Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Maybe this year will be different

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

Each year we promise ourselves a new start. We step away from the past and toward the hopeful future. If only it were so easy.

It turns out that the habits are hard to build, the vices hard to break.

Yet each year the glimmer of optimism still shines. “Maybe this year will be different.”

This year can be different, though not for the reasons you may think.

Jesus promised to make his followers radically new. Like “new-born-baby” new. “Made-from-scratch” new.

For one minute, let’s forget new skills, habits and goals. Let’s talk new life.

Freedom from your past is not forgiving yourself, it is being forgiven. A hopeful future does not spring from trusting in yourself, rather, it flows out of trusting in Him.

He offers to make you new. He offers to make your soul a masterpiece of His grace. He offers to transform you from who you are to who He calls you to be.

Don’t mistake this for some watered-down promise of riches and success, as if eternity could be measured out in dollars and lifetime achievement awards.

Let the old things fade away. Let your hands cling to them no more.

Fill your new year with new hope—true hope.

This year can be different.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Longing for more than Christmas

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.” (Psalm 130:5–6, ESV)

The morning is coldest when the sun first rises.

Part of it is just temperature, the morning hasn't yet been able to soak up the warmth of the sun. But the other part must be deeper than that.

Our longing for the sun’s warmth reaches its peak when the light is glimpsed, but not yet felt. There's the hint of warmth, but the absence of its touch.

Two thousand years ago the sun peaked over the horizon. Rays of hope pierced death’s dark dominion.

Perhaps the chill is most pronounced right now. We've glimpsed the Son but still we wait. Like watchmen for the morning, we long for more than Christmas.

We long for more than the past, we long for the future that He promised.

With groaning hearts, we long for the One who is coming again.

---

When I finished writing this, I couldn't help but realize that I had been unconsciously inspired by a blog from my sister-in-law, +Erin Ching. You can read her blessing of a post here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Reluctant beggars

“Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart,” (Psalm 119:2, ESV)

The Lord says He blesses those who seek him with their whole heart.

We respond, “What can I get for half?”

Like reluctant beggars, we hold out one hand to the Lord, doubting that even this small request will be answered.

But the Lord is inclined to bless us with more than half a blessing.

Be sure of this, there is no “half salvation.” Have no fear for the eternity that Christ has secured for you.

But don’t our doubting hearts rob us of His blessings in this life? Don’t we still reserve our divided heart for fleeting things and then mourn their fleeting satisfaction? Don’t we lack the peace and conviction of the faith because we glance wistfully over our shoulders?

His whole blessing lies before you. Stretch out your hands and see.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

God of the mundane [Quotes]

Here's some conviction for you:
"If you reject God in the mundane moments, you will reject him in the "big moments" of your life. If God doesn't rule your mundane moments, he doesn't rule you at all." 
-Paul Tripp

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Worth trusting

“God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?” (Numbers 23:19, ESV)

People are fallible. People aren’t perfect. That’s just people being people.

But the complications come when we fill our lives with those people.

Important things hinge on those people. Families depend on those people. Bills get paid by those people. Duties are shared with those people.

All the important things can completely unravel when people are just being people.

All the important things except one.

The hope we have in Christ can never unravel, it can never be undone.

Every molecule of the universe can depend on him. There is no detail, large or small, that slips through His grasp.

The peace and confidence come when we fill our lives with Him.

God never fails. God actually is perfect. That’s just God being God.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

What was it I was thankful for again?

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits” (Psalm 103:2, ESV)

Personally, I think gratitude is hard.

If you could read my thoughts on a random day at a random moment, the odds that I’m thinking grateful thoughts aren’t high.

More likely than gratitude is stress, to-do lists and how I can take care of myself.

On Thanksgiving, we devoted a day to gratitude. Even assuming your day wasn’t just eating and watching TV, a day can’t possibly do it justice.

On any random day at any random moment, His blessings are all around us. His loves bears us up, His patience endures, His faithfulness encircles us and His grace pours abundantly out.

For the soul that remembers, gratitude is not a special day and it’s not even a recurring act.

Gratitude is a way of life.

Look at any blessing in your life. We deserve none of it. Every blessing is undeserved and the blessings are uncountable.

So let us give thanks.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

One day...

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” (Psalm 116:15, ESV)

Life has a way of making us forget death. But God doesn’t want us to forget death.

Death’s presence puts daily life in its true perspective. The sweetness of your blessings is made manifest, the sharpness of your trials is dulled.

Death clarifies the path of faith. Why have difficult or awkward conversations with those you love? Because death fast approaches.

Why prioritize eternity over your to-do list? Because death can snatch whatever we haven’t given to the Lord.

There is no Gospel where there is no death. Death is the crisis that brought our Savior to the world. Death is the penalty that explains why our Savior paid so great a cost.

No, do not forget death. But do not forget the end of death either.

One day there will be no more death. One day death will be swallowed up by life. One day the precious saints will no longer sleep.

One day...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

In Him

“For all the promises of God find their Yes in him...” (2 Corinthians 1:20, ESV)

My security is in Him, not in a paycheck.

My identity is in Him, not in a career.

My fulfillment is in Him, not in a relationship.

My rest is in Him, not in the weekend.

My hope is in Him, not in retirement.

My worth is in Him, not in my achievements.

