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Loving Just Because

The Four LovesI started reading The Four Loves by C.S. Lewis this week. I’m still working through the introductory material, but I’ve already gained so much insight into this word, Love. Today’s revelation was so powerful, I’d like to share it, and some of the practical applications that came to my mind as I read, with you.

In the pages I read today, Lewis was discussing what he considers to be the lowest form of love, pleasure. He identified two kinds: Need-Pleasures and Pleasures of Appreciation. We only experience the first kind of pleasure when a need is being met. For example, as a general rule, I don’t enjoy drinking water, but if I’m really, really thirsty, finally being able to drink water will be a pleasurable experience because it meets a need. On the other hand, if I’m walking on the beach with my bare toes in the sand and a cool breeze with a slight smell of salt comes up to touch my face and play with my hair, I will enjoy that, not because I need it but because I appreciate the gift, the existence of the breeze. I like carrots if I’m hungry. I like chocolate because it tastes good. I like air-conditioning in the summer because it keeps me cool. Once the need is met, however, I don’t like it so much. Wildflowers, I like all the time. Just because they exist. They don’t meet a life-need, but they make the world a prettier place.

Lewis goes on to compare this to love. If we love people only because we need them, the love is temporary. It’s real, but not really. It’s not unconditional or forever or true. If we love just because, however, the love is lasting and sincere. Of course, only God can truly love in this way. He has absolutely no need for us, and yet He loves us more than anyone else ever will.

Loving Just BecauseIn a perfect world, that would be our primary reason for loving Him back. A primary reason among countless others: He created us. He redeemed us. He is preparing a home for us in Heaven with Him for eternity. He is with us. He will never leave us. He provides and protects. He is everything; He is love.

But the truth is, we need Him. Every heartbeat, every breath comes because He allows it. We are absolutely dependent on the God Who loves us perfectly. We truly are clay in His hands. That makes me very thankful that He loves me; I can’t imagine what life would be like if He did not.

Two practical applications came from this train of thought:

1. In order to move from a need-love relationship with God to a pleasure of appreciation relationship, we need to spend time praising Him every single day. Yes, it’s important to thank Him for all His gifts, for all He does for us. We must continue to do that, but we also must worship Him sincerely for Who He Is. We need to get to know Him, discovering every aspect of His character we can. We need to grow in our appreciation of His very existence every day.

2. We need to examine our relationships with the people in our lives. If any are based solely on need, these are unhealthy (except in the case of babies, who are born completely dependent and must learn how to love). Genuine love is unconditional. It loves just because the other one exists (which means, perhaps, that one comes closest to being able to love in this way when one becomes a parent). I think this is why Jesus told us to serve one another in love and to reach out with hospitality to people who can’t pay us back. It’s in service, in showing and giving love, that we learn to appreciate just because.

Along these lines, if anyone loves us just for what we can provide, we need to be aware that once the need is gone, the love will probably go, too. (It may even go sooner. Just as addicts come to resent the drugs they depend on, people often come to resent people they depend on.) This doesn’t mean we stop loving, but we hold the relationship loosely, refuse to let people idolize us, point them to the One they truly must depend on, and ask God to help us love wisely and well.

We can’t control how others love. It hurts to be loved only because someone wants something from us. It hurts to be rejected when we no longer have anything to offer that someone wants.

Thankfully, there will always be One Who loves us just because He does. He loves us perfectly. Our value rests in His opinion alone. And if we learn to love like He does, He’ll lead us to others who love well and whom we can also love.

Father, please teach us to love as You love because You do. Amen.

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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.

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Sutter’s Vision

“God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them.”Hebrews 6:10

DSC00213eNear the end of our recent trip to Northern California, my husband, son, and I visited Sutter’s Fort in Sacramento. Because I grew up in California, I figured I had a pretty good grasp on its history. But I really learned a lot! John Sutter was fascinating person, though his story is tragic.

Sutter immigrated through the existing United States to California from Switzerland. California was part of Mexico at the time, so Sutter became a citizen of that country. The Mexican government welcomed him because they appreciated his vision for the area and wanted to encourage him. Sutter dreamed of creating a strong, agricultural community. He invited immigrants to live at his fort, free of charge. He only asked that they work to learn a trade and support the community. He trained farmers and blacksmiths and merchants. He even invited the Native American population to be a part of it all.* In fact, according to the narrative at the fort, he is the one who taught them to weave the blankets so popular now at southwestern, roadside souvenir stands.

Sutter was generous and well-respected, known as a true gentleman. And all was going well until some kid just happened to find a bit of gold at Sutter’s Mill. Generosity, community, and cooperation were replaced by greed just that fast.

