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The First Denial

“And Jesus said to him, ‘Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’” -Mark 14:30ESV

On hearing Jesus’ statement that they would all fall away, Peter and the remaining disciples all declared emphatically that they would be loyal to Jesus no matter what. Peter went so far as to vow that he’d be faithful even if everyone else was not. This, of course, is when Jesus told Peter he’d deny Him three times before the rooster crowed twice.

I’ve been giving this passage some thought, and I’ve decided I don’t think Jesus meant this as an accusation. I don’t see Him pointing His finger in Peter’s face and shaming him or the other disciples. And I don’t really think that He was expressing disappointment in Peter and the other disciples either; He knew them better than they knew themselves. How could they have ever let Him down if He never expected them to stay faithful? In fact, for this reason, I’m not even sure Jesus’ words to Peter had to have been a set in stone prophecy. (Stay with me here.)

What if . . . really . . . what if, instead of becoming defensive, arguing with Jesus, and adamantly declaring his loyalty a second time, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you” (v. 31), what if Peter had stopped to think about Jesus’ words? What if, instead of saying never, Peter had said, “I don’t want to do that. Lord, help me!”?

Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was making a simple statement about Peter’s character as Jesus knew it, letting Peter know what would emerge from his nature if Peter refused to listen, learn, and change. If that was the case, then maybe, just maybe, if Peter had paid attention and taken Jesus’ words as a warning to heed, maybe, just maybe, he wouldn’t have denied Jesus at all. Peter’s refusal to do so was his first denial—a denial of the truth about Himself that Jesus had graciously revealed—a truth that quite possibly could have been changed had Peter accepted it and asked for Jesus’ help.

I wonder if maybe this is why Jesus later asked Peter three times if he loved Him. (See John 21:15-17.) This passage is often referred to as Peter’s reinstatement. Through the dialogue, Jesus takes action to forgive Peter by restoring their relationship and recommissioning Peter to serve. I’ve heard it taught that perhaps Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him three times because Peter denied Him three times. I know that Jesus used different Greek words for love within the dialogue, both translated the same in English. And I’ve heard a few different explanations about why He may have done this.

But . . . what if . . . also . . . Jesus simply wanted Peter to slow down this time before giving an impulsive answer, before making a declaration that time would prove he didn’t really mean?

Jesus loved Peter. He told Peter what he needed to know about himself, so that he could be aware and make better, more informed choices. So that Peter could change. When Peter denied the truth about himself, resulting in his denial of Christ, Jesus graciously gave him another opportunity to see and process truth, so Peter could grow into the person God intended him to be.

Jesus does the same for us. He warns us, so we can make better choices. He reinstates us when we fail. He loves us and patiently leads us, helping us mature into the people we were meant to be.

Lord, You know me better than I know myself. When you reveal character flaws that could lead to sin, help me slow down and listen. Help me change, so my actions will honor, not hurt, You. And thank You for loving, patient, restoration whenever I fail. I’m following You, Lord. I love You. Amen.

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Responding Like Jesus

“He was despised and rejected—a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief.” -Isaiah 53:3NLT

“During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” -Hebrews 5:7NIV

The Sadducees and Pharisees harassed and heckled and challenged Jesus everywhere He went. Yet He always responded with patience and wise teaching. Most of his tormentors rejected this, slinking away silenced. But others who witnessed these encounters, including some of the Sadducees and Pharisees, noted and learned from Jesus’ response. Our amazing Lord turned His challenges into teachable moments for others instead of letting His enemies put Him on the defense. Later, when He was alone, He prayed for those enemies—and most likely for Himself—for needed strength to face them again and again.

Father, please help me to remember Jesus’ example in this. Teach me how to respond to challenges and insults with patience and wisdom and sound teaching. Then remind me to bring and release the pain from such encounters to You. Help me forgive those who hurt me and pray for them as well. In Jesus’ name, I pray. I choose to follow His ways. Amen.

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If We Had Methuselah’s Years

Genesis 5 . . .

Just imagine . . .