My joy is in Him, not in this world.

My peace is in Him, not in the economy.

My solid ground is in Him, not in my will power.

Today, then, let me look nowhere else but to Him.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Thankful in the darkness

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations. For your steadfast love is great to the heavens, your faithfulness to the clouds.” (Psalm 57:9–10, ESV)

What do you have to be thankful for?

It’s an obvious question for some, a daunting one for others.

For some, the blessings are abundant. They thank God for family and finance, for love and laughter.

For others, the blessings aren't so obvious. Some have lost loved ones and some have lost jobs. Some know more sorrow than love and more tears than laughter.

What songs of thanksgiving can the sorrowful sing?

Even in the darkperhaps especially in the darkthey can sing David’s song. They too know a God who is faithful, they too know the One of steadfast love.

Life stripped of smiling circumstance reveals life that circumstance cannot strip away. Life in Him and life for Him and life with Him are blessings no circumstance can steal.

Whatever else you have, rejoice in your faithful God.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

True love

“Whoever is wise, let him attend to these things; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” (Psalm 107:43, ESV)

Consider how he loves us.

His love holds tight when we let go. His love endures when we give up.

How many times have we run from him? How many times in faithlessness or failure or fear have we sought to go back to that old life?

Yet every time he seeks us out.

How many times have we disobeyed him? How deeply have we wounded him?

Yet time and again, he responds with kindness, mercy and grace.

His love is what true love looks like. I compare my own love to his and I feel like I need to use a different word to describe whatever it is I do.

Thank God for the cross. Thank God for new life. Thank God for certain hope.

Thank God for true love.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Just you wait

“Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:2, ESV)

Every day we need this promise.

Every day we need to know that this isn't everything. We need that assurance in our blessings, we need that assurance in our trials.

In our blessings, we need to know that Christ promised more. Don't fill up on the appetizers, the feast is yet to come.

In our trials, we need to know that we were promised more than suffering. In fact, these dark valleys pale in comparison to the glory to come.

One day we will see Him. One day, we will be like Him.

Just you wait.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

When there’s no one else

For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in. (Psalm 27:10)

What defines your life?

We build our lives around our relationships and pursuits and things. Whatever it looks like, we find our sun and orbit our lives around it.

The reality of this world is that all those relationships and pursuits and things can’t last. Even the sun will fizzle out one day.

But the Son never will.

When all our relationships are gone, He is still there. When the pursuits have petered out, he persists. When the things are dust, He lives.

When there’s no one else, He will always be.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Again and again and again

“...because your heart was tender and you humbled yourself before God when you heard his words against this place and its inhabitants, and you have humbled yourself before me and have torn your clothes and wept before me, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 34:27, ESV)

Most of us know what it is to be broken. We know what it is to be guilty...again.

In those times, we weep. We scream. We despair of our own hearts and weaknesses.

To be betrayed is one thing, to be the betrayer is another altogether. Standing in some mess of our own creation, the betrayer cries out to the betrayed:

“Forgive me again. Cleanse me again. Heal me...again.”

And He does.

He sees the prodigal returning and He runs to welcome him.

He hears the cries of the lost and He draws near.

And by His wounds, the broken are healed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cheap with God

“And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning, so that all the craftsmen who were doing every sort of task on the sanctuary came, each from the task that he was doing, and said to Moses, “The people bring much more than enough for doing the work that the Lord has commanded us to do.” So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.” (Exodus 36:3–7, ESV)

I don’t often need to be told to stop giving.

For me, the natural questions are, “Isn’t that enough?” or “Why is that necessary?”

How… unbecoming.

In this passage, the exodus generation had one of their few highlight moments. With faith, gratitude and purpose they poured out their treasures for the building of the tabernacle. With the work of God so clearly happening before them, the people of God responded and then some.

I want to be like them.

I want faith to follow God’s call. I want gratitude to give back from the riches He has given me. I want the purpose of serving in the work of God.

I believe in the One who conquered death for his people. I believe I traded my filthy rags for perfect righteousness and certain hope. I believe that a generation of the lost will only believe if someone tells them the good news.

May I never again be cheap with him. I want to give until he says, “That is enough.”

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Better

“For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.” (Psalm 84:10, ESV)

He’s better than we know
Better than we ever dreamed
He’s better than this world’s brochures
Better than the glitzy magazines

He’s better than what believers hope
Better than what detractors say
He’s better than a world of “nope”
Better than the feasting day

He is better than “hope” and “change”
Better than GDP
He’s better than our founding fathers
Better than democracy

He’s better than the rat race,
Better than the car
He’s better than a bank account
Better than “under par”

He’s better than your broken nights
Better than your lonely hours
He’s better than the tears and fights
Better than the sobbing showers

He’s better than what you used to have
Better than what you lost
He’s better than what you gave up
He’s better than your cross

He’s better than how we treated him
Better than nail-pierced hands
He’s better than what we’ll ever give to him
He who saved the sons of man

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The true prosperity Gospel

Thus says God, ‘Why do you break the commandments of the Lord, so that you cannot prosper? ...(2 Chronicles 24:20, ESV)

We were created for God and God’s blessings. Our prosperity and blessing can only be found in Him. Is it any wonder that our souls dry up when we leave the oasis?