One of the seven deadly sins? Oh, yes.

Sutter spent the rest of his life fighting for the rights to his land and died alone in an East Coast hotel, a penniless pauper. His story broke my heart!

DSC00190eAs we traveled through Northern California, though, from San Francisco to Sacramento to Grass Valley to Paradise to Chico to Yuba City . . . we were surrounded, not by gold mines, but by crops. Walnuts, Almonds, Peaches, Apples, Strawberries, Grapes, Lettuce, and Rice . . . lots and lots and lots of rice! It seems to me that Sutter’s dream eventually came true. The Sacramento Valley is a strong agricultural community. Evidently, some of the people he taught stuck to the trade instead of seeking gold. Others returned to the trade once they recovered from gold fever. And others came after to follow in Sutter’s footsteps. Sutter never saw his dream come true—and yet, it did!

It’s a lesson to remember. When God gives us a vision of some good that we can do, our place is simply to do it, leaving all results to Him. When we serve Him faithfully to show Him our love by caring for His people, He is faithful to us in return. We may never see the fruit of our labor, but our God will not forget. We can trust Him with this.

Father, please show us daily how we can best serve You. Help us remember that we love You best by loving people, by doing our part to build Your Kingdom on Earth. Thank You for seeing and remembering the work we do for You. It’s a honor to do what we can. Amen.

DSC00208e*Note: I used Wikipedia to double-check some facts and discovered that it doesn’t portray Sutter’s character in such a positive light, indicating that he actually coerced the Native Americans of the area into working for him. Other sources imply this was an act of self-defense: they attacked; he enslaved them in order to teach them his ways. Sutter’s own words indicate this is probably true: “The Indians began to be troublesome all around me, killing and wounding cattle, stealing horses, and threatening to attack us. I was obliged to make campaigns against them and punish them.” According to the story as the fort told it, however, he did teach them agricultural skills, just as he taught the other inhabitants of the fort. He even had his cooks learn to prepare meals they were accustomed to and to serve them in the manner they would have served themselves. It seems to me that, in the end, he hoped the different cultures would learn to get along, but only God knows the motives of anyone’s heart.

This post is listed with the Missional Weekend Link Up. Visit that site to find more inspirational posts.

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Liking Having to Get Along

Words Aptly Spoken“I actually liked having to get along with people I didn’t particularly care for and finding ways to work together. Because in the army it can’t be all about me, it has to be about we.” –Emma, The Merciful Scar, p. 209

I had an “Aha!” moment when I read this sentence. Something about the way it’s worded really appeals to me.

Why? It challenges me.

Getting along with all people all the time is difficult, perhaps impossible. Yet this is what God commands us to do, Jesus prayed for us to do, and we, in fact, must do, if we’re to glorify God through His church.

My favorite way of getting along with people who test me, however, is to avoid them. I let them do their thing while I do mine. I pray for them from a distance and figure that’s the best that the situation can be.

I find a sadness in this, though. Emma, the character who made the above statement, is talking about getting along with people she doesn’t really care for. Truthfully, there aren’t too many people I don’t really care for. I may be quiet, but I adore people. I find them fascinating. I want to learn their stories and invite them to know mine. I want to listen to them, pray for them, encourage them, and share joyous discoveries to build them up in Christ. I like being a friend.

The people I try to avoid, therefore, are the ones who’ve made it clear (at least from my point of view) that they don’t care for me. In a sense, I figure I’m doing them a favor, while protecting myself from the pain of rejection.

Yet I sense defeat in this.

The Merciful ScarEmma’s statement challenges me to work a little harder at this working together thing. It also tells me how.

First, I have to set aside the assumption that the other person doesn’t like me. I have to ignore and overcome my insecurities. This has to be my choice.

Second, I have to identify the mission and keep my mind on that. If God has given me something to do and people to do it with, completing the task is the most important thing. I must get to work.

I stumbled across a few Bible verses this morning that added to my thoughts on this getting-along subject:

In Philippians 1, Paul addresses the issue of motive. There is a concern that some people are preaching the Gospel for selfish reasons. Paul says, “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” (verse 18).

If we’re working together to build God’s Kingdom, we’re not sitting around analyzing each other’s reasons for doing so. Only God can accurately judge what’s in another person’s heart. We can and must let go of this concern, work together, and rejoice when God’s Spirit brings results. (This is true even if our own motives are off. We continue to do the work, and trust God to fix our hearts.)

In 1 Corinthians 3, Paul addresses the issue of credit for work done. There is a concern about the wrong people getting credit for conversions and baptisms. Paul says it doesn’t matter who gets the credit, so long as the work gets done. Verse 9 says, “For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.” God is building His Kingdom; ultimately it’s His work. We’re privileged to take part in it. We’re working together for God’s glory and His creation’s good.

