Come to the Throne of Grace

David was in it up to his neck (Ps 69:1). He could find no foothold to regain his stability; he felt like he was sinking in deep waters (v. 2). Though he cried out for help, he couldn’t see God coming to his rescue. He said, “My eyes fail looking for my God” (v. 3). David spoke of his enemies and we see their hatred toward him. His woes are understandable. But wait. Look at verse 5: “You know my folly, O God; my guilt is not hidden from you.” David is the cause of his own despair. David has put himself in the miry depths. The text doesn’t reveal his actions, but he talks about being “scorned, disgraced, and shamed” (v. 19).

David is suffering the consequences of his actions. Can you relate? I know I can. Most of my struggles and difficulties have my own fingerprints all over them. And my tendency when I fail is to withdraw from God and assume that I must lay in the bed I made. I have a hard time bringing myself to ask for His help when I messed up.

But David had no such qualms. He wrote, “But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of Your favor; in your great love, O God, answer me with Your sure salvation” (v. 13). He pleads: “Rescue me . . . Deliver me” (v. 14). “Answer me” (v. 16). “Redeem me” (v. 18). “Protect me” (v. 29). David is convinced of God’s love and salvation. He appeals to the “goodness of Your love” and “great mercy” (v. 16). He knows that “The Lord hears the needy and does not despise His captive people” (v. 33).  He could have also written Hebrews 4:6 – “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

I don’t know what is keeping you from God today. But I know this beyond a shadow of a doubt: no matter what you have done, God’s mercy, grace, and love are yours for the asking. Because of Jesus, “nothing – not even your failures, sins and mistakes – will be able to separate [you] from the love of God” (Rom 8:38-39). Just ask Him, Beloved. Then receive it.  He loves to rescue His children.

Devoted

You and I are God’s people in the devil’s world. There is so much evil in all around us that we can’t avoid unless we crawl into a cave and never come out. As tempting as that is , but it’s not the way to fulfill our purpose to be “salt and light in the world” (Matt. 5:13-16).  We have to be “in the world, but not of the world” (paraphrased from John 17:14-16). It’s not a “balance” as I’ve heard some say. It comes down to an all-in choice for holiness and a determination to never compromise.

Holiness means to be “set apart” for a special purpose. The Bible tells us that God sets us His people apart for His divine purposes. It’s powerfully displayed in Isaiah’s commissioning as a prophet of God in Isaiah 6. God gave Isaiah a vision of Himself – and a call to repentance. Isaiah knew that he was not worthy – he said, “Woe to me! I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (6:5). Isaiah lived in the unclean world, and even before the Lord’s call he had preached the judgment of God to Judah. But the filth of the world still clung to him. You cannot walk down a dirt road without collecting some of its dust. God cleansed his unclean lips – then set him apart to declare His Word. All through the Bible God convicts, cleanses, and sets people apart when He is going to do something big.

I believe God is getting ready to do a great work in the world. But it will require people who are consecrated to Him, willing to set everything aside to join Him. That means whole-hearted devotion to Christ and an unwillingness to compromise with the world – even as we live in it. I also believe a great battle is coming in this nation; the lines have already been drawn in our culture and our courts. Unfortunately, it has also been drawn through the Church, and some have chosen to side with the world. Only a people with pure, consecrated hearts will be able to stand firm in the face of it.

The Lord posed a question in Jeremiah’s day that rings loud and clear in our own: “’Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 30:21). My hand is up.

How will you answer, Beloved?

Talk to God

“God, I know you must be tired of hearing me. I come to you with the same stuff, over and over and over.” I felt like a broken record. A very broken, weary, discouraged record. It’s been the same struggles for so long now. “Not so, Child,” I heard in my spirit.

I sat down with my coffee and my Bible (a wonderful combination) and was led to Psalm 55. “Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me,” (v. 1) David said. Wow! I could have written those words myself. It truly felt like God was tuning me out. But I couldn’t blame Him. I read on, “My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught” (v. 2). Same here, Brother. “My heart is in anguish within me” (v. 4). “I said, ‘Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—’” (v. 6). Lord, are you sure I didn’t write this? David and I are in complete synch here.