We’re so needy that we wouldn’t even seek God’s blessings before Christ chose us. No intuition or skill could ever have brought us here. Forty years in the desert would only be the beginning if He left us on our own.

Today, may we obey Him, for He alone blesses. Today, may we bless Him, for He alone obeyed.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

This is no time for false humility

“There is none like you, O Lord, and there is no God besides you, according to all that we have heard with our ears.” (1 Chronicles 17:20, ESV)

When something is genuinely, unmistakably better than something else, we should say so. To do otherwise is disingenuous.

If some ESPN analyst compared my game to Lebron James and said, “Well, this is a close one, but I’m going to have to go with Lebron…” They are being silly.

If Warren Buffett says to me, “Hey, thanks for that investment advice…” He’s doing no one any favors.

If I go forward to the world presenting the almighty God of creation like He’s the generic brand soda of religion, I am mistaken to the point of being unloving.

The Gospel is not a Lifetime TV miniseries. The Lord Jesus Christ is not a WalMart special. Reconciliation to God is not on par with Oprah’s latest wisdom.

Let the one who knows Christ boast in this: There is no God like our God. There is no hope like our hope. There is no Savior like our Savior.

Jettison the false humility and celebrate your God, for this is none like Him.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Better than David, better than Israel

“And David knew that the Lord had established him as king over Israel, and that his kingdom was highly exalted for the sake of his people Israel.” (1 Chronicles 14:2, ESV)

David understood his blessing to serve a higher purpose, namely, the blessing of God’s people. God desired that his people would have the blessing that can only come with a righteous king.

We are in the same situation, though maybe not how you think.

On the one hand, our blessing cannot be merely for us. We belong to the family of God and the body of Christ. The individual Christian life must be be interwoven with the community of the church, both giving and receiving blessing.

On the other hand, and more importantly, our God did not leave us with a mere David, He left us with the David.

We have a righteous King like Israel and David could only long for. Our King brings with him forever’s blessings. He brings life and forgiveness, joy and grace.

Walk in the blessings of your King, the Son of David, the Son of God.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Faithfulness in the desert

“... These forty years the Lord your God has been with you. You have lacked nothing.” ’” (Deuteronomy 2:7, ESV)

Israel spent 40 years essentially backpacking through the desert.

They set up camp at night, they marched in the daytime. Sometimes they stayed in one place longer than others, but they were always on the move.

These desert nomads lived a life that was uncomfortable and trying, so much so that they (sinfully) longed to return to slavery in Egypt.

They undoubtedly longed for a home and for the comforts of a stable life. Yet for 40 years, God led them through the desert. And at the end, God insisted that his people lacked nothing.

That must have been a difficult one to accept. By human standards, the people of God had lacked a great deal. But God in his wisdom and love could say, “Nope. You didn’t lack a thing.”

For 40 years, they knew God’s ever-present guidance. For 40 years, they walked as the special and chosen people of God. For 40 years they knew a God who was faithful, if not always understood.

In the midst of our own sojourn, each day we know the same faithfulness.

Don’t be discouraged at the fiery trial that afflicts you. Don’t be dismayed at the poverty of the present hour.

Though you too long for a home, though your former slavery calls out to you, your God is still with you.

In Christ, you lack nothing.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A bunch of followers

If anyone serves me, he must follow me… (John 12:26, ESV)

Why do we follow Christ?

We often view following Christ as strict marching orders. Get in line or else…

But shouldn’t we also ask where Christ is leading? Christ isn’t some drill sergeant running us through the desert.

He’s our good shepherd, leading us through the valley of the shadow of this life to the heavenly home he’s prepared for us.

He’s our fearless leader, leading us against the world’s violence to victorious peace at the dawn of a new age.

He’s the captain of our soul, leading us safely through the trials of these stormy seas.

He’s the head of his church, faithfully leading us to glory and to grace.

Where he leads, you better believe we want to follow.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Graciously getting over ourselves

““Do not say in your heart, after the Lord your God has thrust them out before you, ‘It is because of my righteousness that the Lord has brought me in to possess this land,’ whereas it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is driving them out before you.” (Deuteronomy 9:4, ESV)

When Israel was uniquely blessed with God’s presence and protection, God made something clear: The special people of God were special for one reason: God made them special.

The people of God have never earned their status, they've always been welfare recipients. The people of God have never deserved their blessings, they've always received handouts.

So what’s that mean for today?

I can’t live my life as someone who deserves it, I live my life as one who is grateful for it. I can’t resent the needy, because I myself am one of them.

It’s hard to be full of yourself when you've received the grace of God.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

The theology of stuff

“for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world.” (1 Timothy 6:7, ESV)

Stuff, stuff, stuff.

It’s what we stress over, it’s what we strive for.

Stuff is what excites us and stuff is what we talk about.

We study for decades in the pursuit of stuff. We get certifications and specializations for the sake of stuff.

Stuff makes us jealous and stuff makes us proud.

Stuff gives us something to aspire to.

Yet, we don’t get to keep any of our stuff.

While our souls live on, all our stuff has an expiration date.

In eternity, we only get to keep what we have in Christ. All the stuff shrivels up at eternity’s doorway.

So why do we devote our lives to the expiring stuff of this world?

