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Love the Wave

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“Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” – Isaiah 43:18-19

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpillar, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you. And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you: and my people shall never be ashamed.” – Joel 2:25-26

“Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” – I Peter 4:12-13

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 43


“Nope. I’m not doin’ it.”

That was the reaction I got a few weeks prior to our vacation at a waterpark, when I mentioned the wave pool to my seven-year old, Joey. He went on and on, adamant that he wouldn’t set foot anywhere near it.

Then came vacation, and Joey found himself face-to-face with the 600,000-gallon wave pool, filled to the brim with happy kids. The waves were crazy at times. Joey got swept under more than once and drank about a gallon of pool water in the process. But each time the waves came, his father stood behind him, keeping a close eye, ready to scoop him up at the first sign of trouble. Joey would sneak a peek over his shoulder every now and then, just to make sure that his daddy was still watching him. And of course, he was.

Before that first visit was over (the first of many), Joey learned to love the waves, and it wasn’t long before he was diving face-first into each surge, giggling, beaming with joy, and running back for more.

In Isaiah 43, God is urging His people to learn to love the waves, because God will once again prove Himself to them in those troubled waters (Verse 2). This particular chapter contains prophecy for the southern Kingdom of Judah. Because of their rebellion, destruction was coming in the form of the Babylonian Empire and a 70-year exile (Verses 14-18). But because of the longsuffering love of God, restoration would come after the 70 years had passed (Verses 4-7, 19-21, 25-26).

And the point of this exercise? It’s all laid out in Verses 10-13, and it’s not about punishment – it’s about proving the power and the rightful place of God. God’s people had given their hearts to false gods. They had staked their families, their homes, and their very existence on the protection and provision of gods that they themselves had made. They had violated God’s laws while continuing to reap God’s benefits, God will have no more of it. He will prove Himself, and they will soon see that their idols have no power at all.

Their idols won’t save them from invasion. Their idols won’t bring them home from exile. And their false gods will be powerless to rebuild and restore the brokenness and devastation. In the end, God will prove to be their only Redeemer – just as He proved himself at the Red Sea, and just as He would one day prove on the cross (Psalm 124, Romans 5:8. Colossians 1:12-14).

And though God will allow them to pass through these waters of adversity, He will not leave them to face the waves alone. Because unlike the man-made gods that they have foolishly followed, the One True God is personally invested in their future. He is their Sovereign Creator, their Kinsman Redeemer, and their only Savior (Isaiah 43:1, 14-15).

Those waves, with all their roaring, crashing, and bashing, are really just handfuls of water, thrown into their lives by a loving God Who calls them to wake, rise up, and return to Him (Job 5:17, Psalm 94:12, Acts 3:19-21). In the end, those waves will serve the purpose of the God Who made them, and they will still instantly at the sound of His voice.

My advice to you: Learn to love the waves. For when God chooses to let them rise, He promises to walk you through them, to preserve you, to sustain you, and to hold you up with His righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10, 13). And when those waves finally recede, you will know that only God kept you safe, gave you His strength, and never left your side.

Yes, learn to love the waves. Your enemy wants you to believe that they will break you. But your Father will use them to make you more like Him (Isaiah 55:10-13, Romans 8:28-29, II Corinthians 3:17-18, 4:8-9, I Peter 5:8-9).

So pray for a miracle, pray for deliverance, and renewal and restoration, but in the end, praise Him for the work that He does in the waves.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Are you walking through rough waters right now? God is there with you. And while He may not still the storm in your timing, He will carry you through that storm. Ask Him to show you what He’s doing in you, so that you can learn to love the waves.

A Higher Calling

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“On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him: But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” – Job 23:9-10

“For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men…Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king…For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps.” – I Peter 2:15, 17, 21

“But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. – I Peter 5:10

Scripture Reading: I Peter 2


I grew up in a home that had no shortage of love and laughter. My dad was a larger-than-life guy with a great sense of humor. And so our house abounded with playful nicknames, inside jokes, and a folklore of its own that my siblings and I still recount whenever we’re together.

But my brother was like my dad’s humor on steroids. He was inherently funny, but also inherently annoying. And though we clearly outnumbered him, my sisters and I were forever flustered by his endless teasing. He fed on our frustrations (a fact that only frustrated us all the more). We loved him, but we frequently conspired to kill him. And more than once, my dad delivered these words of wisdom, “When you react – he wins.”

In Chapter 2 of his first epistle, Peter delivers words of wisdom to Christians enduring far more than the tortures of an annoying little brother. Peter’s audience was the churches of Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey). Some historians believe that Peter wrote from Rome (referenced as “Babylon” in I Peter 5:13) at the height of Nero’s assault on Christians. Others believe the persecution was more localized, as Christian values sharply contrasted with the decadent, self-absorbed Greco-Roman culture of the day. But whatever the source of their persecution, these far-flung Christians lived with a target on their backs.

