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Accountability in Action

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“But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul.” – Joshua 22:5

“Open rebuke is better than secret love. Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.” – Proverbs 27:5-6

“Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” – Hebrews 3:12-13

Scripture Reading: Joshua 22

God has filled my life with blessings, but it often seems that my blessings include added responsibility and requirement. That’s why I am so thankful that God has given me a small circle of faithful, supportive friends. They know me – the real and ragged “me” that I don’t even dare to trot out in public – and God repeatedly uses these friends to keep me in check.

As we share our blessings and burdens in our little circle, I find that God is forever working in my heart, reminding me that this “work in progress” has more progress to make.

In Joshua 22, the twelve tribes are finally making progress in the Promised Land. The tribes of Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh have fulfilled their obligation to assist the other tribes in claiming their respective portions of the Promised Land (Numbers 32). Joshua gives them an honorable discharge and releases them to return to the other side of the Jordan River, where their own inheritance lies (Joshua 22:1-6).

Loaded down with the spoils of war and buoyed by Joshua’s blessing, the eastern tribes head for home. But when they reach the Jordan, they build a great, big altar – big enough that word of it reaches the western tribes in record time – and news of the giant altar is not well-received. Fearing that idolatry is already rearing its ugly head east of the Jordan – Joshua prepares for the possibility of civil war (Verse 12).

But before they march against their own, Phinehas, son of the high priest Eleazer, takes a  contingent of princes from the western tribes and sets out to confront the eastern leadership in Gilead (Verses 13-14).

You see, Phinehas knew a thing or two about confronting rebellion. In Numbers 25, the Israelites brazenly defiled themselves with the Moabites. God responded with a plague that quickly wiped out 24,000 Israelites. And God Himself credited Phinehas with turning back the rest of His wrath by squashing the rebellion. But the price had been high, and this time, Phinehas was determined to stop the rebellion before it began.

But in his confrontation, Phinehas offers more than a rush to judgment – he offers constructive accountability. In Joshua 22:19, Phinehas tells the eastern tribes that they still have a home west of the Jordan River, and if the temptations of pagan culture are too strong on the eastern banks, they can join the other tribes on the distant western bank.

Thankfully, the intentions of the eastern tribes prove to be true and they welcome accountability. They had not turned to idolatry, nor had they violated the structure of worship outlined in Leviticus 17:8-9. Rather, they had built a memorial to remind their children to follow the Lord (a way of holding themselves accountable). And with so much distance between their territorial inheritance and the tabernacle at Shiloh, they had given themselves a visual of their spiritual inheritance.

Phinehas returns to Shiloh with good news, and the swords of the Israelite army are sheathed. But the trip was not a wasted one, as iron sharpens iron, and the commitment of all twelve tribes to serve the One True God was confirmed and strengthened. Being accountable to each other served them all well.

I have learned this the hard way, but I am so grateful to have learned. Welcome accountability. Invite it into your life, and never ask it to leave (Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, Matthew 12:36-37, James 5:16). Don’t settle for friends who will tell you what you want to hear. Seek out friends who will tell you what you need to hear from God’s Word (Proverbs 9:8, 24:24-25, 27:6, 17, Jeremiah 17:9-10, Galatians 6:1-5, Hebrews 10:23-25, 13:17). And find a church family that expects you to do more than just “show up”. Find a church that challenges you – and even holds you – to a higher standard of godly living.

Accountability is your friend. True friends will hold you accountable to God and His Word. And they are the company that is truly worth keeping.


Do you have a structure of accountability in place? Ask God to give you the kind of relationships that hold you accountable and help you to grow. Welcome accountability and walk in the light.

Good Grief

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“Thou tellest my wanderings: put thou my tears into thy bottle: are they not in thy book? When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me.” – Psalm 56:8-9

“He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” – Isaiah 53:3-4

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” – Revelation 21:4

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53

A recent TV commercial featured an overprotective mom smothering her 10-year old son. The poor boy watches in humiliated horror, as his misguided mom awkwardly shields him from a hail of gym class dodgeballs, saying, “Don’t worry, honey. Mommy’s here.”

Yep. That could be me.

I see my little boy get his heart broken, and I want to run to his rescue. My instinct is to fix everything for him. But sometimes, playing hero to my 6-year old only distracts him from the One Who should really be at the center of his little heart. And lately, I’ve been learning to push him to prayer, rather than shielding him from every last dodgeball in life.

There is a good grief that draws us closer to the side of our Savior. We cling to people that we think can mend our broken hearts and right our world, but heartbreak can bring perspective and put the people in our lives in their proper place. Heartbreak has a way of pushing us to prayer and pushing God to the forefront – where He belongs.