According to this genealogical chapter:

Adam lived for 903 years.

Seth lived for 913.

Enosh lived for 905.

Kenan for 910.

Mahalalel for 895.

Jared, 962.

Enoch, 365 . . . on earth. He walked faithfully with God, so God took him away. (See verse 24.) He may still be alive. He literally may never experience death the way most of the rest of us do. That makes his son Methuselah’s record-breaking 969 years look like, well, our 70 to 100—or maybe more like a miniscule fraction of only our very first day of life.

And most of these men didn’t even become parents until they were close to or into their hundreds!

What would you do with all of that time? How would it change your life?

psalm-90-12

Right now, I’m picking and choosing. Besides caring for my family and our home, participating in church and community activities, reading, writing, running, and flower-hunting, there are several other things I’d love to learn to do. I’d love to learn another language or two. I’d love to learn to draw the flowers I take pictures of now. I might even enjoy trying to grow a few. And I could always use more time for the things I already enjoy.

Instead, I find myself pruning activity from my life in order to make time for the things I’ve prayerfully decided matter most right now. This is the reality of human life. We learn to ask, as Moses did, “Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). We don’t have time to do everything. We must choose where to focus our energy to make the best use of the time that we have.

I wonder if Methuselah ever felt the need to number his days, to conserve time. Did he use his 969 years wisely? Or did he fritter them away? Maybe we’ll get to ask him someday.

S-o-m-e-d-a-y.

That’s right. For now, we pick and choose our activities to use our time as wisely as possible, knowing it is limited here on earth. But someday we’ll start enjoying eternity in Heaven where we’ll be able to pursue all the God-honoring creative endeavors we’ve ever felt inclined to try! Knowing this, we can learn to view this life as one of many seasons of our eternal life just as we break our human life into seasons of its own – the season of childhood, youth, training, home-building, career-developing or transitioning, the empty nest, mentorship, retirement . . .

There are so many seasons we get to enjoy in the span of an average life! Just imagine all God will allow us to do once we enter eternity with Him!

I’m going to try to remember this next time I’m forced to prune activities or to say, “No,” to something I’d love to do. For now, my time is limited. This won’t always be so. I can fully focus on and enjoy whatever season I am in. God has promised there will always be more!

Father, thank You for the promise of eternity—a gift we cannot even begin to understand. Until we receive it, please teach us to number our days, to choose wisely. Help us to thankfully give what we have now to You, knowing You plan to give us so much more someday. Thank You, Lord! Amen.

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A Prayer about God’s Way

Romans 5-8

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” -Romans 5:6-8

Lord, how did you do this? I really need to know. While we were still sinners, while we were at our very worst, knowing all that we had done, were doing, would do, and still have yet to do, You chose to give Your life for us—to give us hope, to make it possible for us to live as children in Your Kingdom now and to enjoy eternity with You forever.

What an amazing and absolutely undeserved gift! I thank You, Lord. Forever, I thank You.

But how did You do this? We hurt You, Lord! We still hurt You today. Even those of us who love You and live for You and serve You sometimes fail. And so many aren’t even trying, won’t hear Your voice, have no interest in Your will or believe that You are there.

When people hurt me, Lord, I build walls. My natural inclination is to protect myself from anyone who causes my heart pain.

But this is not Your way. And I know Your way is better. So teach me, Lord. I’m listening. Please help me understand.

Your Word says that You know how we are formed. You remember that we are dust. (See Psalm 103:14). Is this the key, Lord? You know that we are human, prone to act according to our own interests instead of in obedience to You. You know that our understanding is limited, our instincts hard to recognize and overcome. We are children still learning so much; there is so much to learn.

Is knowing this what gives You such fathomless compassion, grace, patience . . .

Hope?

Do You view us with hope, Lord? Not hope that we might be okay, like children hope they might get something for Christmas, but with that certain-knowledge-of-a-future-in-Heaven-with-You type of hope that You give to us once we chose to become Yours? No matter how we’re behaving now, You know how we’re going to turn out. Is that a kind of hope? Is hope something You can do?