Father, thank You for Emma’s insight. Help us all accept the challenge to find ways to work together—whether or not we naturally get along. We’re working for Your glory, for the honor of Your name. Achieving the objective isn’t about us. It’s about You. Please give us willing hearts and wisdom to accomplish Your purpose. Amen.

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Following Like Matthias Did

“Then they cast lots, and the lot fell to Matthias; so he was added to the eleven apostles.”Acts 1:26

Matthias. He perplexes me. His name is only mentioned three times in the whole Bible—all in the first chapter of Acts where his selection as Judas’ replacement among the twelve apostles is recorded.

DSC00587eIf replacing Judas was such an important thing, why doesn’t anybody tell us what Matthias did once he filled this role? Since the gospels were written after this event and Matthias was chosen because he’d been hanging out with Jesus all along, just like the apostles did, why didn’t any of the Gospel writers mention anything Matthias did during that time—in a foreshadowing kind of way? Who is this unknown apostle and why did Luke feel it necessary to mention him in Acts 1—and nowhere else?

We won’t really know this answer to this question until we get to Heaven, but I think the Bible gives us a few clues. Matthew 19:28 records a promise Jesus made about Heaven. He said, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Later, Revelation 4 records John’s vision of the throne room of Heaven. John writes, “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads” (verse 4). A few verses later, he continues, “Whenever the living creatures give glory, honor and thanks to him who sits on the throne and who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who sits on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever. They lay their crowns before the throne and say:

‘You are worthy, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honor and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they were created
and have their being’” (verses 9-11).

We don’t know for certain who these twenty-four elders are, but theologians speculate that they are probably the twelve sons of Israel (from the Old Testament) and the twelve apostles (from the New Testament).

So what does this tell us about Matthias? Because Matthias was chosen to replace Judas, he was chosen to sit on one of those twelve thrones of Heaven that Jesus told his disciples about. When we get to Heaven, we will see Matthias worshiping God, laying his own crown before Him, and declaring Christ’s worthiness. I’m sure Matthias served Jesus faithfully throughout his life. But the lack of information about this service leads me to believe that Matthias’ service for eternity far outweighs any work he did on earth.

And that leads me to wonder, no, to know that the same is true for each of us. We are living life now in preparation for eternity. We serve God now in training for forever. And if we don’t get any recognition now from friends, associates, or strangers, well, that’s okay because God sees our hearts, knows who is truly faithful, and has a plan for our future in Heaven with Him always.

Judas got a lot of attention while on earth, but in the end, he had to be replaced. I pray we’ll all follow Matthias’ example instead.

Lord, please find us faithful. Teach us to serve quietly with eyes riveted on You. We worship You now in training for eternity. You are worthy, our Creator and King. May our lives forever glorify Your holy name. Amen.

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Hebrews 10:24-25 on My Mind

NewOMM“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”Hebrews 10:24-25

Let’s make a game of these memory verses. As we focus this week on the words, “Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,” let’s really do this. Let’s consider all the people we know, the people we encounter frequently, and let’s brainstorm ways to encourage them. Then let’s follow through using our favorite ideas! We’ll be committing two new verses to memory and putting them into practice at the same time. I’m thinking this will make both activities more memorable all around.

In reading these verses and reflecting on them for this post, I see one idea built in. The author of Hebrews is encouraging readers to keep meeting together because he (or possibly she) is concerned about those who’ve stopped meeting with other Christians regularly. Let’s build on this by reaching out to those we’ve started to miss. Not in a guilt-inducing way. In fact, we don’t even have to mention church attendance or small group activities. All we need to do to encourage such a person is to reach out in friendship. Send a card. Make a phone call. Invite this person to lunch. Sometimes just knowing that someone has thought of you and has wanted to spend time with you is all it takes to motivate a person who has left to come back. And even if the person chooses not to return, at least that person will be encouraged to know that someone cared.

  • What encouragement ideas come to mind at first glance?

Father, the Day is approaching. Only You know when it is. As we wait, though, teach us to love. Help us to encourage each other and to do good deeds. Give us creative ideas and the resources to follow through. For the good of Your kingdom and the glory of Your name. Amen.

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Enjoying a Season of Rest Effectively

Finding Home“He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”Psalm 23:2-3

Not too long ago I visited with a seasoned military-wife friend who told me she’d been involved in everything possible at her husband’s last duty station but that she was using this assignment to rest. I understood completely and was thankful to learn that I’m not the only one who has ever found a need to do this.