If you’re waiting on someone in your life to heal your hurting, let me show you some people who learned that only God could bring good from their grief:

  1. Hannah (I Samuel 1) – Though she was barren, Hannah was beloved by her husband (Verses 4-5), but Elkanah’s sincere love for her (“Am not I better to thee than ten sons?”) couldn’t shield her from the cruelty of his other wife, and it couldn’t give her the child she desired (Verses 6-8). Hannah’s redemption came when she took her grief to God, and her vow to give her son back to the Healer of her heart paved the way for Samuel’s lifetime of service to the Lord (I Samuel 3:19-20, Hebrews 11:32-33). And in the end, God would reward Hannah’s faithfulness by giving her 5 more children (I Samuel 2:21, Isaiah 54:1, Hebrews 11:6).
  2. Joseph (Genesis 37) – Jacob doted on the son of his beloved Rachel, but his doting only fueled the hatred of his other sons. When that hatred finally boiled over, Joseph found himself at the bottom of a pit, clinging to the hope that his oldest brother Reuben would somehow talk the others out of killing him. But Reuben’s rescue plan failed, and Joseph was sold to slave traders (Verses 21-30). People would continue to let Joseph down – Potiphar would believe his scheming wife, and Pharaoh’s butler would forget all about Joseph as soon as his own dream came true. But God would be with Joseph through every heartbreak, working out a providential plan that even the Dreamer couldn’t see coming (Genesis 37:19, 41:51-52, 50:20, Acts 7:9-10, Hebrews 11:22).
  3. The Woman with the Issue of Blood (Mark 5:25-34) – This woman knew her own brand of heartbreak. She had spent 12 lonely years living in the shadow of a Levitical curse that rendered her “unclean” and destroyed any hope of a normal life (Leviticus 15:25). Her desperation made her easy prey for quacks and con artists, and she had poured money into treatments that somehow worsened her condition, leaving her broke and still broken. But when she fought her way through the crowd to make contact with Jesus, this broken woman would be publicly declared “whole” by the Savior Himself (Isaiah 61:1, Matthew 11:28-29, John 8:36).

Everything has a purpose in God’s hands (Romans 8:28, Philippians 3:10, I Peter 5:10). And when given to God, suffering puts us on common ground with our uncommon Savior – the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3-5), Who willingly took all the worst of sin’s outcomes on Himself, so that He could one day “make all things new”.

Find the good in your grief. Stop looking to people to save you, and instead, ask God what He wants to accomplish in and through you. People will let you down, but God will lift you up in due time (I Peter 5:6-7). And one glorious day, all grief will be gone (Revelation 21:4).

What a day that will be.


Have you been waiting on someone to change your situation? Have you been waiting on someone to simply change? Ask God what He wants to change and wait on Him instead.


Light Switch

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“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” – John 3:17

“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” – Romans 10:14

“For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light…See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” – Ephesians 5:8, 15-17

Scripture Reading: Ephesians 5

A part of me has been avoiding this. To speak in the aftermath of the unspeakable is trite at best, and at worst, does more damage when the damage is already beyond measuring.

You don’t need me to recount the events of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida. I know the images are burned into your brain as they are into mine. But something else is burning in me as well. It’s not anger or emotion – though I’ve felt those, too. This burning is a sense of urgency, a sense that I don’t want to miss another wake-up call, a sense that I can’t press the snooze button again, and I need to turn the light switch on.

I’m not here to try to give any explanation. To try to read the mind of God at a time like this only incenses the hurting and insults the God Whose thoughts and ways are so much higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). And I’m not going to touch the political issues, because I believe there is a far more eternal issue for those who know Christ.

It comes down to this – for the Christian, tragedy should be a light switch. We are called to be light, and that calling is never louder than it is at moments like this. I’ll admit, there are times that I catch myself hitting the snooze button, thinking that I have all the time in the world to reach the people that God has put in my path (Matthew 26:41, Mark 13:33). But when we are reminded how quickly and unexpectedly life can be snuffed out, when we are reminded how fragile even the strongest and liveliest among us are, when we realize just how unsure our existence is outside of the grace of God, we have to redouble our efforts, redeem the time, and reach the lost (John 9:4-5, Ephesians 5:16, Jude 1:23).

I’ll admit, too, that there are times when silence feels safer. People are so enraged with grief that a Christian can’t say anything right, and our faith-fueled insights are unwelcome in most forums. But today, the world is a darker place than it’s ever been, and God’s children – the children of light –  need to shine brighter than ever before. We need to avoid the temptation to engage in hate-speak, (I Timothy 2:1-3), but more than ever, we are called to a ministry of mercy and reconciliation (II Corinthians 4:1-4, 5:18-19).

