Bragging rights

“Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.” Ephesians 2:9

We humans sure like to blow our own horns, don’t we? I mean, have you visited a social media site lately? We brag about our kids’ report cards, about their athletic accomplishments, about their development in the womb! We tout our deal-finding prowess, take photos of our cooking, and show off our cute outfits. We are a people who love to shine!

Thank God that He didn’t set up our salvation under those terms. Could you imagine how impossible it would be to live with each other? If we’re already trying to outdo one another with dinner, how much worse would our eternal souls tempt us to boast? But we have to come before Him humbly, knowing that we can do nothing to either earn or deserve the gift of salvation. It’s a great grace that our faith is all that He requires of us to welcome us into His family.

You may be thinking today that you don’t deserve His love, and you’re probably right – you don’t. I don’t. None of us do. But praise be to God, He gives it to us anyway! We can’t earn it with good deeds, and we have nothing to brag about. But what we do have is a gracious gift, a beautiful sacrifice, and a Savior’s mercy – none of which are our doing. Hallelujah!

Just one thing

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42

It’s Holy Week. Yesterday was Palm Sunday, and at our church, preschoolers witnessed Jesus arriving on a stick figure “donkey” while the adults saw an illustration of Jesus being pressed and poured out for us.

I don’t know what this week looks like at your house, the days between Palm Sunday and Easter. My husband and I are both on staff at our church, and we’re both busy with the logistics of the Christian equivalent of the Super Bowl! We know that more people will be in attendance than at any other time, many of whom have not made a commitment to Christ. Our staff has put a lot of prayer in how to best reach them with the Gospel while we have the chance.

Mulling over the week before it began, I was reminded of the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sat contentedly at Jesus feet while her sister Martha scurried around, making sure everything was perfect. Both felt they were serving the Lord by doing what was most important. But, only one was engaged in a task with eternal significance.

Details can get us distracted whether we have a major role in Easter services or will be simply worshipping with our families. As we all enter this week, I pray that we will not get so hung up on details – whether they are song packs or frills on socks, sermon notes or ham recipes – that we forget the one thing we are here celebrating. Our God made Himself accessible to us, took our sins upon Himself, and gave us victory over the grave!

Take time this week to sit at the Savior’s feet and listen to Him. It’s the one thing He desires – communion with us. Fix your hearts on His sacrifice and let His love be the one thing this week is about for you.

There He goes again

“The priests will carry the Ark of the lord, the Lord of all the earth. As soon as their feet touch the water, the flow of water will be cut off upstream, and the river will stand up like a wall.” Joshua 3:13

The Israelites had escaped from Egypt and under miraculous, gotta-see-it-to-believe-it conditions. Plagues! A great chase! Crossing a sea on dry land! And a dramatic drowning that was the stuff of legend.

Legend. By the time they arrived in the Promised Land, all but two of those adults who had witnessed those events firsthand were gone. Those stories had passed from the realm of fact into the territory of myth for many who were making the journey.

But then, God decided to do it again. A second time, He caused the water to move out of the way as millions of Hebrews made their way towards their destiny. He could have had them build a bridge, or find another way in. But I think it is significant that their journey ended the way it began.

I guess the stories were true! I guess He really did those things back in Egypt! He really is the One True God!

Maybe you need reassurance of His sovereignty today. Perhaps you are facing a situation that seems like it has no way to end well. I want to remind you that He came through for the Israelites as they left Egypt; He made a way for them through the desert (and, might I add, through their disobedience); and He provided passage through to their final destination. That doesn’t mean that the way will be easy, or that you won’t feel like giving up. But remember their story, and remember that God is able to do it – yet again.

All we need is love

“Anyone who claims to know all the answers doesn’t really know very much. But the person who loves God is the one whom God recognizes.” 1 Corinthians 8:2-3

There are people in all of our lives who we could refer to as “know-it-alls.“ I bet you have someone in mind right now! They have an answer for everything, and whenever someone has an idea – well, of course they had known that for years!

But God’s word cautions us against thinking we have it all together, against thinking we have all the answers. We are certainly foolish if we try to go through life with that attitude! But over and over, we are also reminded that only one thing is necessary, and only one thing is lasting: love.

God shows love.

God gives love.

God is love.

And when we walk in His love, we have all we need. We are doing His will in the earth, and He will give us whatever knowledge we need to be successful in Him.

Don’t try to act like you have all the answers – because you don’t! Rely on God and His love, and then you will be truly wise.

Fixed for company

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.” Revelation 3:20

I have some wonderful friends who have graciously welcomed me into their homes over the years. Many of them have homes well-suited to hosting such gatherings: open floor plans, centrally located, plenty of room.

By contrast, my home is very small, and we live a considerable distance from most of our friends and family. As a result, we don’t have guests over very often. As my mother might say, we “aren’t fixed for company!”