While Peter certainly sympathizes with the persecution (he would be martyred just a few years after writing this letter), he tells them to respond in a radical way. We usually associate radicals with rebellion, but surprisingly, Peter doesn’t encourage rebellion. Instead, in the face of open hostility, Peter encourages obedience and humility (I Peter 2:13-14, 17-18).

God tells us to comply with the powers He has placed over us and to submit to the situations in which He has placed us – even when our own suffering is involved. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but when we simply trust and obey, we acknowledge God as the ultimate authority – the sovereign Lord Who put us wherever we are for a reason.

But Verse 21 gets to the heart of the matter. We submit to suffering, because Christ suffered for us. Peter defines suffering as a calling (“For even hereunto were ye called…”). We all want a higher calling – a call to teach, preach, to serve in some high-profile position or head up a successful ministry – we can see the honor in those callings. But I submit to you that in the upside-down economy of heaven – where losing is gaining, last shall be first, and least shall be greatest – the highest calling of all may very well be the call to suffering.

Nothing puts us in closer company with Jesus Christ than suffering (II Corinthians 1:5-7, Philippians 1:29, 3:10, II Timothy 3:12, I Peter 4:16). Nothing tests and grows and strengthens our faith like suffering. And in a world darkened by sin and self, nothing shines like suffering that is backlit with an inextinguishable faith.

I know. It goes against every fiber of our flesh – to simply “take it” rather than taking control, to wait on an answer from God that we may not even like, to put our lives in His hands with no guarantee that He’ll let us hold on to everything that we hold dear. And yet, we do have a guarantee that our suffering is never in vain – in God’s hands, its value is eternal.

To my suffering friends – the humble hurting that populate my prayers, prick my heart, and challenge my own faith regularly – I am awed by your great calling. Those you love are watching. Those who hate you are watching. And God is working (Romans 8:18, Colossians 4:5-6, I Peter 1:7). You are living out your faith at a level that is beyond imagination, and one day, God will reward you with more than you can imagine (II Corinthians 4:17-18, Ephesians 3:20-21, Hebrews 11:6).

God has not left you, my friend – He has chosen you. Just keep choosing Him.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Are you suffering today? Accept your higher calling. Lean into the Lord and dig into His Word. God wants to bring so much more out of this than you can imagine.

Divine Intervention

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“And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, he hath also rejected thee from being king.” – I Samuel 15:22-23

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” – Proverbs 21:1

“Wherefore I will yet plead with you, saith the Lord, and with your children’s children will I plead.” – Jeremiah 2:9

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 19:9-24


My little guy, Joey, has an iron will. As a stay-at-home parent, I devote a good portion of my day to praying and prodding this little boy’s heart in the right direction. I do have to admit, he comes by his hard head honestly, as both sides of the family can tell legendary tales of stubbornness. And so, that is the neverending challenge in the Brokaw home (for all ages) – channeling our iron wills into the things that matter to God.

In I Samuel 19, Saul’s iron will is channeled disastrously. Having openly declared his intention to kill David, Saul seems temporarily swayed by his son Jonathan (Verses 4-6). And after another successful campaign against the Philistines, David cautiously returns to Saul’s court with harp in hand. But as he plays for the fitful king, a javelin is suddenly hurled in his direction, making it crystal clear that David is no longer safe within Saul’s striking distance (Verses 8-10).

That same night, David is trapped in his own home, as Saul’s soldiers wait to carry out their orders to assassinate him. David’s wife and Saul’s daughter, Michal, holds the hitmen off, claiming that David is sick and planting a household idol in David’s bed as a decoy (Verses 11-16).

Having escaped through a window, David now runs to Samuel for sanctuary in Ramah, where the man of God mentors a community of prophets (Verses 18-19). But nothing is sacred to Saul anymore, and he now sends men to Samuel’s location to murder David. God intervenes, and three times in a row, Saul’s plans are thwarted by praise. Each time the men approach Ramah, they are overcome by the praise and prayers of the prophets, and overtaken by the Holy Spirit, they become a part of the worship service. As a result, David is untouched, and Saul finally decides that he has to do his own dirty work (Verses 20-24).

But as Saul approaches Ramah, he too is overwhelmed by the power of God in that place – so much so that he is completely humbled in God’s presence. He removes his kingly robes and lies on the ground for hours, unable to do anything but worship the Lord (Proverbs 21:1, Isaiah 45:18, Romans 14:11, Philippians 2:9-11).