Don’t you see? These awful moments that leave people searching are divine appointments for believers. Light their way to God. We may not have all the answers, but we have The Answer for a lost and dying world (John 14:6, Acts 4:12). Don’t miss the moment. Don’t be so busy defending your position that you lose sight of your mission.

Love – even when confronted with hate. Pray – even when they don’t want your prayers. Pray that God will soften hearts, open doors, and grant boldness at just the right moment – not a boldness that bullies or responds to every jab, but a boldness that loves the not-so-lovable and reaches into darkness to pull people towards the light (Proverbs 15:1-2, Colossians 4:5-6).

Live a life that unashamedly points people to God. Give the Gospel every chance you get. Resist the urge to fit in and fly under the radar. Embrace your place in this world as a “city set on a hill” (Matthew 5:14-16), but be a city without walls – open and approachable. Always speak the truth, but never without love. And when God sends a softened soul your way, be ready with the gracious, scripture-based truth that they need (Ephesians 4:14-15, Hebrews 6:19, James 3:17, I Peter 3:15).

God will surprise us with His grace again. Souls will come to salvation, and His purposes will come to pass, in spite of evil. Keep the faith. Share your faith. And always keep your light-switch in the “on” position.


Ask God for the wisdom, strength, and grace to be a light in the darkest of times. Pray for the hurting and the searching – and light their way to the cross.

Growing Pains

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“It is good for me that I have been afflicted; that I might learn thy statutes.” – Psalm 119:71

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” – Ephesians 3:17-19

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.” – James 1:2-3

Scripture Reading: James 1:1-14

I was recently torturing my 6-year old with a flurry of tickles and unsolicited smooches, when he responded breathlessly, “You’re right, Mommy. It’s not easy being loved.”

“It’s not easy being loved.” It’s a line that I use on my guys all the time, because I believe it points to the ever-growing pile of overlooked blessings in each of our lives. It’s a paradox that pits human nature against the unrivaled goodness of God. We bemoan the constant demands and interruptions posed by the people in our lives, while missing the truth that it is a blessing that God has filled our lives to overflowing with people to love and be loved by. So many of the things that annoy us in this life are really evidences of the love of God (and even of the flawed human love of the people God has placed in our lives), but Satan loves to paint our blessings as burdens. And too often, we are overwhelmed by those blessings in a bad way – viewing God’s opportunities as inconveniences.

I’ll be honest. We’ve had some hard things going on in our home in recent months. I don’t want to overdramatize. Everyone is well, and by God’s grace, Paul and I are stronger than ever, but we’ve been tested in unexpected ways on many different fronts, and our little family has been aching with growing pains.

In James 1, the author talks about the gift of growing pains and the easily-overlooked evidences of God’s love in our lives.

This book was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus. Though he likely did not become a believer until after the resurrection of Christ, he became a pivotal leader in the early church at Jerusalem (Acts 1:14, I Corinthians 15:4-7, Galatians 1:18-19).

And there was nothing easy about being a part of the early church. It’s believed that the Book of James was actually the first New Testament book that was written, and it was penned in the aftermath of the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7). The church was still in its infancy, and particularly in Jerusalem, Christians (though that term had not been coined yet) were being hunted. Enemies such as Saul (who had not taken his life-changing trip to Damascus yet) had forced the church to scatter (Acts 8:1-3, 9:1-2, James 1:1), but James charges them to find the blessing in their burdens.

He tells them to “count it all joy”, and to embrace the constant exercising of their faith muscles, knowing that the stress and strain of their trials will only serve to strengthen their faith (James 1:2-4). He tells them that wisdom is available for the asking, and their steady storm of trials is God’s way of prompting them to ask, to lean in, and lean on Him (Verses 5-7).

They are going through endurance training (Verse 12). And after coming from a religion that was driven by rules, law, and mere repetitive motion, they are learning to live a life of active response – listening for the voice of God and looking for opportunities to live out their faith through obedience to God’s Word and right responses to the assignments that He gives them on a moment-to-moment basis (Verses 18-27, James 2:14-20, Ephesians 2:10, 5:2, Titus 3:8).

And so it is with you and me. Growing pains are a gift. Trials are training. And the things that you and I haven’t planned for are often the most pivotal pieces of His plan for us (John 16:33, Romans 5:3-5, 8:28, 12:12, I Peter 4:12-19, 5:10, Hebrews 9:14, 12:5-6).