We all have a guest who wants to commune with us, whether we live in a hovel or a mansion. He doesn’t care about our outward appearance or what distance He has to travel to reach us. He cares about one thing: the condition of our heart.

Jesus wants us to fulfill our purpose through fellowship with Him. He came to brings us into right relationship with the Father and to know us on an intimate level.

Apartment or row house, Colonial or Nantucket, cottage or grand Victorian – no matter what you look like on the outside, He wants to come inside.

Isn’t it time to let Him in?

Right there, always

At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: “Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Luke 22:61

Peter was having a rough day.

He had been present with Jesus through His final hours before His arrest. He had sworn allegiance to His Savior, only to be told that he would fold under pressure.

And now, it had happened.

What’s more, Jesus had been in earshot the whole time!

Let’s give Peter the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he was wrestling with his own doubt about what was taking place. Maybe he was just interested in his own self-preservation. Whatever the cause of his denial, Jesus was right there, the whole time. He heard every word. Even while Peter denied Him, Jesus was never far away.

He’s never far away from us, either. Oh, it may seem like it at times. It may look in our eyes like He has forsaken us. But even when we deny Him through our actions, behaving like we never knew Him, He is waiting.

Waiting for us to return to Him. Waiting to hear us turn to Heaven in prayer. Waiting for a relationship to be re-established, stronger for the straying.

Yes, He hears us, good, bad, and ugly. He is never far away. And when we turn back to Him, He is waiting to listen.

Ready

“There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you?” John 14:2

My daughter likes to know what’s coming up next. She likes to be ready. I am more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants type, but she isn’t satisfied with that. I don’t think it’s a trust issue – she really does want to know what’s for lunch, it’s not that she doesn’t think we’ll have any!

Jesus tried to make sure His disciples were prepared for the future by telling them what was coming up next. He told them about His death and resurrection, even if they didn’t understand it. And He told them how this would all end up – in Heaven with the Father.

My daughter is comforted when she knows I’m ready, and we can take comfort knowing that the Lord has things ready for us, too. We can trust that He has our best interest at heart, and that He is ready to see us through whatever is coming our way.

Prep work

I have been reading some in Exodus, specifically chapter 28 where Moses is given very specific instructions on making garments for the priests. The Chief Priest’s garments are especially ornate: they are to include engraved stones and threads of pure gold.

Fancy!

Although I’d read this passage many, many times, suddenly I found myself wondering: where, in the middle of the desert, did they come up with a bunch of jewels?

(Flips back a few chapters)

Oh, I see that the people brought offerings before the Lord, including fine stones and gold and silver. But then, again, I wondered: where did a bunch of slaves come up with all this valuable stuff?

(Flips back a few more chapters)

Now I get it. When the Israelites left Egypt, God told them to ask their neighbors for their valuables! And apparently, the Egyptians were so glad to see them go that they obliged!

I’m sure those Hebrew slaves thought they had hit the jackpot. But really, everything they were going through was prep work for what God had next in their lives. He had a plan, and everything fit into it.

God has a plan for you, too. The obstacles you face and the victories you celebrate are all part of His prep work for your life. He is continually making you ready for the next step in the journey.

Keep your head up. Keep encouraged, whether by yourself or by others. Keep believing that God is making preparations for your future and He is revealing Himself, one step at a time.

Putting our hope where our mouth is

“Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise.” Hebrews 10:23

“Put up or shut up.” It’s a crude schoolyard taunt, but it’s basically what the writer of Hebrews is advising us to do.

So, you claim to be a Christian. So, you profess faith in Christ. So, you say He brings you hope, peace, and joy.

Prove it.

Prove it by holding firm to that hope. Prove it by not giving up in the face of trials and adversity. Prove it by keeping your eyes fixed on Jesus, even as chaos erupts all around you.

It’s a tall order, to be sure – and personally, it isn’t one I always fulfill. But I have been challenged by this word. The world is watching. The people in my life are watching. They are waiting to see if I really believe what I claim to, and if my Lord can really do what I’ve claimed He can.

They are watching to see how I react in a crisis. And my friend, they are watching you, too. So, hold on. Don’t give up. We can trust Him, and the world needs to see that we do.

Choose your words

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

You know how they say “opposites attract”? That could not be more true in my marriage. My husband is everything I’m not – he thinks before he speaks, not after!  It takes a lot to get his feathers ruffled, certainly more than it takes for me. And it doesn’t surprise me that Proverbs recognizes these qualities as those belonging to a wise person.

It’s never a good thing to fly off the handle, to let our mouths run away from us. It’s never wise to speak, or act, without considering the outcome of our choices. But, if you are like me, that’s exactly what your tendency is! It’s only through surrendering ourselves, our will, and our tongue to the Lord daily that we can become overcomers in this area.

I want to be wise. I want to have understanding. And so, I want to submit myself to my Savior and let Him give my temperament a divine makeover.

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