Ordinarily when we move, we want to plant our pulled-up roots into new soil as quickly as possible by getting to know our new surroundings, making friends, and getting involved in activities as God leads.* If we move often enough, though, God may lead us to rest—especially if our relational roots were wounded or torn in our previous location or if we’re simply so exhausted that the new soil seems too hard to dig into. Transplanting our lives takes time and energy. Sometimes we need a season of rest and renewal.

There are two things we must remember should God lead us to rest, though:

1. This isn’t a time to withdraw into a “kingdom of isolation where it looks like [you’re] the queen.”** Yes. You are protecting your roots so they can heal or grow, but they’ll rest best in God’s Presence (through Bible study, prayer, and church attendance) and growing strong among the permanent people of your life: spouse, children, parents, faithful friends who keep in touch no matter where you live. God created you to interact with Him and with other people. Use your season of rest to build the most important relationships of your life.

2. This season of rest is only for a season. Enter it as God leads. Leave it the same way, whether after just a few months, a year, or a full assignment. If you try, because of false guilt or pressures from within or without, to jump back into too many things too soon, God will let you know that you still need to rest. If you get too comfortable in your resting place, however, God will do whatever it takes to “encourage” you to get involved again. Make this timetable a frequent topic of prayer. Cooperate as God leads.

Father, thank You for the seasons of life, both active and restful. Thank You for leading us into service and fulfilling activity in most of the places where You take us in life. Thank You also for leading us beside quiet waters where You can refresh our souls. Please give us the wisdom to know the difference. Help us to recognize Your guidance and to cooperate fully. We trust that You will give us all we need to serve You well wherever You send us and in whatever You lead us to do. Thank You, Lord. Please find us faithful. Amen.

*To learn more about this, read my book, Home Is Where God Sends You: Lessons in Contentment from Nearby and Faraway. Available at Amazon.com.

**Quote taken from the song, Let It Go.

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Matthew 7:12 on My Mind

NewOMM“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”Matthew 7:12, NIV

Most of us know the Golden Rule, I think. But have you memorized the Bible words? Do you know where to find it? Jesus actually spoke the words, giving us this gem of advice for living life well: Do to others what you would have them do to you.

I came across this verse in a devotional I read this morning which triggered my desire to memorize its words. I invite you to learn them with me. And I invite you to put them into practice, if you don’t already do this. Jesus emphasized their importance—and the way they simplify life for us—in the last part of the verse: for this sums up the Law and the Prophets. Just think about that! If we always do to others what we would have them do to us, we’ll always be doing what’s right in God’s eyes.

The wording of the verse in the NKJV can help us with the practical application, I think: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.” (Click here to read the whole verse in this version at BibleGateway.) In other words, if there is something that we really want someone else to do for us, we can find someone to do that for. We treat other people the way we’d like to be treated. We give what we long to receive.

For example, if the thought of receiving a card or letter in the mail appeals to you, send one to somebody else. If you wish someone would call and invite you to lunch, call and invite someone to join you for that meal. If you learn that someone has been saying unkind things about you behind your back, be sure that you aren’t talking that way about her or anyone else—and resist the temptation to start. Pray for that person instead, like you wish she would pray for you.

Is there a tedious chore you wish your husband would help you with or do for you as a surprise? Pick one that he usually does and do it while he is at work. (Don’t tell him that you did it or expect him to notice either. If he figures it out, that’s a bonus. Otherwise, see if you can get away with doing something kind without being caught!)

A few more ideas:

If your legs are healthy and you don’t have a lot to carry or children to keep track of, leave the closest parking places at the store for someone who may need them more.

Smile and say Hello to people as your paths cross; acknowledge their presence! Let them know they have been seen.

Show your gratitude to others for whatever they do for you as often as you can.

Do you get the idea? Do you have an idea of your own to share? Leave it in a comment for others to read. Let’s work together to make Matthew 7:12 the way we live!

Jesus, thank You for these precious words. Help us to remember them. Then help us to live them—creatively! As we recognize kindness and attitudes we wish others would show to us, help us discover ways to show these to others—especially to people in our lives who particularly need to feel Your love. Amen.

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Book Review: “Never Ever Give Up”

NEGUAs I mentioned yesterday, Never Ever Give Up: the Inspiring Story of Jessie and her JoyJars® made quite an impression on me. It’s the story of Jessie Rees, her battle with an inoperable, incurable brain tumor, and what she did to change the world in her last ten months of life. Her father, Erik, tells the story.