It’s not easy being loved. It’s not easy having a God Who invests in you by uprooting you, Who is forever pulling your comfort zone out from under you and challenging you to test His promises by being tested. But make no mistake, it is love. It is the love that left a throne and surrendered to a cross, so that we could be spared a cross and offered a crown (Romans 8:35-39, Philippians 2:7-8, James 1:12). It is the deep and wide love that little kids sing about in Sunday School. And it is the love that will guide you through every growing pain.


What growing pains are you experiencing right now? Make sure you are using them to grow. Ask for wisdom, lean into the God Who loves you, and praise Him for the training in your trials.


A Better Window

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“And he [Jonah] said unto them, I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land. Then were the men exceedingly afraid, and said unto him. Why hast thou done this? For the men knew that he fled from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.” – Jonah 1:9-10

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

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:14-16

Scripture Reading: Jonah 1

I often miss the mission field around me. I have a friend who reminds me of this on a regular basis. Actually, she reminds me of my dad. My dad rarely missed a chance to give the gospel. I remember him sitting at the kitchen table, paying bills, and putting a gospel tract in the envelope with each check he wrote. My friend is equally mindful, pulling a tract out of her purse every time we get the check at a restaurant or buy a cup of coffee.

It’s easy to plow through life completely self-absorbed, head-down, with little regard for the world around you. But as Christians, we’re kidding ourselves if we think that the world isn’t watching, and whether we notice the world or not, they are constantly taking note of us.

In Jonah 1, the prophet is self-absorbed and he is most definitely kidding himself. You know the story backwards and forwards. God tells Jonah to go to Ninevah. Jonah refuses and defiantly runs from God, booking passage on a ship to Tarshish, the furthest point he can reach in the opposite direction of his God-ordained destination (Verses 1-3).

Jonah then goes below deck and falls asleep. Jonah thinks he has left the mission field. He thinks he has abandoned his calling, and now that he’s mad at God, he’s just going to keep his head down, take care of himself, and ignore the world around him. He falls asleep in the middle of his mission field, until God begins to rock the boat.

The storm that ensues is one of biblical proportions (pun intended). It drives the sailors to toss cargo overboard, and more importantly, it drives them to their knees. These sailors don’t know the One True God, but they’re frantically praying to every god they can think of. They wake Jonah up and tell him to pray. And sensing that the storm has to be about more than the weather, they cast lots to divine the source of the trouble (Verses 4-7).

And here’s the part that really gets me – the trouble is the prophet of God, the guy who was sleeping, the guy who still hasn’t said any prayers. Now exposed, Jonah is finally forced to acknowledge his association with God (Verse 9), “I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.”

But he offers no prayers. It’s heartbreaking. These sailors are having their first encounter with the Living God, and God’s prophet is in the middle of a selfish phase. There’s no doubt they are struck by the power and might of God, but they are equally struck by the willful rebellion of God’s man (Verses 10-11).

And Jonah doesn’t soften. He still doesn’t pray. He doesn’t beg God for forgiveness or beg Him to spare the sailors. Instead, it’s the sailors who are trying to save Jonah, as they row desperately to avoid throwing him overboard. They beg God for mercy. And after the storm stops (and Jonah literally becomes fish food), they cement their relationships with the One True God (Verses 13-16, Romans 1:16, 10:13, Revelation 1:7).

But it’s no thanks to Jonah (Isaiah 55:11, Ezekiel 33:6, Matthew 18:6). And it makes me wonder – how many times have I been so wrapped up in me that I missed the chance to be part of God’s work? How many times have I been in a selfish phase? How many times have I fallen asleep in the middle of my mission field?

When I was a kid, we used to say, “You make a better door than a window.” We used that line anytime someone stood in our way and blocked our view. God forgive us when we are closed doors that block someone else’s view of God. God forgive us when we are self-absorbed distractions from His glory (Isaiah 43:10, Matthew 5:16, Philippians 2:15, II Timothy 2:1-4, I Peter 3:15, Jude 1:23).

May we be ever mindful of our mission fields. May we all be better windows for His light to shine through.


Have you fallen asleep on your mission field? Are you going through life head-down? Ask God to wake you up to His work, and ask Him to make you a better window that He can shine through.

Filter Change

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“Ye have wearied the Lord with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” – Malachi 2:17

“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” – Malachi 3:16

“Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” – Philippians 2:14-15

Scripture Reading: Malachi 3:13-18

Like most of my generation, my siblings and I grew up on tap water. As a kid, there were only a few fancy people in my life who had the million-dollar refrigerator with the built-in water and ice dispenser – and we were in awe of them. While we argued over who should have filled the plastic ice cube trays, they sipped cool, filtered water over their choice of cubed or crushed ice.