You see, God is staging an intervention with Saul (Isaiah 1:18, John 3:16-17, I Timothy 2:1-4, II Peter 3:9) – temporarily taking away Saul’s free will, holding him in the humbled state that cannot deny its own helplessness, that cannot deny the sovereign, unchallenged power of a holy God. It’s as if God is pinning him down, pleading with him to lay down his iron will and beg for mercy. Saul has lost his kingdom, but God is trying to save his soul. And God is letting him know that his willfulness will be his own undoing.

Sadly, Saul’s hard heart ignores this divine intervention and refuses repentance. As soon as God releases Saul, he is on the warpath again. Unchanged by his encounter with God, Saul will turn on Jonathan next (I Samuel 20:32-33), and channeled for rebellion, Saul’s iron will eventually destroys Saul and all of his sons (I Samuel 15:23, 31:1-4).

I have to ask the question: Is God trying to intervene with you today? Has your iron will been bent in a bad direction lately? Is God pinning you down, turning up the heat, and trying to turn you in the direction that He desires? If so, I beg you – don’t waste that encounter. It is God’s life-saving, life-giving, longsuffering love in action. It may hurt now, but it will not let you stay the same – and one day you’ll be so much better for it.

Let me plead with you. Let me pray for you. And let God’s divine intervention have its way in your heart.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Let the Lord have His way. Ask God to show you the changes that He wants to make in your heart. Bend your iron will in His direction, and He will bless you for it.

Fiery Darts

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“If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” – Daniel 3:17-18

“For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” – II Corinthians 4:16-18

“Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked.” – Ephesians 6:16

Scripture Reading: Daniel 3


It started with a giant Nerf gun. I was minding my own business, putting on the last of my makeup so that we could embark on a busy day that included a trip to church and lunch with a friend, when Joey said, “Mommy, look!”

What followed was an oversized foam dart that torpedoed without warning – and with great impact, I might add – into the tear duct of my right eye.

It was not one of my finer moments. My son immediately blurted out a torrent of desperate apologies and insisted that he “didn’t know it was loaded” (a debatable statement at best). Meanwhile, I experienced blinding pain mingled with vain thoughts about the very real possibility of going to church with a black eye, along with the inescapable idea that I just might be the biggest parenting failure in the world, topped off with a certain amount of less-than-righteous anger at my beloved boy.

I must tell you, that fiery dart lit a fire under me, as God used it to teach me a few things about myself. It was up to me to gain from it by seeing God at work in that chaotic little moment.

In Daniel 3, it started with a giant ego and a giant statue. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had decided that being king wasn’t quite enough – he wanted to be a god. So he made a 90-foot likeness of himself in solid gold, with the expectation that all of his subjects would bow down to it (Verses 1-2). An elaborate dedication ceremony was held, with the royal orchestra on standby to cue everyone to worship Nebuchadnezzar’s statue (Verses 3-6). But three young and upright men stayed upright when the band began to play. You know their names – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (Verse 12).

Knowing that the fiery furnace was the sure fate of any dissenters, their bravery was impressive. But looking at their face-to-face confrontation with the furious king, their faith is even more impressive.

I love the response that these boys give. It is without a doubt their finest moment. When Nebuchadnezzar offers one last chance to honor him, they boldly tell the king that God is running the show – not Nebuchadnezzar (Verses 16-18). And therefore, they will stay true to God – whether He chooses to save them from the furnace (because God most certainly could save them), or whether it is His will to let them die.

And God most certainly shows up for these faith-filled, on-fire boys in that fiery furnace. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar gets a glimpse of God, and the three young men come out without any sign that they just walked through the biggest barbecue in Babylon (Verses 23-27).

Make no mistake, God’s eternal intention is to use every evil – every fiery dart – for good. And He has the sovereign, all-powerful ability to do just that (Genesis 50:20, Psalm 103:19, 115:3, Romans 8:28, Ephesians 6:16, Philippians 2:13). But the wild card is our response to the evils that befall us. He has given us the free will to respond as we choose. And if we choose to let the shots that comes at us produce more evil in us, then we can deprive ourselves of the good that God was prepared to reveal (Proverbs 15:1, Isaiah 43:19, Romans 12:21, I Peter 4:12-13).

And remember this – like Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, regardless of what God does or does not do, you cannot lose, because you cannot lose Him. He is the Constant. He is the Good that outlasts every evil. And He is the only real Gain that gives meaning to every loss in this life (Philippians 3:7-8, Hebrews 13:5-6, 8).

The next time a fiery dart comes your way, snuff it out with faith. Whether it’s the everyday annoyances or the real fiery furnaces of life, don’t let one form of evil produce something regrettable in you (Job 23:10, Psalm 17:3, James 1:19-20). Instead, trust that God is sovereign, God is good, and let Him bring what He wills out of it.