Hebrews 12:2 says, “For the joy set before [Jesus], he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus endured great suffering and humiliation because of the joy that He knew would follow someday. That sounds like looking forward with certain hope to me.

Whether the terminology is right or not, it’s not something I can enjoy or apply to my relationships with difficult people. I don’t know how they will turn out. You haven’t chosen to reveal that to me. (I can see how that may be a good thing.)

But I do know that we are all formed in Your image and that we are all works in progress in Your hands—still dust. And because I know we are all in Your hands . . . and You love us . . . and You are faithful, able, and good, I can trust You, follow You, obey. I can choose to do right even when other people don’t. How else will they ever see You through me?

You loved the world so much You gave Your one and only Son that whoever believes in Jesus shall not perish but have eternal life. (See John 3:16.) I live not to protect myself from harm but to trust You with my life no matter what so that “whoever”—no matter how sinful, hurtful, or hateful—may come to believe in Jesus and enjoy eternal life with You some day.

I do want all people to come to know You, Lord. Yet sometimes I struggle over being the one You call to love them in Your name—especially if they happen to be hurting me through the process. Please continue to help me with this. In doing whatever You lead me to do, I’m learning to trust You with me.

Lord, thank You for loving so much—for sending Jesus to make our salvation possible, to teach us how to live. Help us to follow His example, loving others for Your sake. We love You, Lord. Our lives are Yours. Always. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Living Together in Unity

Psalm 133-1

It was like a Beatrix Potter story come true in our own back yard!

Two squirrels were fighting high up in our tree. My son turned to look just as one threw the other to the ground. The victim landed on his back and stayed there, stunned. As Seth was thinking about going to check on the squirrel, the neighborhood cat, who likes to hang out in our yard, beat him to it. The squirrel came to his senses just in time, jumped up, let out a screech of horror, and raced back up the tree.

I’m sure the brother squirrel apologized. The mother squirrel scolded. And everyone drank some chamomile tea.

Because the little squirrels couldn’t get along with each other, they left one of their number vulnerable to another threat. Thankfully, the drama in our backyard had a happy ending—for everyone except the cat.

Sometimes Christians struggle to get along, too. We’re still human after all. There are just so many different ways to not see eye to eye!

Yes. It’s challenging. But when we don’t make the effort to live in unity, we leave each other vulnerable to an even bigger threat:

“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” –1 Peter 5:8

Not to mention the damage our disagreements do to our testimony.

It’s good and pleasant when God’s people live together in unity. It’s dangerous to all, though, when they don’t. Let’s learn a lesson from the squirrels: be thankful for our shared refuge (for us, in Christ, rather than in a tree)—and stock up on calming, chamomile tea!

Father, thank You for all our brothers and sisters in Christ, for adopting us all into Your family. Though it’s sometimes hard to get along, help each of us with this. Please give us patience with each other and the ability (and desire) to forgive quickly. Show us the bigger picture: we’re vulnerable to Satan’s trickery whenever we fight. Give us a Spirit of unity to stand together in You, come what may, for the glory of Your Kingdom and the good of all humankind. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

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When Praying Is All You Can Do

Note: I originally posted these thoughts at Wildflower Thinking. As I was preparing this week’s The Conversation Begins post, though, I remembered this post from 2009. These thoughts provide a foundation for the post I’m working on, so I’m posting them here for you now.


Praying Is BigFor the past few weeks, I’ve been pondering a phrase that most of us use. I’ve even used it myself, but I’m questioning whether it’s true. It may be very true, but lately it seems wrong to me.

The phrase is: All we can do is pray.

It seems to me that if prayer is talking to the God Who created the universe and all that is in it, the all-mighty, all-powerful, for-Whom-nothing-is-impossible God of everything, that prayer is doing something pretty big. God raised people from the dead. God fed thousands of people with only a few pieces of bread and fish. God pulled a coin out of a fish’s mouth in order to pay His taxes.