But when my husband and I bought our house, it came with the appliances, including a fancy fridge. I thought I had arrived. I thought I would never drink unfiltered tap water again. Then my mechanically-brilliant and selectively-frugal husband admitted that, instead of regularly changing the filter on the water dispenser, he had merely figured out how to disable the little red “change filter” light.

Needless to say, that filter needs changing, and I’m finding that other filters in my life need attention, too.

In Malachi 3, the prophet is pleading with God’s people to change their filter. We don’t know much about the prophet himself, but what a message God gave him. In fact, it would be the last message that Jews would receive from God for 400 years – the last Old Testament prophecy before the fullness of time (the New Testament), when the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us.

So it stands to reason that this message was pretty important – for the people of Malachi’s day and for us. As for the people of Malachi’s day, they were the Jews who had returned from the 70-year captivity in Babylon. They were still under Persian rule, but they had been back in their homeland for about 100 years, and they had rebuilt the temple in Jerusalem. But the temple and the people were in serious need of a filter change. Their priests were corrupt (Malachi 2:7-8), the abuse of women through unlawful divorce was rampant (Malachi 2:13-16), and they failed to honor the Lord with the tithes and offerings He deserved (Malachi 3:8).

Malachi 3 begins with the prophetic promises of the Messiah and His forerunner (John the Baptist), but it also calls for some pretty heavy-duty repentance. And in Malachi 3:13, God echoes a specific rebuke from the previous chapter (Malachi 2:17). In short, He is sick of their complaining. He is weary of being blamed for everything they don’t like about their lives, when they choose to live their lives without Him. He is tired of them demanding that He judge others, when they refuse to be judged themselves.

However, in Verse 16, a group of people catches God’s attention. They are the ones who have changed their filter. Instead of running their circumstances through a filter of complaining and blaming God, these people have a filter of fear – the fear of the Lord, that is. They begin to see things from the holy, sovereign perspective of God, and God honors them for it. They change the way they look at things, and just as importantly, they change the way that they talk about those things to each other (Psalm 73:28, Colossians 3:16, I Thessalonians 5:11, Hebrews 10:23-25). They reinforce each others faith “often” – often enough for God to note it in a book in heaven.

Here’s a sobering thought: If we truly believe in the sovereignty of God, then every complaint we have is ultimately a complaint against God. If we believe that He works ALL things together for good, then we have no reason to doubt Him – even when things are bad (Romans 8:28). If anything, we are reminded to guard our filter, the heart (Psalm 51:16-17, 66:16-20, Proverbs 4:23), knowing that while our filter may need changing, God never changes (Malachi 3:6, Lamentations 3:22-23, Hebrews 13:8).

Today, I’m changing at least one filter. I can’t speak for the quality of the water in my house, but I’m determined to improve the quality of my words. I want to reinforce faith, see sovereignty in action, and catch the attention of God by giving Him the attention – and the praise – that He deserves.


How would you describe your circumstances? Do you talk about your life in a way that glorifies God as Lord of all? If not, change your filter, and speak in the context of God’s sovereignty and His goodness.

One Thing

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“One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord, and to enquire in His temple.” – Psalm 27:4

“But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” – Matthew 6:33

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 3:13-14

Scripture Reading: Proverbs 3

I feel like a handyman on steroids. I just want to fix everything in sight. It’s New Year’s Day, and I’ve got a lot on my mind. I’ve got resolutions I want to make and issues I want resolved, and frankly, I don’t have the wisdom or the strength to turn any of those resolutions into reality.

If you’re like me, you have a long list of improvements that you’re longing to make in your heart, yourself, and your home. More than ever, I’m convinced that any progress we hope to make depends on one thing – our dependence on the Lord. In the early glow of the New Year, resolutions tend to take on a life of their own, but in truth, knowing God’s will should be the central theme to every resolution we make.