Unlike little boys with Nerf guns and overly-sensitive mothers, He makes no mistakes.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Are you under fire right now? Know that God reigns over it all. Let Him use that fire for His purposes and trust that He is working it all for your good.

Unsettled

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“Reuben, thou art my firstborn, my might, and the beginning of my strength, the excellency of dignity, and the excellency of power: Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel…” – Genesis 49:3-4a

“Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest prosper withersoever thou goest.” – Joshua 1:7

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.” – James 4:7-8

Scripture Reading: Genesis 49:1-10


I often make life more complicated than it has to be. We have been in a busy season for some time now – nights have been long, weekends have been a blur – and as I assess the busyness, I realize that most of it is stuff for which we volunteered.

But I must tell you that much of the busyness has included newly-opened doors, unexpected opportunities, and blessings that couldn’t have been harvested from the comfort of my living room couch. I could have settled for less stress and the occasional nap, but I would have missed out on bushels of blessings in the end.

In Genesis 49, we see the life of Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob by his first wife Leah, summed up in just a few sentences. And sadly, there’s no denying that Reuben missed out on much. The words are spoken by a dying Jacob, as he prophesies over his twelve sons. His assessment of Reuben starts strong. After all, Reuben is his firstborn – an automatic place of honor in Jewish culture – and the son of Jacob’s youth.

But Reuben is a crushing disappointment. The words “unstable as water” must have felt like a gut-punch to Jacob’s eldest, and the reminder of his sin with Bilhah (his father’s fourth wife and the mother of two of his brothers) must have left him drenched with regret (Genesis 49:3-4).

Reuben is surprisingly relatable to us today. He doesn’t strike me as a mean, malicious guy or a conniver. But he was mediocre, lukewarm, weak in character, and “unstable as water”. A slave to his own desires and emotions, Reuben would forfeit his full potential. Instead, he would simply settle for far less than God’s best.

Reuben’s affair with Bilhah was sandwiched between the deaths of Jacob’s beloved Rachel and his father Isaac (Genesis 35:16-29). The sting of his moral failure was no doubt punctuated by that timing – it was like kicking Jacob while he was down, and it was an unspeakable dishonor to the entire family.

As a result, Reuben lacks the credibility to save Joseph from his treacherous brothers in Genesis 37. As the eldest, he should have commanded enough respect to stop his brothers in their tracks. But having traded his influence for indulgence, the most he can do is buy Joseph a little time, until Judah convinces the brothers to sell Joseph, rather than kill him (Verses 21-30).

And as Jacob predicted, Reuben would “not excel”. He loses his double portion as the firstborn to Joseph’s sons, Ephraim and Manasseh (Genesis 48:5, Proverbs 13:22, Matthew 1). The Messiah will be born through the line of Judah – not Reuben (Genesis 49:10). And more than 400 years later, the tribe of Reuben will settle for a watered-down inheritance, choosing to stay east of the Jordan River (Numbers 32), rather than taking a portion of God’s designated Promised Land.

And that brings me to my point. In the context of free will, we have the prerogative to settle (Joshua 24:15, Galatians 6:7-9). We have the God-given authority to be okay with a lazy, underdeveloped faith, while we exercise our “liberty” to be less than God intended (Galatians 5:1, 13). God will grieve our choice, but He will not undermine it. We can choose to be ruled by our emotions, our instabilities, and the fleeting pleasures of this world, and in that compromised state, we can forego our full potential in Christ.

But I’m not okay with that. Today and every day, I want to keep going back to the cross. I want to chase down God’s will, the way that He chased me down when I was lost. I want to live forgiven, restored, and with a purpose beyond anything this world has to offer (Psalm 16:11, Isaiah 61:7, Matthew 6:20, II Corinthians 4:17-18, Ephesians 1:18, 2:10). I want to keep asking Him to search me, letting Him dredge up the dark corners in my heart until He accomplishes all that He intended (Psalm 139:23-24, Philippians 1:6, 2:12-13, Hebrews 12:1-3).

And by His grace, until I reach my home in heaven, I choose to be blessedly, and most-decidedly, unsettled.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Is there an area of your life where you have settled for less than God’s best? Are you allowing some unchecked sin to rob you of what God has for you? If so, ask God to unsettle you and to help you to turn away from the sin that is holding you back.