Let’s live today for the treasures we get to keep.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Forget no more

“Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children’s children” (Deuteronomy 4:9, ESV)

We are so forgetful. Not just of keys and times and details. We forget the most important events of our lives.

We forget the heart transplant God performed when he took our stony and broken heart and replaced it with a new one from Him.

We forget that he cleansed our sin-stained hearts from every ugly deed and every wicked thought. We forget that he did it many years ago and we forget that he did it again this morning.

We forget that the King himself stoops low to hear the stuttering prayers we utter, we forget that his Spirit overcomes our weakness and bears our prayers to heaven's throne.

We forget that we are beloved children and not despised strangers.

We forget that we are unimaginably rich because of the treasures our Savior lavished upon us.

We forget that so many years ago, Jesus cried out from the cross as he bore the judgement we deserved.

Today, my soul, forget no more. Today, remember how much He has done.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

For the faint hearted

“from the end of the earth I call to you when my heart is faint. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.” (Psalm 61:2–3, ESV)

Lord, I am one of the weak and needy.

So much of life seems to demand our strength and composure. Life does not slow down for the weak, so we strive to be strong.

But what if we are not strong? What if our heart faints, the waters rise to our chin and the enemy pounds at the gates? What if there is no  more strength to hide the weakness?

Perhaps only now do I see myself truly. Perhaps only now do I see You truly.

Lord, I am not strong, so please be my strength.

Lord, I can't swim anymore, so rescue me from the waters.

Lord, the enemy is stronger than me, so fight for me.

With a faint heart, I cling to the Rock who is higher than I. I praise the one who was strong on my behalf. I worship the Refuge in whom I hide from the storm.



Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The joy of repentance

“I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah” (Psalm 32:5, ESV)

Raise your hand if you love repentance! ...right, not too many hands I'm guessing. But you should love it.*

You should love it just like you love the doctor's and dentist's offices. Wait, you don't love those either? What's wrong with you?!**

Loving things like this has everything to do with the right perspective, doesn't it? The wrong (and common) perspective focuses on what we don't enjoy while forgetting what we gain.

The doctor's office isn't merely a series of sanitized waiting rooms with old magazines on hand. It's actually the place where debilitating medical conditions can be defeated.

The dentist's office isn't merely an interrogation room with a hypersonic water needle of terror. It's the place that ensures I can continue eating, which I must admit I am fond of.

Repentance begins with the unveiling of my scarred and abused soul, but repentance ends with that same soul made whole again.

The divine physician knows no disease so filthy that he cannot cleanse it. He knows no soul so broken that he cannot restore it.

Have you made the trip to see the divine physician lately? 


*Disclaimer: Author prefers other people repenting rather than repenting himself.
** Disclaimer 2: Author totally feels you.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our beautiful God

  “One thing have I asked 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 gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.” (Psalm 27:4, ESV)

How often do you think of God as beautiful?

We gravitate to certain aspects of him: his love, his might, his holiness, his grace and many others, no doubt.

But our God is also beautiful. His light makes a sunset appear like a flickering candle. His voice makes Mozart's arias fall flat in adoration. His Word leaves Shakespeare's sonnets speechless.

Our Lord could have been hideous and demanded our worship. Instead, he is beautiful and beckons us to join his family and take on the family resemblance.

One day that beauty will be ours to behold. One day we will lose ourselves in countless ages gazing on a beauty without compare.


For something beautiful today.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

When joy is gone

“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12, ESV)

On the good days, joy seems natural. Our hearts soar with the Scriptures, our calling seems so clear and certain.

Not every day is like that. Far from soaring, many days seem to limp along. On these days, certainty and conviction falter.

On these days, we ask, "Where has my joy gone?"

We pray the same longing prayer David did. Restore us to the place we know exists. Restore us to the joy we've experienced. Restore us to the faith that sustains our souls.

Seek the One who can answer such prayers. Seek him in faith by day and by night.

Weeping may last for the night, but joy comes with the morning

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Aimless faith

“Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air.” (1 Corinthians 9:25–26, ESV)

Every season, for the joy of the sport, athletes strive not merely to be excellent, but to be the best. They train and yearn for the momentary glory of being crowned the season's champion. Then a new season comes and they do it all over again.

I stand convicted. For the joy of the Lord, I often live a lax and purposeless life. For the crown that never fades, I sporadically exert self-control.

Let today be different. Let the joy of the Lord stir me up to a life worthy of him. Let the unfading crown of glory be my highest goal.

May the athletes learn from the people of God what zeal looks like.


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The fountain of life

“For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light.” (Psalm 36:9, ESV)

I start with his life, I see by his light.

Our God calls us find life in him. Not just with him, as if he is a partner in our lives. Not just for him as if all we need is proper motivation. Not by him as if he is a divine tool toward living a happy successful life.

In God is a fountain of life. Life has its strength and vitality in him. This fountain of life is the reason our Savior could promise his followers not just life, but abundant life. Life in our God is ceaseless, matchless and whole.

By myself, I merely contribute my own darkness to a dark world. Only in him do I see myself for who I am and his Gospel for what it is. Only in him can my cloudy eyes see.

Where we start so often determines where we end. This day I start in him, this evening may I be right where I started.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Forgiveness is great and all, but what else you got?

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. (Psalm 32:1, ESV)

What do you count among your blessings?