Ponder with me a few common New Year’s resolutions, in light of scripture:

  1. Lose weight.  – I think the Apostle Paul had a corner on this resolution, although the weights he referred to were sin, and a regrettable and unforgettable past (Philippians 3). Personally, I have both literal and metaphorical weight to lose, but time has taught me that I can’t shed either without a steady diet of God’s Word and prayer (Job 23:12, Psalm 37:5, Proverbs 3:7-8, John 4:34). And while I’m forever tempted to place my trust in products and programs, I’ve resolved to seek His kingdom first (Psalm 118:8-9, Proverbs 3:26, 4:7,  Matthew 6:33) and trust Him with the rest of my resolutions.
  2. Get organized. – There’s a false and fleeting peace that comes with having a stranglehold on your circumstances – be it through the perfect filing system, a meticulously-maintained home, or a routine that runs like clockwork. But in a fallen world, rain is bound to fall on even the most perfectly-planned parade, and only God has the complete control that we crave and the peace that we need (Psalm 37:23, Isaiah 26:3, Nahum 1:7, John 14:27). If you’re forever controlled by your own control issues, I’m right there with you. But Martha could tell you that all the organization in the world can’t give you peace, if you’re missing out on the presence of Jesus (Luke 10:38-42).
  3. Make better financial decisions. – I’ll give it to you straight. Every other financial decision pales in comparison to the financial proving of God recommended in Malachi 3. If we truly believe that every good thing we have comes from God (Proverbs 3:9-10, James 1:17), then we cannot fail to give a portion of every good thing (starting with money, but also including time, talents, and resources) back to Him. And the crazy thing is, God actually dares us to test Him and see how much blessing He’ll provide in response to our obedience (Proverbs 11:24, Malachi 3:10, Luke 6:38). Your most important financial decision? Make sure that God is getting His due.
  4. Spend more time with family. – By all means, resolve to do this, but start with more time with your heavenly Father. Giving Him your attention first will make you more of a blessing to the rest of your family. And make sure that you are pointing your family to God (Deuteronomy 6:5-7). Take them to church. Pray with them, and center everything in your home around God and His Word (Joshua 24:15, Proverbs 14:1, 24:3, 31:28-30). Hands down, there is nothing your family needs more than God.

The Bible promises over and over that any success we hope to know hinges on knowing God (Deuteronomy 30:15-16, Joshua 1:8-9, John 10:10, 15:4, 16). He is the One Thing that all of my plans, projects, and improvements hinge on. He is the Rock in my resolutions, and He alone can do a new thing in my New Year (Isaiah 43:19) – and by His grace, I have 48 years of blessings to prove it.

Happy New Year.


Write your resolutions on your knees. Talk to God about the changes you want to make in the coming year, and ask Him to prompt your heart with the changes that He wants to make in you.

Down To My Level

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“For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” – Isaiah 53:2

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.” – Luke 2:15

“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” – Philippians 2:6-8

Scripture Reading: Luke 2:1-20

It seems awkward has become a way of life for me. When I was younger, I was so much better at putting on a show. I had the ability to pretend that I had it all together and the energy to keep up the facade on a day-to-day basis. But time has helped me to get over myself, and time in God’s Word has reassured me that His grace covers my mess far more sufficiently than my own veneer of striving ever could.

And so, I awkwardly embrace my own imperfections. I’m reminded of Paul’s words, “Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” If awkwardness and imperfection are infirmities, then I am most certainly infirmed (II Corinthians 12:9).

In Luke 2, the setting and circumstances of Christ’s birth appear awkward, but the deliberate humility of God’s plan reveals His heart for imperfect and infirmed people like you and me. You know the story, Joseph arrives in the overcrowded and unsuspecting town of Bethlehem with a very pregnant wife and no place to stay. A stable doubles as a delivery room, a manger serves as a makeshift bassinet, and the Savior of the world is born in utter obscurity (Luke 2:4-7).

Next comes the birth announcement. And while the appearance of angels in the night sky is beyond description, the audience chosen is beyond comprehension. The angels don’t appear to priests or at the temple in Jerusalem. They don’t find the religious elite – the Pharisees or Scribes – who seem to be so close to God (Matthew 23:27-28). Instead, they find a bunch of nameless shepherds in a field and direct them to the manger (Luke 2:8-15).

And this is where the concept of Emmanuel, God With Us, becomes so perfectly real (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23). Those shepherds were just ordinary, working-class guys. They didn’t know it at the time, but their profession represented the very relationship that Christ came to have with us (John 10:11-18). He came to be our Savior and Shepherd – the One Who would give His life for His sheep.

And they probably didn’t realize it, but the manger was God’s way of coming down to their level. You see, to the temple, to the religious elite of Jewish society, shepherds were moral failures. The round-the-clock needs of their flocks kept them from being able to properly keep the Sabbath. The messy, hands-on care that they provided their sheep made them ceremonially unclean. They smelled like their sheep. They were filthy like their sheep, and their sheep demanded their constant attention.