And so I would say that prayer is not a last resort. It’s should be the first thing we do whenever we need help—and, in reality, considering how much power an all-powerful God has, it’s probably all we need to do. We give Him our problems; He doesn’t need our help.

Imagine a little kid facing a big school bully. He knows the bully is bigger than him and will win, but he also knows his big brother is bigger than that bully. Would the kid face the bully alone? Or would he get help from the one who can spare him some pain?

I’m raising boys, so I know they don’t always go for the logical answer there, but, then again, neither do we. We put up our little fists and try to fix the situation alone while God quietly waits for us to pray. Then, when we’ve exhausted ourselves with the effort, we sit back and tell God that the situation seems pretty hopeless, but He’s welcome to give fixing it a try. If God is God and has all the power to do anything, that seems like living backward to me.

Prayer is not our last resort. Prayer is our best first move. It’s the most effective action we can take.

On the other hand, sometimes we do pray first. Then we do what we can do—as we should. God may use us to answer our own prayers, so we should do what we can. Yet sometimes we use up all our ideas and exhaust all our resources until finally we know that praying really is all we can do.

But even then, even when we reach that point, there’s more going on than just prayer.

Paul said, “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer” (Romans 12:12). I think he must have been writing about just such a situation. As we wait for God to act, we joyfully anticipate whatever He will do, knowing without a doubt that is it God Who will do it, and that He will get all the glory, honor, and praise as He deserves. We joyfully hope for the best because God is in charge, and He loves us.

As we patiently wait for Him to act, we learn that God’s timing is perfect and that His plans may be different than ours. Have you ever prayed, like I have, “Lord, we’re running out of time here. If You’re going to do something, You’d better do it now. Really, Lord, now. Now would be really good.” But only God knows when the timing is right; deadlines mean nothing to Him for He can work around them easily. Or we may see a perfect opportunity for God to fix everything in one fell swoop. So we tell Him about it, then sit back and watch to see Him work. But His plans aren’t ours, so He doesn’t do what we suggest. He’s working on a bigger, more perfect picture than we can see or imagine. So we patiently wait some more, knowing God is truly in charge. Yet while we wait, we faithfully pray—and we grow ever closer to God.

I leave you today with two thoughts:

  • Prayer is not meant to be only a last resort–always pray first, then pray all the way through.
  • When prayer is a last resort, when it’s truly all that we can do, know God is at work. Trust Him as you faithfully and continually pray.
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Grace: The Stuff of Which Priceless Pearls are Made

Grace is The Stuff“Great peace have those who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble. I wait for your salvation, Lord, and I follow your commands.”Psalm 119:165-166

As I continue to study the topic of grace in my weekly Bible study group, I’ve been presented with many examples of people trying to find the grace to forgive the big stuff—the seemingly unforgivable, usually one-time, wrongs. At the same time, I’m trying to figure out how to come up with the grace to forgive little irritants—recurring annoyances that I must encounter again and again. Sometimes we are bound to people or circumstances that cause us much stress. How do we respond with grace?

My husband’s and my current irritant is an oppressive property manager. Before signing our lease, we read it carefully and asked many questions about everything that concerned us. Once we were sure we understood what we were getting into, we signed. This was about two weeks before we actually moved in. When we arrived in town and went to pick up our keys, however, the property manager presented us with one more paper to sign. This paper had all the deal breakers on it. Had he been up front with us, we never would have signed the lease. Yet our choice at that point, he made clear, was to sign and proceed on his terms or refuse to sign, forfeit our security deposit, six weeks rent, and non-refundable pet fee, and find ourselves without a home.

We signed under duress.

Most of the time it is okay. We love the house. But once or twice a month we have to deal with property-manager-related irritations. If he would leave us alone, we’d happily live here for three or four years and prove to be among the best tenants ever. As it is, once our lease is up, he’ll probably be looking for someone else to live in this house. Those last minute additions to our lease are just. that. annoying.