Most people would answer with some mix of relationships, accomplishments and circumstances. We're blessed with friends, with families, with health, with jobs, with successes and so on.

The psalm reminds us of a deeper and better blessing, though. How blessed are you to be forgiven by God himself.

But that's not one we jump to usually, is it? On Thanksgiving, little Timmy doesn't usually say [insert tiny, cartoony voice], "I'm grateful that I have been forgiven for transgressing God's law..."

Why don't we think of this blessing more? Is it because it's assumed? Is it because we forget? Maybe because it's just distasteful to reflect on, who knows?

But chief among our blessings is not our relationships in this world but rather our restored relationship with our God. The accomplishment that matters is not our own but Christ's for us. Lasting blessing is not found in our changing circumstances but in the solid Rock on which we stand.

In eternity, you are not known for the sins of yesterday or the sins of ten years ago. In Christ, your transgression is forgiven. By his blood, it is covered.

How blessed you are!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Mediocre Christianity

Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him. This is my rule in all the churches.” (1 Corinthians 7:17, ESV)

Sometimes we think we can only fulfill God's purposes for our lives if our circumstances change. If we finish our education. If we get the kids through this stage (whichever one that is). If we accomplish our five-year plan. If we get out of debt.

Our goals cast ambitious eyes on the future and brace our hearts against the mundane moments of the present. "I can't wait to be done with this..."

But what if God has put us where we are on purpose? What if our circumstances aren't a breakdown in the plan, but the plan itself?

Disclaimer: God indeed encourages bettering yourself, remedying problems and looking forward to the future. But he doesn't encourage any of that at the expense of your present calling.

The sovereign God over all creation, the one who conducts history like an orchestra and orchestrates the conduct of man, he is the same one who has called you, and you alone, to your God-glorifying role in his plan.

Your "mediocrity" works to his glory, your "underwhelming" life is deftly woven into the grandeur of his plans. Your "here and now" is exactly where God has placed you and is everything you could ask for to glorify him.

Today is the day. Right now is the moment. 

Through joy and trial, embrace the life the Lord has assigned you to live.



Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Always needy

On you was I cast from my birth, and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:10, ESV)

I'm grateful my God is not a stranger.

In timeless eternity, he knew me. From the dawn of creation, he knew me. From man's first rebellion to Christ's final obedience, he knew me. Though I didn't realize it or acknowledge him, he has always known me.

This God who knows me now calls me to know him. He calls me to know him and know eternal life. He calls me to take my blood-bought place in his own family.

I depend on him now no less than I did as a baby in the womb. I depend on his Gospel today no less than the day I first believed.

I depend on the one who always will be, and always has been, my God.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I need to believe

For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!” (1 Corinthians 9:16, ESV)

Paul didn't seek bonus points for preaching the Gospel. That was just what he needed to do. The truth of Christ and the calling of Christ demanded that he live his life a certain way. There weren't any options.

Knowing what is necessary in life is a mark of wisdom. Living in light of that knowledge is even more so.

The question of true necessity shines painful light on my life. To be clear, I don't mean "necessity" in the sense of "eat rice and beans everyday and smile only when absolutely necessary." I mean necessity in the sense of what makes an image bearer of God tick? What causes a child of God to thrive? What feeds my soul?

When I ask these questions, I start evaluating why I spend my time the way I do. I start doubting why I fill my life and mind with distractions. I start questioning the value of the fluffy stuff and start wondering about what's really worthwhile.

As it turns out, I already know the answer. You probably do too. My soul needs my Savior. My soul needs the words of life. I think there's more, but that alone is a worthwhile foundation.

Live today as one who knows what is necessary. Live for your soul's good and your God's glory.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

But we trust in Him

   “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7, ESV)

What makes for a stable life?

Is it wealth and comfort? Is it talent and health? Is it family and friendship?

Well, sure, the answer on this blog is easy. It can't possibly be one of those things. Everyone of them can be taken. The wealthy go bankrupt, comfort is fleeting, the talented suffer injury, the healthy get sick, families fall apart and relationships dissolve.

So what's left?

Like Israel so long ago, every day we are faced with the temptation to trust something else (sometimes anything else!) rather than trusting God. We are tempted to populate our lives with "gods" and abandon the blessing and security of the one true God.

The blessings of the Lord are indeed blessings. Let no one look down on their "chariots" or their "horses." But these blessings should never be used to look away from God, rather each blessing reminds us of our dependence on God. Each blessing reminds us of grace.

We don't need a stable life, we need eternal life. Our stuff and our circumstances don't save, but Christ does.

Keep the world in its place. Trust the One worth trusting.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Is there anybody up there?

During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help. Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God. And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.” (Exodus 2:23–25, ESV)

Have you ever cried out to the heavens? Or sobbed pleading prayers into the darkness of your bedroom?

Israel knew this pain. The people of God under Egypt's yoke knew much more about enduring sorrow than we might think.

Israel before the exodus knew nothing of the miraculous fulfillment they were about to see. What they knew was generation after generation of burden and slavery. And as the burden grew, they did not just stoically endure, they staggeredthey cried out to God.

Crying out to the heavens feels bitterly empty. The loudest cry dissolves into the expanse, leaving no evidence it ever existed, even less does anything actually seem to change. The weeping prayer is no less disappointing, our idealism has led us to believe that those quiet moments might birth miracles.