But praise God, He sent Jesus to save and shepherd moral failures, and so Jesus Himself entered the world in filthy, smelly fashion (II Corinthians 5:21, Galatians 3:13). The stable wasn’t a last resort; it was a carefully and divinely chosen location. The stable became a house of worship that even a shepherd fresh from the field could enter without reserve, without shame, without feeling unaccepted or out of place. It was God stepping down from His throne to dwell at their level – the epitome of Emmanuel.

This Christmas, you can come to Emmanuel. The amazing truth is that our very imperfections invite His presence, because He didn’t come for the righteous – He came for moral failures like you and me (Mark 2:17, I Timothy 1:15). The world has a checklist of traditions and trappings that your Christmas requires. The world pressures you to work and strive and knock yourself out to achieve an unachievable standard of perfection. But Emmanuel waits for you in the manger – in the smelly mess of our everyday lives and our sin-sick existence – and you don’t have to work your way to perfection, because He finished the work on the cross (Matthew 11:28-29, John 19:30, Romans 5:6-8, Ephesians 2:8-9, Hebrews 12:2).

Step back from the Christmas rush and step into the humble warmth of the stable. Embrace your awkwardness, your imperfections, and your infirmities, knowing that Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, came to embrace you – where you are, just as you are. He came down to your level, so that you could stop trying to work your way to Him.

Hallelujah, what a Savior.


Have you truly embraced Emmanuel? Have you accepted Christ as your Savior? No amount of human striving can outweigh your sin and save your soul, but Christ came to earth to die for you. If you’ve not accepted the gift of salvation, talk to God today.

In the Making

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“For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.” – Habakkuk 2:3

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” – Malachi 4:5-6

“And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God.  And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” – Luke 1:16-17

Scripture Reading: Luke 1:1-25

I’m behind again. Actually, I don’t remember ever being caught up, so to say that I’m behind “again” is probably a generous and wishful assessment. Each year starts the same. This time, I’ll get it right. Just buy a present or two a month, and have everything wrapped by November. It never happens, and so the Christmas hopes and dreams of my 6-year old end up in the hands of UPS Ground somewhere in mid-December. We’ll see how that works out.

In Luke 1, it’s clear that Zacharias had all but abandoned his own hopes and dreams. He was old and his wife, Elisabeth, was barren. He is so mired in hopelessness that even the presence and proclamation of an angel doesn’t sway him (Verses 13-15). When Gabriel tells him that he will have a son, he asks for a sign (as if Gabriel’s visit doesn’t count as one) and instead, signs himself up for 9 months of silence (Verses 18-20).

But in the verses that precede Zacharias’ request for a sign is another bright, blinking sign that Zacharias missed. When the angel Gabriel announces the birth of John the Baptist (the son who will be born to Zacharias and Elisabeth), he quotes a 400-year old minor prophet named Malachi (Luke 1:16-17, Malachi 4:5-6,9).

It’s important to note that Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament, and the words quoted by Gabriel are the last verses of the Old Testament. Why does that matter? Because it also marks the beginning of a 400-year silence. 400 years with no more prophetic messages. 400 years with promises hanging in the air unfulfilled. That’s a long time to keep hope alive, and yet, God was working and miracles were in the making throughout those 400 years (Isaiah 40:3-5, Matthew 3:1-3, Mark 2:1-4, Luke 3:1-6).

And here’s the upside to Zacharias. While he may have struggled in his faith – he was firm in his faithfulness. Luke 1:6 tells us that Zacharias and Elisabeth were righteous and reliable – their devotion to God’s commands was never diluted by their questions. That kind of faithfulness (continuing in prayer, continuing in the Word, continuing in church, service, and obedience obedience) is what walks us through the waiting. It keeps us in the place of blessing, so that God’s long-expected plan for us is not derailed, and we are positioned for the fulfillment of His plan in His timing. Faithfulness keeps faith alive (I Corinthians 15:58, 16:13, Ephesians 2:10, Hebrews 10:22-24, 11:6, James 2:17-18).

And let me tell you about God’s faithfulness. His sovereignty is imprinted all over the lives of Zacharias and Elisabeth. Zacharias was a priest from the “course of Abia” (Luke 1:5). Each course served at the temple for a span of just one week, twice a year. The “lot” that chose Zacharias to burn incense means his name was drawn out of the thousand or so priests in his course for this once-in-a-lifetime task. And it’s certainly no coincidence that Elisabeth’s cousin, Mary, would receive her own visit from Gabriel six months later (Luke 1:26-37, 24:44, Acts 3:18, Galatians 4:4-5).

Zacharias and Elisabeth had prayed for a child for decades. Their people had waited to hear from God for centuries. Neither of those waiting periods was in vain. They were not forgotten, and they certainly were not cursed (the cruel label slapped on barren women in their culture). Rather, they were chosen by God for something different, something 400 years (really thousands of years – Genesis 3:15) in the making – something that would bring glory to God and salvation to the world.

