Writer’s Desk

To Invest or Not Invest?

Do you struggle to get involved?

It’s challenging for many of us to choose to step into the mess of someone else’s life. Most of us have enough mess in our own that the last thing we want is to get take on more.

I was struck by something that was shared at church last week. A young couple was moving out of state and they shared about their journey. They moved here to go to grad school. They knew it would be a temporary stop for them. She said that her natural inclination was to just get through school and not get involved, particularly with the church.

God reminded her that there is no such thing as temporary time in His kingdom. Transitional periods are intentionally designed by Him.

Life is full of what we view as temporary stops or transitional periods. For most of us, our temptation is to pull back during those times. Investing in relationships and other people takes time and effort and when we “know” we’re not going to be here long, it can be hard to justify that investment.

And yet… Jesus is our example. If anyone knew that His time was temporary, it was Jesus. He KNEW His purpose. He KNEW He came to live in this world for a relatively short time and then He’d die.

Yet He never once chose to pull back from people. Over and over we see Him intentionally stepping into the mess of people’s lives and walking alongside them. He purposefully invested in people, building relationships wherever He went.

If our Savior chose to step into our mess, how can we not do the same for those around us?

So no matter what phase you find yourself in, whether you’re in a place for the “long haul” or “just passing through”, look around. Reach out to others. Get to know them. Share your mess with them and help them in their own mess. God has placed you where you are for a purpose – press in!

Success as Defined by God

Success. It’s a tricky thing, yet something we all seek on some level, isn’t it?
 
We’ve been studying the life of Joseph in church. Joseph is one of my favorite historical figures and I’m thoroughly enjoying the study.
 
Today, the pastor was pointing out how Joseph enjoyed success in everything he did. (Genesis 39:2, 3, 23). Joseph’s secret? God was with him.
 
As I was pondering all this, I recognized that all of this occurred during a time when the world would not define Joseph as particularly successful. First, he was living as a slave in Potiphar’s household. After that, he was in prison.
 
I doubt most of us would define our lives as particularly successful if we found ourselves in those circumstances.
 
Yet, that is precisely the word scripture uses (in the NLT version). This reminded me that God’s definition of success doesn’t necessarily line up with ours – or with that of the world around us.
 
Maybe you don’t feel particularly successful. Maybe the world doesn’t view you as successful. Maybe you’re stuck in a dead-end job. Maybe you don’t have a job. Maybe you feel like you’ve failed as a parent. Maybe you feel like you’re always failing, that you’ve never been successful at anything.
 
God’s definition of success has nothing to do with our circumstances and everything to do with our perspective. Joseph was successful because he trusted God. He recognized that God was with him, no matter where he was or his status in life. God was with him.
 
If you belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ, God is also with you. You may not be 2nd in command over a powerful nation. You might even be stuck in a prison of some sort. Remember that God’s success is not the world’s. Seek Him and wait to see what success He might bring your way.

God-Breathed

If you’re like me, there are certain parts of the Bible that you’re tempted to skip because they just don’t feel super relevant. Am I right?
 
My challenge to you is to take 2 Timothy 3:16-17 to heart – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
 
I was reading in Exodus this week and got to the portion where God is giving very specific instructions for the construction of the tabernacle, the priests’ clothing, and the purification rituals. Because of Jesus, we live under the new covenant, so all of that is now irrelevant, right?
 
Wrong!
 
I prayed that God would show me how this applies to me and He did. Check out what I got from one of the sections about the priests’ attire.
 
Exodus 28:15 – “Then, with great skill and care, make a chest piece to be worn for seeking a decision from God.” It’s easy to glide right by this verse and miss the significance, but the phrase “seeking a decision from God” really captured my attention.
 
The chest piece covered the heart and was to be worn when seeking God’s guidance. I think this symbolizes how we need to put God before our own heart, our own desires, and seek His will first. To me, it symbolized how we need to let God guide our hearts so He will be Lord over our decisions.
 
Exodus 28:36-37 – “Next, make a medallion of pure gold, and engrave it like a seal with these words: Holy to the Lord. Attach the medallion with a blue cord to the front of Aaron’s turban, where it must remain.”
 
It’s no accident that the words “Holy to the Lord” were to be worn on the priest’s head! This reminded me that our minds – our thoughts, attitudes, and actions – must be holy before God.
 
We have the responsibility to guard our minds. The things we see will end up being the things we believe, which will infiltrate our heart and eventually evidence themselves in our actions.
 
So take a lesson from the priests’ attire. Let God guide your heart. Protect your mind so that your thoughts – and therefore, your actions – will be holy to the Lord.

Eternal Refuge and Everlasting Arms

“The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” Deuteronomy 33:27a
 
This verse speaks to me on several levels. I love the image of God as our refuge, sheltering us during the fiercest of trials and storms. We often don’t recognize that He’s sheltering us. Sometimes His sheltering comes in the form of telling us “no” or blocking something we want, but we can trust that He has a very good reason for sheltering us in that way.
 