When Israel cried out, they had no idea whether the heavens heard them. They didn't know whether their groans and cries mattered in the least.

But God heard them. God had never left them or forgotten them. Though the heavens might seem deaf and blind, our God is not. God knew the trials of his people and he also knew his plans for them.

Child of God, you are not forgotten or forsaken. Your tears and trials are not overlooked.

Don't let the silence of the heavens deter you. God knows.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Handcrafted gods

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered themselves together to Aaron and said to him, “Up, make us gods who shall go before us. (Exodus 32:1, ESV)

Panic rarely inspires clear thinking. Israel's situation is no different. Panicked that they have lost their connection to their divine Liberator, they call upon Aaron to make them gods who will go before them.

Consider what they've seen thus far. In Egypt alone, they'd witnessed power they'd possibly never even imagined. God rained plagues down upon idolatrous Egypt and no one could stop him. God's people had witnessed the unmistakable power of the almighty God.

And what were they about to create?

A clumsy golden calf, crafted by their own hands. How would this god go before them? How would it guide them or protect them? It wouldn't. It would have no power, no will and no ability. Ah, these ancient, foolish people. Good thing we have come so far since their time...

Unfortunately, mankind's propensity for idolatry perseveres. We are likewise glad to make our own feeble idols instead of trusting in God.

Christ offers eternal life, we're glad to just have a comfortable living. Christ offers to make us a new creation, we'd rather just have an occasional dose of self-improvement.

Our idols are just as feeble as Israel's were. Our folly is just as great.

Today, may we despair of every idol's false promises. Instead, find life and hope and strength and grace and love in Christ's abundance alone.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Lord will fight for you

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14, ESV)

Pursued by Egypt, fearing for their lives, the people of God begin to clamor. But God doesn't intend to abandon his people.

Moses calls them to stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord. They need not fight and they need not cry out to God in case he'd forgotten them, they need only wait and watch the salvation of the Lord.

Isn't this same encouragement ours?

So often we would turn to despair and doubt instead of faith. We despair that our lives possess any hope of change. We doubt that our Lord actually cares what happens to us.

But the God of the Bible is not a God of despair and doubt. No circumstance has ever overwhelmed him. Neither our weakness nor the world's hatred can cause him to falter. No doubt changes the reality that our Savior died for us and God the Holy Spirit now dwells in us.

Fear not, child of God. Stand firm. The Lord will fight for you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blessings through affliction

  “The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”” (Genesis 41:52, ESV)

Returning to Joseph, we might wonder at how much Joseph understood or appreciated the grace of God. He was continually blessed in Egypt, but who said he wanted to be in Egypt? He was far from home and far from family.

I don't know how much Joseph saw grace in his life, but today's passage sheds light on at least one occasion. With the birth of his second son, he said, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

Joseph was receiving blessing amid a situation he might not call "blessed." He was receiving grace amid a life rooted in affliction.

Our own lives are certainly like this. We may live lives full of affliction, when we pray for blessing we do not envision anything like what we have. But does God no longer bless us? Is there no more grace left for us?

The path through our affliction must lie in humility and faith.

In humility, we must submit our desires to those of our Father. His ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts higher than our thoughts. I doubt Joseph wanted to be in Egypt, but that's where his God had him, so that's where he was faithfully living.

In faith, we trust that God truly does work all things according to good for his children. Sometimes, we measure blessing by our wish list and forget that our Father works perfect blessing for us at all times.

How is God blessing you right now? I don't know. Whether God is blessing you right now? He absolutely is. As you trek through affliction and trial, don't be surprised when God blesses you and is gracious to you.

Really, could it be any other way?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wouldn't a loving God answer my prayers?

   “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21, ESV)

When I pray, I usually pray for success, for health, for solutions, for deliveranceI tend to pray for triumph. Whatever the situation is, my prayers are for the best possible outcome as I envision it. I see nothing wrong with that, but I do find it interesting how God responded in Joseph's life.

I don't think it would be too much to assume that young Joseph was praying during these hard times.

I'll bet he prayed for deliverance from the Midianites who bought him, and yet he was sold to Potiphar. I'll bet he prayed for deliverance from Potiphar, but instead God chose to prosper Joseph and keep him in Potiphar's house. When Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph, I'm sure he prayed that he would be vindicated, instead he was thrown in prison.

Yet even as his situation seemed to be growing continually worse, Genesis records that the Lord was with Joseph and showing him steadfast love, not by answering his prayers for deliverance (which he was no doubt praying again), but by giving him favor in the eyes of the keeper of the prison.

Would Joseph have counted this as a triumphant answer to prayer? Was Joseph just basking in the steadfast love of the Lord in those circumstances? Maybe. Although, if he was anything like me, likely not. Yet whether Joseph understood it or not, the Lord was pouring out steadfast love upon his child.

The Lord's love for his children is true and unshakable, even if it cannot be measured by the number of times he has said "yes" or by how much we enjoy our present circumstances.

Whether you are in good times or affliction, may you rejoice today in the steadfast love of your heavenly Father.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Carson on God's Love [Quotes]

"God's love is to be admired not because the world is so big but because the world is so bad."
D.A. Carson

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If only he loved me

   “And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”” (Genesis 29:32, ESV)

The story of Leah is heart-wrenching.