David was overwhelmed with the wickedness around him. But more than anything his heart was broken because the people closest to him had turned against him. That might feel familiar to you. David felt like he had no one he could turn to, no one he could trust. No one cared about his troubles. Well, almost no one.

“But I call to God and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress, and He hears my voice” (v. 16-17). Did you see it? Evening, morning, and noon. All day long David pours out his heart to God. And God doesn’t get tired of him. He listens – more than that – He hears. The word David used means God gave heed in order to grant David’s request.

Listen to the advice he gives. It may be familiar, but now that you know the context, it should mean even more to you. “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you” (v. 22). All of them. As many times as it takes to lay them at His feet and leave them there. And He will sustain you. He will hold you up and bear the weight – not just of your burden, but of you. Beloved, you are not an encumbrance to the Lord. He will never tire of hearing your voice. It is a sweet, sweet sound in His ears.

Be Still and Know . . .

Today’s devotional is very short and simple, but I believe someone else needs this as much as I do today.

“Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Be still (relax, let go, be quiet, leave it alone) and know (trust, consider, rely upon) that I (the Creator and Ruler of the Universe) am God (the Sovereign Lord of all – including your life).

When your body aches. . .

When your child rebels. . .

When the job runs out. . .

When your loved one draws a final breath. . .

When you are passed over for promotion. . . again. . .

When you have too many responsibilities. . .

When the washing machine floods your apartment. . .

When their words cut like a knife. . .

When your child is mistreated in school. . .

When your car won’t run. . .

When the doctor says, “There’s nothing more we can do”. . .

When your bills outweigh your paycheck. . .

When family turns on you . . .

When life is hard and you just don’t understand. . . Be still, Beloved, and know that I am God.

Wrestling

I know you think I write these devotionals every day for you. You are only partially correct. Some days I write for me and bring you along for the ride.   Writing is how I think and pray and wrestle things out. Today is one of those days. I shared with you earlier that my “word” for the year is “gentle.”  I believe that God is imprinting that word on my heart because I’m in a situation where gentleness is needed for the best outcome.

Gentleness seems so easy, the word even sounds simple as it rolls off my tongue. But it isn’t. Especially when I am tired. And I am tired. Inside and out. When I’m tired the “natural me” comes out. She is petulant and irritable. She wants her way. She grumbles. A lot. She is everything but gentle. And she is awake this morning.

The Lord reminded me of my word through His Word. “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph 4:2). Yes Lord, I hear You. Every one of those descriptions is counter to my natural self. I cannot produce them on my own. But they are the very character of Christ whom I claim to follow. One word, in particular, caught my attention: “completely.” That word means “all, each, every.” In every situation, with every person, at all times be humble and gentle and patient and forbearing and loving. Even when I’m tired. Even with people who are unfair and uncooperative. Even when I don’t want to be. Especially when I don’t want to be.

I told you, I’m wrestling this out this morning and so I asked God, “How?” “How do I do this when I’m tired and people are making life hard?” Do you know what He didn’t say? He didn’t say, “I’ll make them more agreeable.” He didn’t say, “I’ll change your situation.” He didn’t say, “I’ll make this easier for you.” The Spirit literally took my eyes across the page of my open Bible to another verse: “For this reason, I kneel before the Father . . .” (3:14). He said, “Humble yourself before  me and ask for my help.” So I will as soon as I sign off. From one wrestler to another, maybe you need to as well Beloved.

Be Gentle

I don’t usually do a “word for the year,” but in the last few days one word kept presenting itself to me over and over. I took that to mean God has chosen a word for me.  “Gentle.”

Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23).  The most common definitions from the Scriptures are kindness, meekness, humility, patience, and consideration. And it is Jesus’ own self-description: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . . “ (Matt 11:29). If the goal of the Christian life is that I am “conformed to the likeness of [God’s] Son” (Rom 8:29), then gentleness must be part of my character. If there is anything the world needs now it is gentleness. It is completely counter to the culture of today.  Gentleness doesn’t announce itself with a microphone. Gentleness doesn’t try to shout down others. Gentleness doesn’t overpower others and demand its rights. Gentleness considers others’ needs above its own wants. Gentleness speaks with soft and tender words. Gentleness takes the lesser seat, the smaller portion, the way of being second. Gentleness looks beyond a person’s actions to the wounded heart behind them. Gentleness chooses to serve rather than be served.