The Put-Down

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“And the angel of the Lord called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me.” – Genesis 22:11-12

“For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s, the same shall save it.” – Mark 8:35

“By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure. – Hebrews 11:17-19

Scripture Reading: Genesis 22:1-18


Joey and Sunday are inseparable, and it amuses me and amazes me at the same time. While there’s no doubt that our 7-year old boy loves his 3-year old beagle, Joey’s love can be slightly overwhelming. He has little regard for the poor dog’s personal space, and he is frequently nose-to-nose with her, chattering in her face in a high-pitched tone that only he believes to be comforting.

Sunday is never phased by Joey’s demands. No matter what this lively little boy dishes out, she is always at his heels, tail wagging, following him around like, well, a puppy dog. She will gladly sacrifice her personal space, her comfort, and even her dignity – because Joey is everything to her.

In all honesty, I long to be that devoted to God. I long for that rare and uninhibited brand of faith that puts everything – and I mean everything – in His sovereign hands, and actually lets go. But when God’s will seems to demand more than we can bear to put down, that longing is hard to live out.

And yet, I think Abraham tapped into that kind of faith in Genesis 22. Abraham spent most of his adult life with no children. With no heir, he resigned himself to the idea that his most trusted servant would inherit everything he had (Genesis 15). But God still promised Abraham descendants that would outnumber the stars. A detour from God’s will resulted in Ishmael – Abraham’s son by Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar – but, Ishmael was not the “son of promise” (Genesis 16).

God vowed to give Abraham a son through Sarah. And at the age of 100, Abraham would finally see that promise fulfilled – no less than 25 years after it was first made (Genesis 21:1-5, Hebrews 11:11-12). It must have seemed like an eternity to Abraham, but it was God’s promise, made good in God’s time (Habakkuk 2:3, II Peter 3:8).

But in Genesis 22, God would ask the unthinkable of Abraham. First, God had asked Abraham to let go of Ishmael, sending the boy and his mother, Hagar, away (Genesis 21:9-14). Now, God wanted Isaac on an altar – literally (Genesis 22:1-2).

I cannot imagine that climb up Mount Moriah. I believe Abraham had to force himself to keep putting one foot in front of the other. He must have cringed when Isaac asked where the lamb was, and he must have cried when Isaac allowed him to bind his hands and lay him on the altar (Genesis 22:7-9).

But here’s the thing. In that moment, Abraham – the same guy who had lied more than once to save his own skin (Genesis 12:11-12, 20:2), the guy who had begged God to spare his good-for-nothing nephew (Genesis 18:23-33), the man who had chosen his wife’s plan over God’s promise (Genesis 16:2-4) – finally mastered the put-down. He didn’t scheme, plan, or beg. Instead, he put down the one thing he desperately wanted to hold onto, and He trusted God to be true (Genesis 22:14, Romans 3:3-4, Hebrews 11:17-19).

When Abraham took Isaac up that mountain, He didn’t know that they were acting out the sacrifice that God would make with His own Son some 2,000 years later. He didn’t know God intended to provide a ram, just in time to save Isaac’s life (Genesis 22:12-13). He didn’t realize God was testing Him (Genesis 22:1).

But is it possible that God is testing you and me? Are there things He’s asking us to put down at the altar? Things that threaten to take His place on the throne of our lives (Mark 10:28-30)? Do we trust God to keep His promises, meet our needs, and give us abundant life – with or without those things we hold so dear (Matthew 19:29, John 10:10)?

Today, may we master the put-down. May we put God in His rightful place, and may we pass the testing of our faith by testing His faithfulness in return. Abundant life begins when we lay our life down at the feet of the Great Giver – and leave it there.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Is there something or someone that you’re desperately trying to hold on to today? Put it down at the feet of Jesus. Hold on to Him, and let Him decide what to do with the rest. Remember, He’s got the whole world in His hands, and that includes everything you’re trying to hold onto right now.

Everyday Occupation

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“For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.” – Romans 7:18

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” – Ephesians 6:12

“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” – Hebrews 4:15

Scripture Reading: Romans 7:14-25, Romans 8


Joey has an unnatural attachment to his socks. Frankly, I don’t get it. He likes long, colorful tube socks, pulled all the way up to his knee (even on the hottest day). And once he gets his socks on, he has no desire to take them off – not at night, not even the next day. And so, Joey and I fight “The Sock War” on a daily basis. As the underappreciated ambassador of hygiene in my home, I wrestle with flesh and blood to get Joey to change his socks – because in time, Joey’s socks develop an unnatural attachment to him, and someone has to peel them off before they completely fuse to his sweaty, stinky little feet. It is a daily battle that is not for the faint of heart.

Daily battles are not easy, but they are a vital aspect of the Christian life. I was recently talking with a dear friend of mine who is struggling. With tears in her eyes she told me that she fights a specific, soul-crushing battle every day. As we kept talking, she continued to emphasize the unrelenting, day-to-day aspect of her pain – and she said it as if her struggle had no redeeming purpose, no value, no victory. But although I hate to see her hurting, I am convinced that daily battles have immeasurable purpose and value in God’s economy.