From the beginning, she is the one who is overlooked. She is not much to look at and never catches Jacob's eye. Yet, through her father's trickery, she is wed to Jacob all the same. No matter what she does, she is never enough, her accomplishments are never good enough. She remains the overlooked and unworthy one.

In her sorrow, she sees her first sons as God's mercies in light of her poor standing. With her first, she thinks, "Maybe Jacob will finally love me," with her second (the first not accomplishing what she hoped), she thinks, "God gives me children because he sees that I am hated."

What a bitter existence she lived. She barters for love and standing and always comes up empty. This is the love of the world. Always conditional and so often elusive.

But the love of God isn't like that. God doesn't ask us to prove our worth because he knows we couldn't. God doesn't ask us to buy his affections because he knows we have nothing to buy with.

In Christ, God took the unworthy and made them worthy. In Christ, he poured out love on the unlovely.

The overlooked ones no longer, behold the children God has loved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Loving (all) those who go astray

   “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” (Matthew 18:12–13, ESV)

How's your heart toward those who have gone astray?

Interestingly (and I think importantly), this passage comes right before Jesus' teaching on what we'd call church discipline. I would describe church discipline as the process whereby Christians seek to restore a sinning brother or sister (c.f. verse 15 "If he listens to you, you have gained your brother").

I think church discipline can be mistaken for the process where by Christians gradually write off "sinners" and dissolve their affections and engagement with the individual as time passes.

Jesus' teaching doesn't allow us to do anything of the sort. Our Savior seeks out and rejoices over sheep that go astray. Their distance almost seems to intensify his affection for them (e.g. Matt 23:37). He longs to see them reconciled.

If you are in a biblical church, you likely know someone under church discipline. They may be growing, they may be languishing. Either way, may our hearts long for the restoration of Christ's sheep. Through love, prayer and persistence may we seek these sheep. May our hearts ache like our Savior's!

And when Christ brings his sheep back (and he will), may we rejoice in the work of our good shepherd and embrace the sheep he has restored.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lord, please don't humble me

   “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:4, ESV)

It's funny, sometimes we do such soul searching for the mysterious path to growing in Christ. We agonize over life decisions and reading plans, hoping that we will stumble on that one thing with which we can please the Lord and find new growth.

And as we agonize, we overlook some of the things that the Lord made so obvious to us. In this passage, Jesus, with no mixing of words, tells us that the path to greatness is found in humility.

Humble yourself.

I'm reminded of that (unrelenting) Meatloaf song that goes, "I would do anything for love, but I won't do that..." I would translate that sentiment here as, "I would do anything for my Savior, just so long as it doesn't involve humility."

Personally, I want to pursue greatness in the kingdom through means that still carry some prestige, some special dignity. I tell myself that there are many ingredients to becoming a deep and lifelong follower of Christ, and as long as I'm pursuing those other ingredients, it's okay that I don't pay too much attention to humility.

But that delusion won't hold up under even the briefest examination by God's word. Far from rising to greatness on my "alternative" path, I would stand condemned as one who acted like he knew better than Christ.

So today, I will pray for the humility I lack. I will seek forgiveness for my willfulness. I will seek the face of the Savior who did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but instead humbled himself to the point of death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).

Father, humble me to follow in the way of your humble Son.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The call to radical forgiveness

“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15, ESV)

  “And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’” (Matthew 18:33, ESV)

I can't help but notice how differently Christ views forgiveness than I do.

I am more likely to view forgiveness as the painful and humbling process that the transgressor must facilitate. They have done the harm, now they must do the work to bring healing and reconciliation.

Jesus sees it another way.

Jesus describes something so gracious that it's practically upsetting. He places the responsibility on the one sinned against to facilitate the process of forgiveness. In other words, if you've been sinned against, Jesus doesn't give you the luxury of waiting on the moral high ground for that wretched sinner to come groveling back. He tells us to go to our brother or sister and seek to make things right.

I don't think for a moment that this removes the responsibility from the transgressor to likewise seek reconciliation (e.g. Matthew 5:24), but the radical part for me is that the one sinned against is not released from participating. I see two reasons for that.

First, it's about loving our neighbor. If our brother or sister is in sin, they are not right with God. Regardless of the pain they've caused us, it is more important that they get right with God (e.g. Psalm 51:4). Truly loving our neighbor means looking past our hurt to see how their good might be accomplished. I think their repentance would likely dovetail with our good, but that's not the main reason to seek their restoration. We seek their good because of the second great commandment.

Second, God has always been the one sinned against and he has always been the one seeking our reconciliation. We see this most clearly in Jesus himself. Nailed to a cross and dying, he prayed for sinners: "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34) The grace Christ calls us to show is a shadow of the grace he showed us on the cross.

Our bleeding Savior bought our forgiveness and reconciliation, may we likewise seek that same blessing for those who have sinned against us.




A helpful resource for truly forgiving others The Four Promises of Forgiveness

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Faith through trials

As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed.” (Matthew 17:22–23, ESV)

Hearing of Jesus' ordeal to come, the disciples were "greatly distressed." Though Jesus meant to prepare them and even build their faith by telling them ahead of time (e.g. John 14:29), they were still shaken.