Several verses speak of gentleness, but the Scripture that God keeps speaking to me is Philippians 4:4-6: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  All of these things are very needed in my life: Joy, Presence, prayer, gratitude, peace, and transcendence. But gentleness is the one that the Spirit keeps driving home. Probably because it is the one that is most needed in my home.

Real gentleness looks like Jesus and talks like Jesus and acts like Jesus – because it comes from Jesus. That’s the kind of gentleness that is evident to all. Beloved, will you show somebody Jesus today?

Advent 2022: Right Place, Right Time

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” Micah 5:2

Sometimes I feel like I’m looking at a map with one red dot that says, “You are here,” and another red dot way on the opposite side of the terrain that says “God’s purpose for you is here.” I’m so very far away.  Four hundred after Micah’s prophecy, a young woman was startled to learn that she was pregnant with the Promised One – the Messiah.  But wait—she is in Nazareth and the prophecy said the Messiah would come out of Bethlehem, some 80 miles away.  So was the prophecy wrong?  Did God make a mistake?  Not at all.  The Sovereign One had a plan and He would use a pagan ruler to fulfill it. Check it out:

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. Everyone went to his own town to register.  So Joseph went up from Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem, the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.  He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child” (Luke 2:1-5). Mary made it to the right place – Bethlehem – at the right time – when her baby was born – through the “whim” of a Roman ruler who had no reverence for the God of Israel. I find tremendous peace in that.

God has a time and place of purpose in His plan for you.  You probably won’t get there via a straight line.  You may feel you are completely off track, or that God has forgotten all about you.  You’re not sure how you wound up where you are or why.  But be assured that God, who created you with a time and place in mind, knows exactly where you are right now and where He wants you to be and when you need to be there.  He didn’t fail to fulfill the prophecy of old, and He won’t fail to fulfill His purpose for your life.  Hear me on this Beloved, wherever you are today is not the end of your journey.  Trust Him, trust His ways, trust His heart.  He knows the where and the when and the way to get you there.

Advent 2022 – Gabriel’s Announcement

“The Annunciation” by Leonardo da Vinci

Day 1: Read Luke 1:26-38

She stood in the dim light of the early morning with her hand over her belly and her heart full of awe and wonder at the life growing within her.  It was all so surreal.  She tried to remember every detail but it was so wonderful and frightening at the same time.  She had heard a rustling beside her and turned to see a man – but not a man – an angel?  Yes, it was an angel; he said his name was Gabriel and he called her “highly favored,” but surely he meant someone else.  She was a peasant girl from the nothing town of Nazareth.  Her highest goal was to marry Joseph and have a family.  She pulled her cloak tighter around her and noticed that she was trembling  – fear mixed with excitement ran like shockwaves through her small frame. But the angel said, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus” (Luke 1:30).  Mary pointed out that she was a virgin, wondering – not if – but how this would happen.  He spoke of the Holy Spirit, an overshadowing, and the impossible becoming a reality.  Then the angel said the most remarkable thing – that this child would “be called the Son of God” (v. 35).  Oh my!  Did he mean that she – Mary of Nazareth – would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah? It was every Jewish girl’s dream. 

In the stillness of the morning, the angel’s announcement still rang in her ears.  She repeated aloud the words she said to him that day as if reassuring herself and reaffirming her willingness, “I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me as you have said” (v. 38).

Mary’s quiet, well-planned life was suddenly interrupted by God.  She was put in a most scandalous situation, one that could have cost her her beloved Joseph, and possibly even her life. It was an inconvenience, to say the least. Yet she humbly surrendered herself to the will of God and embraced an unknown future with awe and wonder and faith. Beloved, has God interrupted your life with something unexpected – something inconvenient, perhaps even shocking?   It may be a person, a diagnosis, a major change, or a great sorrow.  How will you respond? With fear and anxiety? Or with faith and humble surrender?  Are you willing to be the Lord’s servant?

