase a new padlock or security box or file cabinet, I get the spare keys for those, too. And because there’ve been times when a family member couldn’t find a key and the spare key couldn’t be found in its appointed place for one mysterious reason or another—most likely because said family member never gave The Keeper of the Keys the spare key to begin with, though said family member prefers to think The Keeper of the Keys misplaced the spare key—I’m a little bit obsessive about hanging on to all the keys that have ever come into my possession—ever—from the beginning of my mysterious appointment to this role.

The result of this obsession combined with our tendency to move is what I’ve come to call The Dead Key Bag. It’s a plastic, zipper bag stuffed full of keys that I have no idea what they open but feel compelled to keep—just in case. I laughed out loud when the lady who packed our house for our most recent move found my dead keys, brought them to me, and asked, “Are these important? Do you need to carry them yourself or should I pack them?” I told her that I didn’t know what they belonged to, so she could go ahead and pack them. She looked a little confused but took them back to pack anyway.

That’s when I realized I probably could have taken them and thrown them away right then. (The packer was probably thinking this, too.) We were moving. I had all keys-in-use on my key chain. Any keys in that bag were most assuredly dead. I’d be getting new keys. It was the perfect opportunity to free myself of The Dead Key Bag. Since the lady had already packed them, though, I decided I’d toss them when I found them in my new home.

I shouldn’t have waited. Earlier this summer, I told you about this particular packer and how she collected all the night lights in the house and packed them together in one box. Well, on the other side of the room from the drawer where I kept The Dead Key Bag was a drawer where I kept current spare keys. Spare keys that I could identify. Keys currently in use. My efficient packer friend found these keys—in their different drawer on the other side of the room—and thoughtfully added them to The Dead Key Bag.

It’s a key nightmare! Now I have to keep the dead keys or risk throwing out a key we still use.

The other day my son Seth asked for the spare key to his car. With a sinister gleam in my eye, I handed him The Dead Key Bag. He dumped it out, and we examined its contents together.

“Mom, these little keys are luggage keys—for the little padlocks on your suitcases that anyone can open with a toothpick. They’re useless. You can throw them away.”

I didn’t.

“These are the keys to Justin’s, Alex’s, and my first cars. We’ve sold the cars. You can throw these keys away.”

I think I’m going to have them bronzed—like Grandma bronzed her children’s baby shoes!

“This is the key to Dad’s Ranger the lady hit and totaled two years ago.”

That one needs to be plated with gold! My husband walked away without a scratch. Thank You, Lord!!!

“The rest of these look like house or padlock keys. We should melt them down and make something useful out of them.”

I have no idea how to do such a thing, but Seth will figure it out if I give him permission. In the meantime, I’m putting The Dead Key Bag back in the drawer for a designated project day when I’ll toss every key for which I cannot find a lock.


This reminds me of the parable of the fig tree found in Luke 13:6-8. The owner of a fig tree goes out to search for fruit. For the third year in a row, he can’t find any, so he tells the caretaker to cut down the tree. The caretaker begs him for one more year and promises to give extra attention to that tree for that year in order to help it produce fruit.

The tree’s purpose is to produce fruit. A key’s purpose is to open a lock. A person’s purpose is to find God, accept His gift of salvation from sin through Jesus Christ, and spend eternity enjoying a loving relationship with Him.

The world is full of people who haven’t found their purpose, but God is patient “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Like the owner of the fig tree and The Keeper of the Keys, however, God has chosen a day when His patience will end—a day known only to Him (Matthew 24:36).

Until then, those of us who know God are like the caretaker in the parable. We walk and talk with Him daily. We love Him and strive to get to know Him better. We serve Him faithfully, doing whatever He tells us to do. We’re fulfilling our purpose, while doing all we can to lead others to Him. The end of the year/designated project day is coming. We must help lead people to our Lord.

How do we do this? We do what the caretaker did!

  • We plead with God on their behalf.
  • We offer them Living Water, like Jesus offered it to the woman at the well (John 4:1-26).
  • We give them the nutrients of God’s Word as opportunities arise.
  • We pay attention to their needs, loving them in Jesus’ name as we love ourselves.

There isn’t much we can do for a bunch of dead keys. They’ve served their purpose; they are done. But we can pray for and love people who haven’t yet discovered the purpose for which they were made. Our God is patiently waiting, reaching out to all. Let’s ask Him for a greater awareness of opportunities to help people come to Him.