The depth of the sorrow to come overwhelmed them and they missed something they should have had.

When Jesus promised the disciples that affliction was coming, he wasn't doing so passively. He wasn't a mere spectator suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. His suffering was actually just another event under his sovereign control. His promise of trials to come were, at their root, another reminder that he was in control. Only the almighty can promise and truly guarantee the result.

Many Christians are suffering through trials right now, trials that Christ promised so many years ago (e.g. John 15:20, Luke 14:27). I don't think we are supposed to celebrate these trials, but the promise of our Lord reminds us that we are still secure in his hands.

Though the world may rage, though your sorrow may be deep–Christian, you are still His.


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Gospel's deafening silence

And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.”  (Genesis 22:7, ESV)

I'm not sure there's a story in the Old Testament that contains as much Gospel as this. A loving father is called to sacrifice his beloved son. The son, innocent and pure, submits to the sacrifice of his own life.

We could talk about the whole story, but let's spend today on a single moment. In curiosity over what will serve as the burnt offering, Isaac calls out to Abraham: "My father!"

As you'd expect in day-to-day life, Abraham hears him and responds: "Here I am, my son." Such a small moment. A son calls out to his loving father and the father responds.

Now consider Calvary. Consider Jesus, the firstborn of all creation, nailed to a cross. Bleeding from his beatings, exhausted, struggling to breathe. And with his last gasping breaths he cried out to his heavenly Father from the depths of his soul: "My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?" (Mark 15:34)

And the heavens were silent.

I'm not sure the pain of the Father or the Son can be described, but I consider my own children and my heart breaks. To punish my son for the sins of criminals would, on its own, be more than I could bear; to hear his cries and respond with silence would destroy me altogether.

With tears and with reverence, praise God for the sacrifice that made a way for criminals to be welcomed into the family of God.

Praise God for the deafening silence of the Gospel.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Would God unfollow you?

Be not rash with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God, for God is in heaven and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, ESV)

Facebook. Twitter. Blogs (I hate blogs!). Etc.

Enough said.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

C'mon... Again?


   “And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.”...” (Genesis 20:2, ESV)

The more I've read this story, the more indignant I get.

For the second time (Gen 12:13 being the first), Abraham tells everyone that his wife, Sarah, is merely his sister in order to protect himself from the local powers. Then (for the second time!), Sarah gets handed off as a wife to the local ruler.

The first reaction I have: "What kind of man are you?!" The second reaction: "C'mon! Are you seriously doing this again?" (The third? "Oh Sarah, the things you put up with...")

But then I have a more productive reaction: Our God is so gracious with us. If anyone was outraged by this, it was God (thus the plagues and death threats accompanying Sarah's additional marriages, tell me that's not a fatherly reaction.).

Yet what does God do? He doesn't strike Abraham down and move on to a better follower. He blesses him and makes him the father of a multitude. When the father of the faith fell flat on his face (twice), God responded with grace and not justice.

For all my indignation, I'm too hard on Abraham. His worst moments were recorded for all posterity. I bear a much lighter load that my own sin is not nearly so public. But public or not, the grace I need is the same grace Abraham needed.

Thank God that he does not give us what we deserve!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Better than we realize


   “Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Mark 10:29–30, ESV)

Jesus doesn't mince words, there's no doubt about it. He promises that suffering and persecution will accompany, even characterize, a life lived in his footsteps. But do we realize there's more to it than that?

Jesus promises more than stoic suffering. He unabashedly promises that the sacrifice will be worth it. Indisputably worth it. Worth the tears, the doubts, the betrayals, the heart ache and everything this world can scourge us with. Not a single person welcomed into the kingdom will wonder about whether it was worth it.

But even though we're promised so much more, we don't seem to get past the stoic suffering part. Christians live somber lives. Lives consumed by the stress and needs of this life. To them, Christ says, "Look at me. You must suffer, you must persevere through this, but keep your gaze on me. Keep your gaze on eternity."

To the non-Christian, I would ask for a simple clarity in the discussion. Christ does not expect suffering for nothing. He does not ask you to forsake yourself for nothing. He does not call you to repent of your life of sin for nothing.

He promises a fullness of life different and better than you've ever experienced. He promises riches that will never fade, glory without end. He promises to make you right with your creator, to bring you in as an heir in the royal family.

If anyone understands this life, it's Christ. If anyone understands suffering, it's Christ. This faithful friend, this man of sorrows, he beckons to you and says, "Come. Suffer the trials and turmoil of this world. You will not regret it... for I will be waiting for you at the end."

Everyday Devotionals

Everyday Devotionals is my effort to more purposefully translate my time in the Scriptures into personal and corporate blessing. I find that the more I attempt to communicate what I read, the more deeply I appreciate it.

The choice of passages generally just relates to my daily readings. I hope these are a blessing to others as well!

God bless,

Jason

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Rejoice in your church today!

It is the most strategic body of people on the face of the planet. Through its ministries, vast tracts of humanity are rescued from evil and lifted from despair. And by its voice, new life is proclaimed to entire civilizations. It is an association of people that pulsates with the glory of God. What human gathering could possibly warrant such accolades? Only one qualifies: The church of Jesus Christ.
-Tim Savage