More than that, I love the image of His everlasting arms underneath us. He upholds us when we’re weak. He catches us when we fall. And because His arms are everlasting, we can trust that He will always be there to comfort, catch, and sustain.
 
So if you’re going through a storm right now, find your refuge in our Eternal God.
 
If you feel like you lack strength, rest in the everlasting arms.
 
And if life is good, thank Him for being your refuge and carrying you through the dark times… then look for those around you who are struggling and show them Jesus in your words and actions. Sometimes God uses ordinary people like you and me to extend His everlasting arms to those around us.

How Do You See Jesus?

Happy Resurrection Day, everyone!
 
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen!” Luke 24:5a-6a.
 
Where do we look for Jesus? How do we view Him? Is He still the beaten and bloody man nailed to the cross? Is He the “gardener” who appeared to Mary in the garden (John 20:11-18)? Is He the friend who fed His tired disciples a fish breakfast (John 21:1-14?)
 
Yes to all the above, but He is so much more!
 
As I ponder our Living Savior today, I am reminded so clearly that His story is not finished. He came once to die for the sins of the world and defeat death by His resurrection, but He will come again to banish sin for good and rule in perfect justice.
 
The first time, He came as a Lamb – gentle and meek, for the purpose of being a sacrifice for sin. But next time, He will come as a Lion – strong and powerful, the King of all.
 
In fact, if you want to really challenge your current view of Jesus, check out how John describes this coming King in Revelation 1:12-16 and 19:11-16. In those passages, we don’t see gentle Jesus, we see the righteous judge ready to deal with sin permanently and rule perfectly.
 
So as you celebrate the salvation Jesus so graciously offers to us, remember that His story is not finished. The empty tomb was the climax, but the end of the story is still pending.
 
While we don’t understand all the prophecies concerning what’s coming, we know the end of the story. Revelation 22:7, spoken by Jesus Himself: “Look, I am coming soon! Blessed are those who obey the words of prophecy written in this book.”
 
May we, like John, respond with “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus!” Revelation 22:20b.
 
Are you able to honestly say that? If Jesus returned today, would you be ready for the glorious warrior King?
 
If not, I invite you to explore these things further. You can email me, walk into any number of Bible-teaching churches, or talk to any of the Christians around you.
 
Come, Lord Jesus!

Join the 3 Legged Race!

Have you ever watched people participating in a 3-legged race?
 
If the people tied together are in tandem, they can make really good progress. But what happens if one of the parties decides to do their own thing?
 
God gave me this image as I was confessing my divided heart. See, sometimes I’m focused on the Lord. I’m walking with Him, serving Him, worshipping Him. And other times? I get distracted by the things of this world. They aren’t necessarily bad things. Family, work, fiction… all gifts from God. But when they pull me away from Him, they need to be brought into submission.
 
When we come to Jesus, we get “tethered” to God. If we walk with Him, following His lead and stepping as He directs, He will do amazing things in and through us.
 
Yet too often, that untethered leg starts veering off in another direction. Sometimes, this slows our progress with God. Other times, it tears us apart.
 
Maybe you can relate to that. If so, know that this is not a new struggle.
 
In the Psalms, the writer prays “Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name.” Psalm 86:11.
 
There’s hope!
 
In Ezekiel 11:19-20, God promises: “I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. They will be my people, and I will be their God.”
 
If you’re currently walking in sync with the Lord, keep going! The race is wonderful when you’ve got the right Person by your side!
 
And if you feel that “free” leg carrying you in a different direction, echo the prayer of the psalmist and claim the promise from Ezekiel. God is waiting to bring you back into step with Himself!

What Happened to Common Sense?

I’m sure we’ve all heard the saying that common sense isn’t so common. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why that’s true?
 
I think Proverbs gives us a few clues on this topic. Proverbs 9:10 states “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.”
 
To fear the Lord is to show Him the respect and honor He is due and to recognize His might and just wrath. There is a severe lacking of the fear of the Lord in today’s culture – which means a severe lacking of true wisdom, for the wisdom of this world has no foundation.
 
Proverbs 2:6-7 says “For the Lord grants wisdom! From His mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. he is a shield to those who walk with integrity.”
 
If we tie those 2 passages together, we see that we must first fear the Lord, which lays the foundation for true wisdom, which comes from Him. Wisdom gives us knowledge and understanding, which equip us to exercise common sense – which also comes from the Lord.
 
Do you feel like you’re lacking in wisdom or common sense? If so, check your view of God. Do you respect Him as you should? Do you have a reverent fear of the Lord? If not, Proverbs exhorts us to begin there.
 
James 1:5 promises that God grants wisdom generously to those who ask Him for it. If you are walking with God and fear Him, ask Him for wisdom and believe He will give it to you. You might be surprised at the changes that prayer will bring into your life and your circumstances! We have a generous and gracious God!