Father, thank You for salvation. Thank You for Your love. Thank You for sending Your Son to save us from our sins, so we can enjoy an eternal relationship with You. We thank You now for Your patience with those who haven’t found You yet. Please continue to wait. And while You do, please send Your Spirit to help us do all we can to help lead these souls to You. We love You, Lord. We want them to love You, too. For their good. For Your glory. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Making the Most of God-Given Opportunities

Thanking God for Opportunities“I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, but you have not been like my servant David, who kept my commands and followed me with all his heart, doing only what was right in my eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. You have made for yourself other gods, idols made of metal; you have aroused my anger and turned your back on me.”1 Kings 14:8-9

I found a gentle reminder in this verse. God gives us opportunities. We choose to make the most of them for His glory and our good—or not. David chose to follow God with all his heart. Jeroboam, the king being spoken to in the above verses, did not. As a result, God did not allow Jeroboam’s family to continue to rule. In fact, a challenger rose up to wipe the family out. (See 1 Kings 15:27-30.)


As parents, we give our children opportunities. We want them to succeed in life. We want what’s best for them. Our children, however, get to choose how to use those opportunities. When they’re young, we offer them healthy meals. They choose to eat them and grow strong (and maybe get dessert when they’re through) or to skip the broccoli, miss out on its benefits, and deal with our frustration. When they’re older, we may offer to help finance their college education. But they’ll choose whether to work hard and make the most of the opportunity or to squander it and fail.

When our children reject or waste an opportunity, we may feel responsible. As we watch our children suffer the consequences of poor decisions, we may wonder if maybe we shouldn’t have offered the opportunity to begin with. But the truth is our children are responsible for their own choices. If they do well, the credit belongs to them—though some of it usually rubs off on us. If they do poorly, that’s on them, too—though, again, fair or not, this often falls on us as well. Thankfully, God knows the truth one way or another—and He understands better than any other.

God gave David an opportunity. David chose to honor God—except in the case of Uriah the Hittite (1 Kings 15:5). God honored David in return, establishing a Kingdom that would stand in spite of the failings of David’s descendants.

Likewise, God gave Jeroboam an opportunity. Jeroboam chose to squander it. As a result, people who read the story sometimes question why God gave Jeroboam the opportunity in the first place. We don’t know the answer to that question. We only know that God gave Jeroboam an opportunity, and Jeroboam messed up. The failure is Jeroboam’s. God’s Kingdom stands without this man.

Let’s go back to that gentle reminder. God gives us opportunities just like He gave David and Jeroboam opportunities. He also gives us the freedom to choose how we will use them. Today let’s spend some time thinking about the opportunities God has given to us. Let’s consider how we’re using them, whether or not we’re doing the best we can with what we have to follow and honor God. Are we people after God’s own heart or are we going our own way? The choice comes with the gift.


Father, thank You for all the opportunities You give to us. Help us to show our gratitude by using them in ways that honor You. Please search our hearts and reveal to us any selfish or wicked ways. We want to follow You like David did. Help us live lives that glorify Your name. Amen.

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That the Fully Committed Will Stay Strong

Parachute Prayer Post“And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.” -1 Kings 8:61

After Solomon built and dedicated God’s Temple, he spoke to the people. 1 Kings 8:61 records some of his words. When I read the first phrase of this verse, I started to pray for people I know who aren’t fully committed to the Lord. But then I read the last phrase. Solomon wasn’t urging the people to become committed to the Lord; he wanted them to stay that way. That little phrase, as at this time, reminded me, once again, that while it’s important to pray for the one lost sheep to be found (Luke 15:1-7), it’s also important to pray for the 99 who are safely in the fold.

And Solomon’s own life proves this. Just three chapters later, we read of Solomon’s downfall and death. This king who urged God’s people to remain faithful did not. Tragically, his choices set a series of events in motion that led the whole nation to fall. Likewise, when strong Christians falter, they tend to take others down with them. 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” When our enemy gets hold of someone influential, he’s especially thrilled. It’s his opportunity to take a whole herd. For everyone’s sake, we must pray that those who are committed to God will find the strength in Him to stay that way.

Because Solomon was a king and because Christians are God’s “chosen people, a royal priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9), let’s let symbols of royalty be our prompt to pray. When we see crowns, thrones, scepters, news of one royal family or another, let’s ask God to strengthen those who are fully committed to Him. May their hearts remain that way for their good, for the good of God’s Kingdom, and for God’s glory. Amen.


For more prayer prompts, read Parachute Prayer: The Practice of Praying Continually. Available in paperback or for Kindle.