Maybe His glory and the salvation of those around us is in the making right now (Psalm 27:14, Isaiah 55:10-11, Habakkuk 2:3). Our “unanswered” prayers, our unbearable years of waiting, our seemingly unnoticed faithfulness – maybe it’s all just the prologue to His plan.

Let me reword that – it IS the prologue to His plan. With God, miracles are always in the making. “For with God nothing shall be impossible.”

Merry Christmas.


Stay faithful. Keep praying. Trust that, with God, miracles are always in the making. The miracles you need are no exception.

In Between Angels

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“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.” – Micah 5:2

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” – Luke 2:1-5

“But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” – Galatians 4:4-5

Scripture Reading: Matthew 2:1-12

I am forever working on my ability to say “no”. As a consummate people-pleaser and a frenzied fixer, I tend to commit to more than I can ever possibly accomplish by reasonable means. And more than once, I have driven myself to the brink of insanity, trying to keep promises that no intelligent person would have ever made in the first place.

And yet, I have found that this very weakness has repeatedly drawn me closer to God. When stress steals my sleep, I find myself crying out to Him in the night, begging Him to bail me out yet again, pleading for peace and rest. And in His all-sufficient grace, He never fails to meet me back at square one. Somehow, my faith grows best in the sketchy terrain of over-commitment and inconvenience. And the disruption of sleep is often God gently reminding me that we wouldn’t need our midnight talks, if I had given Him more attention in the light of day.

There are midnight talks woven throughout the first two chapters of Matthew. It’s the kind of clear directives that we all want from God – dreams and angels. It doesn’t get any better than that, does it?

In Matthew 1, Joseph goes to bed no doubt pleading for peace. His bride-to-be has turned up pregnant, and to make matters worse, she seems to have lost her mind as well (Verse 18). She insists that she’s still a virgin, and that an angel appeared to her, and she’s carrying a child from God. Joseph is a great guy, but that’s a lot to take in. Heartbroken, this great guy is planning the kindest and quietest divorce possible, when an angel disrupts his sleep (Verses 19, 20-24).

He awakens with the same clarity of purpose as Mary, proceeding with the marriage and taking his new wife to Bethlehem in response to a Roman decree.

In Chapter two, the wise men stop at Herod’s place to ask for directions (Verses 1-2). Sadly, God isn’t even on Herod’s radar, and he has no idea of the key role that he will play in the fulfillment of prophecy (Jeremiah 31:15, Matthew 2:16-18). All he knows is that his throne is threatened.

Herod attempts to use the wise men to root out his infant rival, but God uses a dream to redirect the wise men, and although they will find the baby in Bethlehem, they never set foot in Herod’s court again (Matthew 2:3-12). Another midnight talk follows, as an angel appears to Joseph in a dream, telling him to gather Mary and the baby and escape to Egypt (Verses 13-15).

But in the midst of all the midnight talks – in the midst of all the amazing appearances of angels and dreams –  there is divine use of the Godless. The fulfillment of a 700-year old prophecy hinged, not on the declaration of angels, but on the decree of a Roman caesar (Micah 5:2, Luke 2:4-5). An angel took news to Nazareth, and angels flocked to Bethlehem to announce Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 1:26-38, 2:8-15). But here’s what I want you to see – in between angels, a Roman politician unwittingly ensured that Christ would be born in the little town of Bethlehem – just as God intended. And in between angels, an evil and insecure Herod prompted a trip to Egypt  that fulfilled another Messianic prophecy (Hosea 11:1). Pieces of the prophetic puzzle were placed both by angels and by the ungodly (Psalm 115:3, 135:6, Proverbs 21:1, Romans 8:28, 9:18, Ephesians 1:11).

Today, let’s look at our own lives with that undeniable sovereignty in mind. There are moments that God is as real to us an angelic appearance, and there are moments when we seem to be at the mercy of a fallen world. Never doubt that God is in both of those moments. He is working in the ungodly, and even in the inconvenient. He is present in the parade of things that you didn’t plan for, things that have been foisted upon you by seemingly evil forces (Genesis 50:20, Psalm 138:8, II Chronicles 20:6, Luke 1:37).

He is Emmanuel, God With Us (Matthew 1:23), and our sovereign Savior is with us everywhere – in the obvious, in the impossible, and in between angels.


Are you struggling to see God in your circumstances? This Christmas season, ask Him to show Himself to you. Trust that your sovereign Savior is working in everything that concerns you.