When I think of this situation, I pray for grace. Lots of grace! Here is what God is helping me to understand:

Irritants like our property manager are like the grains of sand that get into an oyster’s shell. The sand irritates the delicate oyster, but there’s nothing the oyster can do to get the sand out of the shell. Instead, the oyster produces some kind of secretion to coat the sand and ease the pain. Every time the sand irritates, the oyster adds another layer until a pearl is formed. Naturally, the greater irritations produce the largest pearls.

This is grace. When I feel irritation building up inside of me, I ask God to help me wrap it in grace. The grace doesn’t come from inside of me, though. I must go to God for what I need. He calms me down and comforts me. A pearl is born. If the irritation won’t go away, I must go to God again and again. The pearl grows every time I do. It occurs to me that this process works, over time, whether I’m dealing with a recurring, little irritation or trying to forgive a huge, unforgivable-in-my-own-strength sin. In either case, when I feel pain, I go to God and ask for more of His grace.

I saw this in action this morning as I read through Psalm 119. I’ve always seen this Psalm as a tribute to God’s Wisdom, praise for His Word—for His Law. This morning, though, I noticed there are actually two recurrent, almost parallel, themes. Along with expressing his devotion to God’s Law, the psalmist is pleading for salvation, deliverance, and freedom from oppression. This man was dealing with a serious irritant. Yet he responded by declaring his devotion to God, his loyalty to God’s law, his love for God’s Word as he asked for relief.

We can do this, too. No earthly oppressor has any kind of ultimate authority over us. We are members of God’s Kingdom. In His perfect timing, He will fight for us. He will set us free. When we look at any annoying, aggravating, or troubling situation from that perspective, the irritant seems to shrink. In fact, we can almost laugh at some; our God is just. that. BIG!

Paul wrote about this when he told the Corinthians about his thorn. We don’t know what this thorn was, but it irritated Paul. Three times, he asked God to take it away, but God refused. His reply to Paul was “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). This is a challenging passage, but I think I’m starting to get it now. God’s grace is the stuff we ask for when we need comfort from the pain of life’s thorns. As the grace builds up, beautiful pearls are born and grow for the glory of God’s name.

In a future post, I’ll write a little more about how these pearls bring glory to God’s name. In the meantime, I’m still calling on God for grace in irritating situations.

  • What are you asking God to take away or free you from?
  • How can you remind yourself to go to God for grace when something irritates?
  • How has He comforted you in troubling circumstances that you have no immediate power to change?

Father, thorns are ugly and painful, yet sometimes we choose to endure the pain and complain. Please remind us that You have all the grace we need for any situation. We only have to come to you. Please comfort us until You choose to set us free. Create a beautiful pearl in our lives for all the world to see. Thank You, Lord, for grace. Amen.

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Trusting God with the Moment That Matters Most

Moment That Matters“Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’” –John 4:39-42

One of my college professors used to say that faith is more caught than taught. I saw this in action when my children were little. As a mom who loved Jesus, I looked forward to the day when I could pray with my children, leading them to invite Him into their hearts, knowing they were saved and walking heavenward with me.

It didn’t happen quite that way. We took our boys to church—that was a given, us being a ministry family. But we would have done that anyway. We studied the Bible together. My husband and I shared our testimonies. We prayed with our boys regularly. As my oldest son entered fourth grade, though, that longed-for moment had not yet come . . . his decision to give his life to Jesus . . . at least as far as I knew.

Then he brought home an essay he’d written for school. He was attending a private Christian school at the time, and his teacher had asked the kids to write their testimonies. Justin told how he’d been alone in his room when he decided to invite Jesus into his heart. He’d prayed all by himself. And I knew from both his character and the words he’d written, that his young faith was absolutely real.

That’s probably when I first realized that God works differently in different people and that Jesus doesn’t enter people’s hearts when they say a few prescribed words. He brings salvation when they believe that He does. Each individual knows when that moment comes, whether another leads them directly to it or not.