In Romans 7, the Apostle Paul laments his own daily battle. Fighting sin and temptation was his everyday occupation – not just in the brazenly immoral, Gentile cities where he was called to preach and establish churches, but in the dark recesses of his own God-fearing heart.

In Verses 14-23, Paul pulls no punches about his own struggle with sin. And while he never glorifies his sin with too many specifics or colorful war stories, he glorifies God as the only antidote to his sin sickness (Verses 24-25, Mark 2:17, I Timothy 1:15). And in II Corinthians 12:7-10, Paul talks about his non-specific “thorn in the flesh”, more evidence that even this giant of the faith didn’t get a pass from the everyday occupation of fighting his own humanity.

And that brings me to the blessed promise of Romans 8. There is no condemnation in having a daily battle – because verses 3-4 tell us that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are all vested in that battle with us. And though we will struggle, and falter, and even fail at times, real defeat only comes with retreat. Condemnation only comes when we walk away from the battle and allow sin to take up unchecked, unchallenged occupation in our lives (Psalm 37:23-24, Proverbs 24:16).

 

The relentless, daily struggle is proof of life and proof of purpose. Don’t be afraid of the struggle, because it tells you that your conscience is still alive, that the Holy Spirit is still wooing you and striving with you, and groaning for God’s mercy on your behalf (Romans 8:26-27). And God’s endgame is revealed in the promise of Romans 8:28, as God works the good and the bad together into something that ultimately glorifies Him.

Satan will tell you that your daily battle is a sign of hopelessness, but God is with those who engage and fight the good fight (Isaiah 54:17-18, Joshua 1:8, Ephesians 6:10-18, Philippians 2:13, I Timothy 6:12).

Dear warrior, I know you are tired (Psalm 144:1-2, Isaiah 40:31). I know your battle is endless, but praise God that His love endures forever, His mercies are new every morning, and He fights for you (Exodus 14:14, Psalm 100:5, 118:1, Lamentations 3:21-23). The endlessness of your battle is a good sign. It is the daily dependency that God wants from you – the kind of dependency that lives on the just-enough-for-today manna of God’s strength and not the stored-up provisions of self-reliance (Deuteronomy 8:3, Luke 11:3).

Embrace the daily battle, because you will find God on that battlefield (John 16:33, I Corinthians 16:13, II Timothy 2:3, 4:7-8, I Peter 5:8-9, Jude 1:3). And finding Him is half the battle.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Is there a daily battle that you need to be fighting? Have you allowed some sin to take up permanent residence in your life? If so, let me challenge you to take up the fight and engage with God’s help. Any battle that grows your attachment to Him is a battle worth fighting.

The Perfect Way

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“And David enquired at the Lord, saying, Shall I pursue after this troop? shall I overtake them? And he answered him, Pursue: for thou shalt surely overtake them, and without fail recover all.” – I Samuel 30:8

“For thou wilt light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him.” – Psalm 18:28-30

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous: but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.” – Psalm 34:19

Scripture Reading: I Samuel 30


I don’t feel like I’m at my best right now. This is one of those days where I don’t just have a target on my back – I’m wearing one like a sandwich board.

And though I’m rolling in waves of insult and injury, a still, small voice is pleading with me somewhere deep inside my heart, telling me to ride out the storm, fight the panic of insecurity and offense, and anchor myself to the only One Who can give me a right response to all that seems so wrong.

In I Samuel 30, David is a wronged man who has chosen the wrong place to ride out injustice. After sneaking into the Israelite camp and stealing the two items closest to Saul’s sleeping head (I Samuel 26:9-12), David delivers a wake-up call from a safe distance, holding up Saul’s spear to show the king that he has once again spared his life (I Samuel 26:17-25).

But although he momentarily humbled Saul with his refusal to touch the Lord’s anointed, THIS anointed guy wasn’t taking any more chances. Panic strikes David, and rather than going to God, he goes his own way (Proverbs 21:2, Isaiah 53:6, Jeremiah 17:10, Galatians 3:3). Fueled by fear, David runs to the one place where he knows Saul won’t dare to follow – Philistine territory (I Samuel 27:1-4).

There David aligns himself with Achish, the King of Gath (homeland of the long-dead giant, Goliath), becoming mercenary and bodyguard to this Philistine warlord. It’s all just so wrong, and it gets even more wrong.

By the end of I Samuel 27, David has completed a series of bloody missions to prove his loyalty over the course of 16 months, and when the Philistine lords gather to attack Israel (I Samuel 29), David is eager to enlist. But even the other Philistines know that David is not where he belongs.