In The End

I wrote yesterday about God’s pre-knowledge of the ups and downs, blessings and tragedies, and Joys and heartaches in our lives. The question then comes, “Why would He allow us to go through these very hard things?”  “Why does He set us on a path when He knows it leads to hardship?” I confess, I’m far from an expert and I certainly can’t read God’s mind, but I can read His Word and glean some things that might help us to understand.

When the Israelites escaped Egypt they rejoiced, yet “on the fifteenth day of the second month [figure about 6 weeks] after they had come out of Egypt . . . the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron” (Ex 16:1,2). They missed the plentiful food of Egypt. So God sent them food – manna. It was their daily diet for forty years (v. 35). After a long steady run of the stuff, they complained, “we have lost our appetite; we never see anything but this manna!” (Num 11:6). It became a source of contention for the Hebrew people.

But God knew all this. He knew when He sent Joseph to Egypt to save his family they would become enslaved for four hundred years. He knew that Pharaoh would oppress and abuse them. He knew Moses would be born at a time when Hebrew baby boys were killed. He knew that Mama would make a basket to float him down the river just as Pharaoh’s daughter would bathe in the same river. He knew that Moses would run after he killed an Egyptian for abusing a Hebrew slave. He knew right where to send him where a bush waited. He knew Pharaoh would forbid the Hebrews to leave. He knew they would be pinned between the river and the enemy. He knew they would rebel. He knew they would wander. He knew they would make a golden calf. He knew they would get hungry. He knew they would eventually grow sick of the manna.

He knew all this. Yet He worked in it all. And Moses declared, “He gave you manna to eat in the desert . . . to humble and to test you so that in the end it might go well with you” (Deut 8:16). All of it, from Joseph to the manna was part of God’s plan. God used the manna to humble them and test them and bring them to a place of blessing. And that’s what He’s up to in your life too. In the good, the bad, and the ugly, He’s working to make you useful and usable in His kingdom. He’s working for your good. That season you’re questioning is part of His plan. And His plans never fail. Be encouraged, Beloved, God is up to something. And in the end, it will go well with you.

God’s Got This

“Well, I didn’t see that coming.”

“Why this? Why now?”

“I never dreamed this would happen.”

“Not again! I thought this was all over.”

Ever said any of the above?  Sure you have. I have too – very recently in fact. We all experience it. The curve ball. The surprise. The “What is this?!”  The shocks of life are constant – and not always pleasant. But I have learned two things along the way: My heavenly Father is never caught off-guard, therefore I need not worry. He is never frantic over the epic ups and downs of my life. God never sits on His throne wringing His hands over the foolish situations I’ve put myself in – or that someone else has put me in. He’s never said, “I didn’t expect that! Now how am I going to work around the mess she’s in?”

How can I be so sure? Because His Word says that God knows “the end from the beginning” (Is 46:10). There is nothing coming, nothing I will do, nothing someone else will cause, and absolutely nothing that satan can attempt that God doesn’t already know. Every event, situation, circumstance, hardship, trial, and trouble has long been taken into consideration in His purpose and plan for my life. Do you know what that means? God figured out the resolution before I ever encountered the problem. This most recent bomb that dropped on me did so with His full knowledge and understanding. And here is something I am sure of to the marrow of my bones, if it was going to derail His plan for my life He would not have let it happen.

So what now? I honestly have no idea. But I have peace. Even in the unexpected, I know God is not worried. So why would I be? I don’t know what has hit your life and thrown you for a loop, but I know that God saw it coming before you did. The diagnosis. The failure. Your kid’s actions. Your spouse’s affair. The end of your career. The injury. The broken heart. Your loved one’s death. Whatever it is, He knew first and He’s got it figured out so that you are blessed and He is glorified. My constant mantra in times like these is: “I have rested that matter into the hands of my Father.” I offer it to you today. Say it as often as you need to. Then do it. He’s got this, Beloved, and He’s got you.