Not that we didn’t lead our children to it. Like the Samaritan Woman in Luke 4, we told our children what we’d experienced, what we believed. But like the people of the woman’s community, our children had to hang out with Jesus for a while in order to decide they believed for themselves. This is something all people must do! I still love the sweet sentiment of a mother or father praying with their children to lead them to Christ, but it’s that moment of belief in a person’s heart that’s really the most beautiful thing.

Does this mean we shouldn’t tell others about Jesus, instead leaving them to find Him for themselves? Absolutely not! The Samaritan Woman couldn’t help herself; Jesus had told her everything she’d ever done! We can’t help ourselves either. If we walk and talk with Him daily, Jesus will amaze us on a daily basis! And so, we tell. Who He Is. What He has done. How we experience Him. What we’re learning from His Word. We live it; we talk it. It’s what we do!

Then we pray. We pray that people who hear our stories will invite Jesus to hang out with them for a while, so they can get to know Him, too.

And then we trust that the God Who has done so much for us, the One Who told the Samaritan Woman everything she’d ever done, will speak to our children, our friends, our acquaintances, too. We may not be there for the moment of belief, but the One Who matters will be, and He Is faithful to save.

Jesus, help us to live what we believe. Give us opportunities to show and to tell. Then help us to trust as we pray. You’ve invited everyone into Your Kingdom. Now You’re waiting for everyone who will to accept that invitation. Please wait patiently. There are many yet to be saved. We thank You, Lord, for speaking to each heart—through us and all around us. Use our lives as You will to honor Your name. Amen.

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Jeremiah 29:11 in Context

Jeremiah 29-13“This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. 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. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.’” –Jeremiah 29:10-13

Jeremiah 29:11 is a favorite verse for many. I love claiming the promise that the Lord has good plans for me, plans to prosper and not harm, plans to give hope and a future. These words are comforting in times of trouble; they inspire confidence!

But we often take them out of context which means we miss part of their meaning. When we look at the surrounding verses, we discover this verse is more than a promise about what God is going to do. God reveals our part—something He was waiting for from the Israelites and, therefore, may be waiting for from us, too.

These verses are part of a letter from Jeremiah, in Jerusalem, to God’s people living in exile in Babylon. The Israelites had not been faithful to God, and so He allowed other nations to conquer and rule over them. But He set a time limit on this. He told the people their exile would end after seventy years. He told them of His good plans for them then. Finally, He told them that they would pray to Him, and He would listen to them. They would seek Him and find Him when they chose to seek Him with all their heart.

It seems to me that God may have been saying, “I know it’s going to take you seventy years to get to that point—the point where you finally put me first and seek me with all your heart. So I am now making good plans for you for then.” He doesn’t invite them to pray to Him now. He simply says the day will come when they will pray to Him. He doesn’t invite them to seek Him wholeheartedly now. He only says they’ll find Him when they do. God knew it was going to take His people some time, but He was prepared to bless them abundantly when they got around to getting their hearts right. And He knew when that would happen.

From our point of view, the lesson seems so simple. We seek God wholeheartedly; He puts His good plans for us into motion. Voila! But the Israelites didn’t learn how to seek Him wholeheartedly for seventy years. And I can’t say I’ve mastered it yet. In fact, wholehearted devotion probably takes a lifetime to develop.

A lifetime.

Seventy (or eighty or a hundred or more) years!

So what are we to do?

We can start practicing now. We can start by identifying distractions to better make seeking God the primary aim of every day. What are some things you are tempted to seek with your whole heart in place of God? My list includes books, family, control, health, perfection. Am I wrong to enjoy these and want them in my life? No. Reading, enjoying time with loved ones, keeping order (to an extent), staying as healthy as I can, and doing my best are all good things–gifts from God’s hand to appreciate. I just have to be sure that they aren’t keeping me from seeking God, from discovering what He wants me to do each day, from worshiping, praying, serving, or loving Him over all else. He’s given us a lifetime of learning to put Him first, letting everything else fall into its proper place under Him.