When I got to the part of the book where the doctor gives Jessie’s parents the news, I was stunned. I closed the book, carried it in to where my husband was, showed him the cover with Jessie’s picture, summarized the story, and said, “This doesn’t happen. Not in this day and age. Not to children and their parents. No.” (I continued to give Mike updates as I read the book over the next three days. Now he probably feels as if he’s read the book, too.)

We hear so much about cancer research and progress made. I guess I thought that, at this point, there must always be some kind of treatment to try that may or may not work depending on how healthy the person is, how soon the cancer is caught, or how aggressive the cancer is. What I didn’t realize is that each kind of cancer must be researched; each needs its own treatment and cure. While researchers have made great strides with some, like breast cancer, others, like the kind that Jessie Rees had and many other forms of pediatric cancer, have hardly been looked at yet. These need attention and funding. The timing of this book’s release is no coincidence: September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. Jessie’s story opened my eyes to this great need.

It also inspired me. Jessie cared about other people and wanted to help them however she could. Her father says, “She didn’t wait for permission or instructions. She just thought to herself, ‘What can I do to make someone feel better today?’” The JoyJars® were one of her responses.

Can you imagine a world where everyone in it thought this way . . . then acted on their response?

Zondervan Publishing sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. It’s easily the most educational and inspirational book I’ve read this year. I hope everyone who reads this will go out and read Never Ever Give Up, too.

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Hear Me: There Is Only One God!

DSC01601e“In that day the people who live on this coast will say, ‘See what has happened to those we relied on, those we fled to for help and deliverance from the king of Assyria! How then can we escape?’”Isaiah 20:6, NIV

Isaiah 20, a mere six verses, carries a strong warning for God’s people and for those they might be tempted to depend on. In this chapter, God leads Isaiah to demonstrate the suffering and humiliation that Egypt and Cush are going to experience. (You can read the gory details at BibleGateway.com by clicking here.) The reason for this humiliation: God’s people turned to those nations for help instead of relying on God.

The message for us is two-fold. First, if ever we, as God’s children, choose to place someone or something in God’s place (especially if that someone encourages or allows this like Egypt and Cush did), God will bring that idol down. There is only one God. If His people forget this, He will reveal the truth. He will demonstrate His power and show the idol’s lack thereof. Need I say that we’re not doing any person we care about any favors if we attempt to put them in the place of God. No one wants to end up like Egypt and Cush.

Does this mean that God is self-centered and power hungry? Absolutely not! God loves His people. He also knows that He is the only One with the power to care for them, protect them, guide them, and, ultimately, lead them into His glory. All others will only lead them astray.

God puts idols in their place for our good, though we may suffer with them for a time when He does. Verse 5 of Isaiah 20 says, “Those who trusted in Cush and boasted in Egypt will be put to shame.” God’s people turned to these nations for help instead of trusting in God. When God put these nations to shame, His people were humiliated, too. Everyone involved learned a painful lesson about their place before the only Almighty God of the Universe.

DSC01931eSecond, if ever someone else turns to us before calling on God, it’s our responsibility to point them to God. Otherwise, we’re guilty of the sin of Egypt and Cush. No nation can take the place of God in its people’s lives or any other people’s lives. No parent can take the place of God in his or her child’s life. No pastor can take the place of God in the lives of a congregation. Those who try or who accept such a position will be brought low by God.

Does this mean we shouldn’t help people when we can? That no one should be able to depend on us? Absolutely not! Children depend on parents. Congregations depend on their pastors. Citizens depend on their governments. The Bible even endorses this. God places people in leadership positions to serve and care for others. But those who accept this God-given responsibility must point those others to God, giving Him the glory, not taking credit for themselves.

Two Bible characters come to mind as perfect examples. In the Old Testament, both Joseph and Daniel served rulers in countries not their own. God placed them in positions of authority where they could honor His name. Both men were asked for assistance by the rulers they served. Both did what God enabled them to do, giving all the credit to God.

When Pharaoh asked Joseph to interpret his dream, Joseph said, “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharaoh the answer he desires” (Genesis 41:16).

Likewise, when Nebuchadnezzar asked Daniel to interpret his dream, Daniel replied, “No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. He has shown King Nebuchadnezzar what will happen in days to come” (Daniel 2:27-28).

When God blesses us with the opportunity to care for, protect, or lead someone else, it’s our privilege to be able to give the credit for our abilities to Him. Doing so blesses everyone, builds God’s kingdom, and honors His name.

Father, thank You for this graphic reminder, not only of Your power, but also of Your desire to be our God and to care for us. Remind us to turn to You first whenever we need help. And help us to see each opportunity for service that You provide as a beautiful chance to tell other people about You. We know that You love us and are so thankful You’ve drawn us into relationship with You. Help us to live to honor that in everything we do. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.