Finally, in I Samuel 30, David and his men ride out to join the fight, leaving their wives and children behind in Ziklag. Amalekites quickly seize the opportunity to raid Ziklag, burn it to the ground, and carry away all the women and children.

David and his men return to total devastation, and faced with the loss of their families, the men turn on David. Their near-mutiny is the lowest rung on the ladder to rock bottom, and David’s heart is finally turned back to God. Instead of forging ahead on emotion, David at last encourages himself in the Lord. He asks God if he should pursue the Amalekites, and with God’s blessing, the families are rescued without a scratch on them.

Let me share with you the words that I need to hear – David had every right to be upset, but he had every reason to trust God. Saul was completely out of line and completely off his rocker, but God had more than proven Himself faithful to David. The lion, the bear, the giant, and the anointing – all of these were promises that God had no intention of leaving David. But David had chosen hysteria over history, and he did not consult God before consorting with the Philistines.

Secondly, God’s way is perfect, but the perfect way is also the perfecting way. It is not perfect in the sense that nothing ever goes wrong and everything happens without a hitch on our timetable. Rather, all the detours, all the delays, and all the distress serve God’s purpose in God’s timing to grow us, train us, and perfect everything that concerns us (Psalm 138:8, John 16:33, Romans 8:28,35, I Peter 5:10, I John 2:5). And in a fallen world, some of that perfecting will inevitably involve injustice and offense. We simply have to give it to God.

So today, my feet are planted and my eyes are fixed on God’s way. I have an intense awareness that MY way will only worsen the situation, and history reminds me that my God has defended me and delivered me out of trouble before (Deuteronomy 32:4, Psalm 18:30, 34:19, 40:5, 66, I Peter 1:7, 4:12).

The fight is His, so that the glory will be His, and this imperfect woman is praying for the strength to follow God’s perfect way.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Have you suffered injury or offense at the hands of someone else? Are you allowing that offense to pull you away from God and His perfect way for you? If so, give it to God, and get back on track. He is your Deliverer and your Defender, and His way IS perfect.

 

Go to the Grave

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“And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun. And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?” – Mark 16:2-3

“Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” – I Corinthians 15:54b-57

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” – I Peter 1:3

Scripture Reading: Mark 16:1-10, John 20:1-18


A few months ago, we broke down and got Joey a dog. My husband found us a cute, little beagle, aptly named “Sunday”, who has become Joey’s loyal sidekick. Sunday is a sweetie, but she’s no guard dog. To date, her list of phobias includes stink bugs, balloons, remote-control cars, high winds, and her own shadow.

When Joey recently got a bunch of foil balloons for his birthday, Sunday was paralyzed with fear. If someone simply touches the balloons, so that they shift around and gently bump into each other, Sunday scampers away. She won’t even walk past the balloons, unless one of us stands squarely between her and the sinister bouquet of floating foil heads and verbally reassures her. It’s pathetic, but somehow, she feels absolutely powerless in their presence.

In Mark 16, three women knew what it meant to feel powerless as they made their way to the tomb – Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James (the disciple known as “James, the son of Alphaeus”), and Salome (wife of Zebedee and mother to the disciples James and John).

I picture them arm-in-arm, moving slowly, weeping softly, drawn by duty, and tortured by the pointlessness of it all. They had endured the agony of front-row seats for the crucifixion, displaying a steadfast loyalty and grit that even many of the disciples couldn’t muster (Matthew 26:31, 27:54-61). After that, they had wept their way through the burial, joining Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in trying to compensate for a gruesome and undignified death with a solemn and sacred laying to rest (John 19:38-42).

Now, after a long and lonely sabbath, these faithful women came with spices in hand to resume the ritual of caring for Jesus’ body (Mark 16:1-2). They were again drawn by duty, but honestly, they had no idea how they were going to manage (Matthew 27:65-66, Mark 16:3).

But while they wondered what to do about the stone, God was already moving in ways beyond their imagination

By the time they reach the tomb, that stone is already history. The grave stands open, and looking inside, they find Jesus gone and an angel waiting for them with those blessed words, “He is risen. He is not here.”

Before they even reached the problem, it was solved. Their weakness was answered with a power from on high and a plan to do far more than simply allow them to carry out their pointless rituals. As a matter of fact, those rituals were no longer needed, because death had been driven from that grave.

What stone stands in your way today? What problem seems so massive that it’s beyond moving? I’m here to tell you that it is not beyond the moving of God.