Am I saying we have to earn the right to enjoy God’s good plans? Not really. It’s more of a parent/child thing. Imagine that you have a toddler who wants to drive the car. You look forward to the day when he will be ready and able to drive the car. You want him to enjoy that privilege. But you know your toddler isn’t ready for that good thing just yet. In fact, as a sixteen-year-old, he may not be ready for that good thing just yet—if he hasn’t shown responsibility for his own actions, concern for others, or respect for authority. You have good plans for your child’s future, but you must wait for him to mature or disaster will be the result.

God knows when the time will be right for all of His plans for us to go into effect. He’s watching for the moment—wanting it for us as much as we want it ourselves. He has good plans for us—plans that will glorify His name. Let’s practice seeking Him wholeheartedly while we wait.

Father, thank You for the assurance of Your good plans for us. The best of these is that we will grow in our knowledge of You! Help us to seek You more each day, trusting You to let everything else fall into its proper place. We love You, Lord, and long to please You. Please teach us how. Amen.

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Habakkuk’s Honesty

The Book of Habakkuk is only three chapters long. It’s one we can read quickly, yet it contains a powerful message. This makes it one of my favorite Bible books. In a sense, it’s the journal of a man frustrated with God. It includes God’s response to him, and his response, in turn, to God. As this man wrestles his way through his issues, the journal shows him choosing to trust and to submit. It shows him finding peace in the midst of turmoil. It shows him claiming God’s strength for his role in it.

Don’t we all wrestle with God this way sometimes?

Let me highlight a few verses that especially speak to me:

“How long, O Lord, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?” –Habakkuk 1:2

Wow! David’s psalms are often used to show us how honest we can be with God. But listen to Habakkuk! He’s throwing a temper tantrum! “Lord, I’ve waited long enough! It’s time for you to act! I demand justice now! Where are you and why haven’t you done something about this intolerable situation?” While we do need to fear God, we don’t have to fear turning our honest emotions and questions over to Him. As we initiate the conversation, God can help us see Truth and trust in Him.

“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” –Habakkuk 2:14

This is a promise! Someday, the whole earth will know God and His glory. He will saturate our world completely, covering it as water covers the sea. For this reason, we must pray now that unbelievers will allow God to open their eyes to His Presence before this awesome day. Once God reveals Himself to the world, it will be too late for those who refused to see Him before He came.

“But the Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth be silent before him.” –Habakkuk 2:20

This verse takes my very breath away—every time I read it. Can’t you just picture that glorious, holy Temple with the whole world around it, frozen, waiting, knowing that God is preparing to act, anticipating His appearance and the sudden transformation that will come with it? Pause for a moment. Reflect on that.

“Lord, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy.” –Habakkuk 3:2

Two chapters ago, Habakkuk was demanding action and justice, but here he recognizes God’s wrath and asks for mercy. We must do the same. Though we’re anxious for God to return and set everything right that’s gone wrong with this world, once He does, there’s no mercy for those who don’t believe. God’s patience equals salvation for some. Though He hates sin and longs to pour His wrath out on it, His waiting is an act of mercy.

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.” –Habakkuk 3:17-18

What a perfect statement of trust! Habakkuk has come back to a place of patience, trusting in God though times are hard. We see a similar statement in Job 13:15: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him.” When we become impatient for God to act on our behalf, praying these verses helps us stand in confidence.

“The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.” –Habakkuk 3:19

Habakkuk not only learns to wait patiently, trusting in God’s timing, that God is doing what’s best for all, but Habakkuk also learns to claim God’s strength to help him endure and to help him accomplish whatever God has for him to do, to go on the heights, enjoying fellowship with God and doing great things for Him.

To summarize, Habakkuk communicates honestly, sees purpose in God’s patience, prays that that purpose will be accomplished, submits to God’s timing (even if it means Habakkuk’s suffering), and claims strength to endure to eventually enjoy the ultimate victory—to go on the heights with God.

Lord, please help us to do the same—to endure while we wait that you can show mercy to others. Give us Your strength that we can serve You faithfully through all the trials that come our way. You are in Your holy Temple—the whole world waits. We long to join You there on the heights some glorious day—when You say it’s time. Thank You, Lord. Amen.