 

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Giving Our Petitions to God

Then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the LORD my horn is lifted high. My mouth boasts over my enemies, for I delight in your deliverance.’” –1 Samuel 2:1, emphasis mine

For This ChildHannah’s story is one of my all-time favorites. The Bible only gives her two chapters, but there is much we can learn from this devoted woman of God.

When I read of her misery at not having a desperately longed-for child, compounded by taunts from her husband’s other wife, my heart always breaks for her. When Eli confronts her during a time of intense prayer, accusing her of being drunk, I want to scold him for being so dense: “Hasn’t the poor woman suffered enough?” And then, when she finally bears this child and turns him over to the Lord, I admire her courage at following through on her promise. (If you are unfamiliar with this priceless story, you’ll find it in 1 Samuel 1.)

But today, I’m drawn to something about the story that I usually miss, and I think, perhaps, it may be the whole point. Remember, I just told you, Hannah’s story is found in 1 Samuel 1. The chapter ends with Hannah putting Samuel into Eli’s care for a lifetime of service in the house of the Lord. Chapter 2, however, begins with Hannah’s prayer of joy and praise. Hannah gave up her son, then Hannah praised the Lord.

You would think the prayer of joy and praise would have come when Hannah learned she was expecting Samuel, or maybe a little later, when he was born. Then, you would think putting Samuel into Eli’s care would result in a time of mourning, or maybe another time of petition, asking for more children to replace the one she’s given up. Wouldn’t you think this? I think I would.

But I’m thankful for Hannah’s example here. We often view her as a symbol of hope for childless women—and that she is! She’s also a mentor, though, for all women who’ve ever had the privilege of raising a child or two or more.

You see, we don’t bear children in order to have them—to possess them, to keep them forever in our care. We bear children in order to send them off in faithful service to God through whatever occupation He leads them into! This does not mean we drop them off at our local church for the pastor to raise from the day they’re weaned—like Hannah did. We are blessed to be able to keep our children a little bit longer than that. But, like Hannah, our goal from the day they are born is to raise them to know, love, and serve God as He directs throughout their lives. He gives them to us, so we can give them back to Him.

That’s why the day we successfully launch them is a day to sincerely rejoice! (even if it’s through a few tears.)

And, when this day comes, though we’ll miss our children, we can trust that, just as God blessed Hannah with more children, He will bless us with more children, too—people to love and nurture, projects to complete in His name.

As I ponder all this, I have one more thought to add to this thought. And, as I mentioned earlier, it may be the thought, so I hope you’ll bear with me for just a few paragraphs more.

Hannah’s petition for a child, the way she handled it, can apply to all petitions we may bring before God. When considering what we want or need, rather than considering what these will mean to us personally, like Hannah we can consider what they’ll mean to God’s Kingdom and to our work within it. We pray for things we can develop for the honor and glory of God. We pray for things that will build His Kingdom, drawing more people to Him. Then we care for these things as God provides, releasing them willingly and with praise when it comes time for that. Perhaps this is what it means to give our petitions to God. We ask for what we want or need, releasing the answer to Him even before we receive it, with faithful intentions to use all God provides for His Kingdom’s good.

That is what Hannah did. Let’s learn from her and do the same.

Father, thank You for Hannah’s example. Teach us to consider Your Kingdom and our role in it whenever we present our requests to You. Thank You for the gifts You bring into our lives for a time. Help us to nurture them as You intend, and then release them back to You with joy. Let all we do be for the honor of Your name. We love You, Lord! Amen.

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A New Way to Pray for Family and Close Friends

Teach Us to IntercedePrayer is having a conversation with God.

Intercessory prayer is one kind of prayer: praying for other people.

When we intercede, we usually present to God a list of concerns for others that we have been made aware of: they’ve asked us to pray, another person has asked us to pray for them, we’ve observed their struggles and decided to pray. We collect these requests then choose a time to present them to God in prayer.

But if prayer really is having a conversation with God, then intercession can be so much more than presenting a list of concerns. I believe that we can learn to pray with God about people instead of simply praying to God for people. I also believe that as we do so, we’ll be allowing Him, if He so chooses, to use us more effectively in the process of answering those prayers.

This is how it works:

1. Begin by telling God all the things you love about the person you are praying for. This will allow God to go to work on your heart. If there are hidden resentments or other problems, God will reveal these as you attempt to focus on the positive. You’ll be having a conversation with God about this person, and as you do, God will prepare your heart to intercede by helping you go into it with the right attitude.

2. Take some time to thank God for that person’s presence in your life. Officially recognize and recount ways God has used that person to positively influence you. Let God show you how this person is one of His gifts to you. Thank Him for the gift.