And as for your eternity, it was sealed when the seal on that grave was broken (I Corinthians 15:12-19, 54-57). You do not have a powerless Savior, forever languishing on a cross. You have a risen Savior, a Savior who has already left His own grave to move on and move other stones, a Savior Who is seated beside His Father in the heaven, pleading your case, with the power to put every stone under His feet (Psalm 8:6, Romans 8:34, Hebrews 1:2-4, 7:25, 8:6, 10:12-13).

All of the proof, all of the promise, all of the power you require is waiting for you at that empty grave – for eternity and for every day. However big the stone, however impossible the problem, Jesus is way ahead of you. The stone is rolled away, the work is finished, and the open tomb is an open invitation to believe that all things are possible.

So when you need hope, go to the grave. When you need courage, go to the grave. When you need strength, and answers, and a reason to go on – they are all there, where the stone used to be.

If death can be conquered, then any stone can be moved by His mighty hand. And hope is alive, because HE IS RISEN.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Do you believe that God still rolls stones away? Take all of your cares and concerns to your living, risen Savior, knowing that He has conquered death and He is mighty to save.

A Little Lunch

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“He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.” – Mark 6:38

“Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth.” – Mark 9:23

“One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, saith unto him, There is a lad here, which hath five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many?” – John 6:8-9

Scripture Reading: John 6:1-13


Joey has exactly sixteen dollars in a top-stitched leather wallet on his dresser. It’s his life savings – a combination of leftover Christmas money, the profits of lost teeth, and payments received for his own special brand of “help” on household projects.

Always thinking big, he recently decided that our backyard wasn’t big enough for his 6-year old dreams of bike stunts, forts, and Nerf-gun battlefields, and he recommended that we find a new house. When I sensibly explained that we were perfectly happy with our current house, and besides, we couldn’t afford a new one, he immediately responded, “But Mommy, I’ll give you my sixteen dollars…”

In Joey’s mind, his little wallet has unlimited possibilities.

That reminds me of another little boy whose little lunch actually did have unlimited possibilities. In John 6, Jesus has drawn a crowd. Awed by His healing power, they follow Him relentlessly, crossing the Sea of Galilee and trekking up a mountainside in anticipation of what miracle He might do next (Matthew 14:14, Luke 9:11, John 6:1-3).

As evening comes, Jesus is touched by their need (Matthew 14:15, Mark 6:34-35, Luke 9:12). Having spent the day with Him, these people have no provision for dinner, and they’re far from home.

In Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus tells the disciples to “go and see” how much food they have, and they return with the report of five loaves and two fish (Mark 6:38). Although Peter’s brother, Andrew, brings the little boy forward (John 6:8-9), Andrew also provides the sensible, grown-up assessment of their resources, “…but what are they among so many?” Clearly, there isn’t enough to work with here.

So practical. And practically faithless.

To be honest, I’ve always had a hard time believing that the little boy in question was the only one in the crowd with any vittles to offer. Not another soul had a morsel or two to share? I could survive for a week on the contents of my car – emergency kid snacks, stray packs of gum and mints, and (reserved for the last few days of survival) drive-thru scraps that have found their way under the seats. No one had the New Testament equivalent of any of those things?

I submit to you that when the disciples followed Jesus’ instructions and scanned the crowd for food, there were others who could have contributed. Some may have been selfish, or simply holding out for free food from the Miracle Worker. But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that some were probably too practical to believe that their single-serving lunch could be stretched to feed the crowd around them.

How many of us are hiding in the crowd, silently and sensibly refusing to be a part of God’s work, because we think we don’t have enough to offer God? How many of us actually believe that our own inadequacy limits what God can do? How many miracles have we missed by being realists?

The truth is that God’s reality is limitless (Job 5:8-9, Isaiah 55:9, 64:4, Jeremiah 33:3, I Corinthians 1:25-28, 12:9-10). He delights in using the inadequate to accomplish the impossible. His constant invitation to us is to step out of the boat, step into the lion’s den, lock and load your slingshot, and see what He can do (Exodus 14:13, II Chronicles 16:9a, 20:17, Mark 9:23, 10:15-16, Luke 1:37, II Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1, 6). And too often, we look in our lunch bag and say, “It’ll never work.”

Today, I invite you to take your “not enough”, your little lunch, your sixteen dollars, and put it in the hands of Jehovah-Jireh, the God Who Provides. Have the childlike audacity to believe that God can use you – not because of what you have, but in spite of all you lack.

It’s not about being adequate. It’s about being obedient. He wants to use you – right now, just as you are (Jeremiah 29:1, John 6:5-6, Ephesians 2:10). And He can do big things with a little lunch and a little faith.


YOUR PRESCRIPTION

Has God been calling you to do something? Have you hesitated because you feel inadequate? Offer God what you have, knowing that what you have doesn’t matter. He will honor the offering, and He will use you because HE is able.