3. Ask God to show you how you can love that person in His name. Ask Him to give you specific ideas. Determine to be alert to His promptings throughout the day—and ask Him to help you with this. When you follow through, that will be your opportunity to work with God, allowing Him to use you however He chooses to answer your prayers. If you don’t see an opportunity or feel prompted to do anything out of the ordinary, trust God with this. He may use you without your knowledge. He may use someone else to meet a need. He may have something else in mind. His ways are always best.

4. Finally, present any known requests on that person’s behalf. Present them one at a time, thoughtfully. Again, be open and alert to anything God’s Spirit may suggest to you. Thank God for all He plans to do in this person’s life.

Praying this way for everyone we love every day is probably too much to ask. If ever we’re aware of something serious, that can be a prompt to take the time to do this. And, of course, we can whisper Parachute Prayers on the spot whenever we learn of a need. Here’s a fun suggestion, though, for scheduling time to pray for those in our close circles regularly:

  • Make a list of the people you consider family and close friends, people you want to pray for regularly just because you love them.
  • Write the number of their birthday beside their name. For example, if your mother was born on May 4, write a four beside her name.
  • When a person’s number rolls around every month, pray for that person on that day. Using the above example, on the fourth of every month, you’d pray for your mom.
  • Because some people have birthdays at the end of long months, pray for those people on the last day of the month, so you’ll still get to focus on them twelve times (at the very least – always be open to pray more often if God calls you to).

Caution: please don’t ever let a suggestion such as this one, simply a useful tool, become a burden. Talking with God about the people we love is meant to be a joyful privilege—never something we have to do on this day-at that time-no matter what-or else.

Father, please teach us to pray with You about the people You’ve placed in our lives. However You lead us to do so, help us to enjoy our visit with you and to learn if and how we can help as You work in their lives. Teach us to love. Teach us to encourage. Teach us to obey. We love you, Lord. Amen.

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Because He Said So

When we become parents, we vow we’ll never say it. Our parents said it and drove us crazy. We decide we will not do that to our kids. We’re more patient, more creative, more understanding than that. We determine that our kids won’t hear that phrase coming from our lips.

But then the day comes when they ask for something they can’t have.

We say, “No.”

They say, “Why?”

We patiently explain.

They look at us with big, sad eyes and ask, “But why?”

We try again to explain.

They get frustrated, stomp their feet, and ask again, “But why?”

And before we know what’s happening, those four little words come out of our mouths of their own volition:

“Because I said so.”

And suddenly we understand. Our parents weren’t being impatient, uncreative, or insensitive. They desperately wanted us to understand the why, so we’d accept the disappointing answer and not be unhappy with them, so we’d trust that they were doing their job as parents and choosing the best for us—even when it hurt.

But sometimes, kids, still learning and experiencing and maturing, just cannot understand. That’s why they’re still kids, living under our roofs, dependent on our care. “Because I said so” has to be enough for them. Someday they’ll thank us for it. (We hope.)

Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.” This is God’s (through Moses) “Because I said so” to the Israelites. They were still relatively new to this whole being-God’s-chosen-people thing and there was much about Him and His plan that they could not understand. Moses assured them that, though God had the right to not tell them everything, He had told them everything they needed to know. He told them Who He Is. He told them what they could expect from Him. He told them what He expected from them. Their job was to obey the law He’d given and to trust Him with the rest.

For. Their. Own. Good.

God maintains His rightGod has revealed so much more of Himself and His plan since that time. Thanks to Jesus, we know things the Israelites couldn’t have imagined. Yet God still maintains the right to keep secret things. We won’t always know why. There’s much we cannot understand. Sometimes Because I said so has to be enough.

But we do know that God loves us and that all His plans for us are good. He has told us Who He Is. He has told us what we can expect from Him and what He expects from us. He has even sent His Spirit to help us in our quest to live His way. Our job is to follow His Son and trust Him with whatever we can’t yet understand.

Better yet, He’s given us His Word. As we study it, His Spirit helps us to grow in wisdom and understanding. Just as our children grow in knowledge, experience, and maturity, so do we. We’ll never understand everything, for only God is God. But as we faithfully study and pray, God will reveal what He wants us to know. Let’s thank Him now instead of waiting until someday.

Father, there is no one like You Who understands all things. Therefore please help us, Your beloved children, to trust You. When Because I said so is the only answer we can handle in our humanity, help us to be thankful for what You have revealed. Help us to follow Your Son’s ways. We’re so thankful to be Your children. Please teach us what we need to know, so our lives will please You. For our good and Your glory! In Jesus’ name, amen.

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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.

Why?

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!

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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.