Faithful to Fulfill

“The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me: your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.” -Psalm 138:8

I find it comforting to know that David – a man who is recorded in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart – had struggles just like I do. How refreshing it is to think that I don’t have to have unshakeable faith to be counted among one of the faithful. Even David doubted. Why else would he feel the need to plead with God not to abandon him?

I relate all too well with David’s 138th Psalm. I’ve felt abandoned. I’ve wondered where God was in the midst of my circumstances. I’ve had to remind myself time and time again that God truly is the God who interrupts, redirects, and fulfills my wildest dreams.

You may be floundering in confusion, wondering what exactly your purpose is for this season of your life, but that’s okay. We serve a God who holds eternity in the palm of His hand, and He will be faithful to fulfill His purpose for you.

Don’t Judge Me

“Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High.” –Psalm 7:8b

I don’t know how those words struck you just now, but my mouth went slack-jawed at David’s boldness. I wouldn’t dare to pray such a prayer because I know the darkness of my heart. And while I believe that David was merely trying to convey that he was innocent in the certain situation that plagued him, I still found that his words haunted me.

A friend of mine once told me: “Compared to Jesus, we’re like a bunch of filthy rats in a gutter.” That’s what this verse makes me feel like – a filthy rat. Which is why I marvel at the words David penned. My prayer would look a little more like this: “Judge me, O Lord, according to Your love, according to Your unfathomable mercy, O Most High.”

See, if God were to judge me by my own righteousness, I would be cast out of the Kingdom. And I’m what most people would consider a good person. But God says that our righteous acts are like filthy rags in His sight (Isaiah 64:6).

Our lives would be absolutely hopeless if it weren’t for the remarkable fact that God doesn’t judge us according to our righteousness; He judges us according to His great love. While we were still playing around in the gutter, God sent His Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

I think those of us who’ve been in the family of God for awhile tend to take His love for granted. We forget what a miracle it is that God would choose to love us. Once we clean up our acts and begin to walk an upright life, we tend to judge ourselves by comparing ourselves to other people, rather than our holy God. We think to ourselves, “Well, at least I’m better than so-and-so.” But the truth is that we can’t earn our way to heaven by doing good works because there is no good that is good enough for God. We’re just like a filthy gutter rat, completely undeserving of the King’s love and acceptance. And the miracle of the matter is that He loves us anyway.

So instead of focusing on your own righteousness, reflect on the marvelous wonder of God’s love. Thank Him for His sacrifice that freed you to be judged by love instead of deeds, and remember that it’s only by His mercy that there is anything remotely righteous in you at all.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

“Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, Whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy,”  –Psalm 107:2

I’ve been saying that I didn’t know the meaning of the word “redemption” until I went to India. When I told this to a certain friend, he asked me what the difference was between redemption here and there. After all, isn’t that what God does for all of us?

I saw his point. And yes, I agree that God’s redemption is the same all around the world, but it’s what we do with that redemption that matters.

I saw redemption in India. The stories of how God had saved them from darkness were something that was talked about all the time. It’s something they lived in constant awareness of. In India, I saw people who lived the command given in Psalm 107:2. The redeemed of the Lord talked of being redeemed. And that made all the difference.

I think most of us (myself included) tend to take that redemption for granted. We don’t talk about it. We don’t live every moment of our lives as if we are a changed people. We have so many distractions that keep us from focusing on the one thing that truly matters.

In India, I was void of that distraction. In India, I talked of redemption all the time. In India, I was free to enter into a spontaneous moment of worship with one of the boys and his guitar. Back here, I strive to clear my mind of the chaos. I try to live in that freedom I experienced at Ashagram because I do believe that it’s possible, and I do believe that it’s right.

So today I choose to live the command God has set before me. Today I choose to speak of redemption. Today I pray that my eyes would tell what my heart has experienced.

I know the meaning of the word “redemption”. Do you?

Singing in the Rain

One of my coworkers recently delivered a communion message that was unlike any other I’d ever heard. He read the story out of Mark 14 and put a huge emphasis on verse 26: “Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.” I don’t know that I’d ever really seen that verse before, but I know now that I’ll never forget it.

My coworker painted a picture of that moment. A picture of twelve men singing a song of praise with God in their midst. A picture of twelve men who have no idea that their faith is about to be tested in a way I could never even dream of being tested.

Then my coworker delivered a challenge that is probably more memorable than his sermon content. “If you knew the hardships that were coming, would you still sing a hymn?”

Could I still praise God if I knew that my life was about to fall apart? Could I still bless His name if I knew my faith was about to be shaken to the core? Would I still sing if my world was consumed by darkness? It’s easy to sing when life is going well, but how many people can truly praise God when everything in life comes crashing down?

All of my life, in every season... I want to look like this guy.

I love dancing in the rain… Real rain… The kind that falls from the sky and brings life to all green things. But when it comes to spiritual rain… The kind that floods in and devastates your soul… That, I’m not so good at handling. That doesn’t make me want to sing and dance; it makes me want to scream and curl up in the fetal position.

But I feel like God is asking me to trust Him with my whole heart. To believe that every circumstance He sends my way is truly meant for my good. In the end, I want to be singing in the rain.

So I’ll answer my coworker in faith. “Yes. Yes, I will be the one who sings regardless of my circumstances.” May God help me fulfill that promise.

Confident Humility

“Those who are sure of themselves are humble.”

The words that my newest missionary friend shared with me seemed almost contradictory, and yet that statement was the most accurate explanation I’d ever heard of humility. Those who are sure of themselves are humble.

When we think of one who is sure of himself, we automatically think cocky, but a cocky person isn’t truly confident in his abilities. If he was, he wouldn’t find the need to perform.

Those who are sure of themselves are humble because they’ve no need to one-up another person. They find no purpose in exalting themselves over others. Insecurity is what rears its ugly head at the sign of competition, but those who are sure of themselves are humble.

I think most people have a skewed vision of humility. We’ve somehow gotten the idea that being humble is doubting our abilities, but it’s really quite the opposite. True humility is expressed when we are confident and secure in the way God has gifted us, knowing that we have no need to impress anyone.

Check out the following passage from John 13:

“Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (vs. 3-5)

As my friend pointed out to me the other night, Jesus knew that He had all the power in the universe. This passage doesn’t say, “Even though Jesus knew, He did this.” It doesn’t even say “Jesus knew, but He still chose to wash the feet of His disciples.” No. It says, “Jesus knew…so.” He washed their feet because He knew that all power was His under God. So you see, those who are sure of themselves are humble.

God wants you to embrace the talents He has given to you. He wants you to be confident of your ability in Him. And He wants you to walk in the humility that only comes when you are secure in the person He created you to be.

A Work Unfinished

I wrote a post the other day for the missions organization I work with. It was a beautiful story of how God touched the heart of a broken child in Ukraine, but what resonates most deeply in my heart were Valerija’s final words: “God never leaves a work unfinished.”

Wow. It’s almost enough to leave me speechless.

My thoughts instantly turned to a passage in Philippians: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” -Philippians 1:4-6

God will complete the good work He began in you. He never leaves a work unfinished. Right now, the canvas of your life may not look too impressive, but the Master Artist has not yet finished painting. The Carpenter is not yet done carving, the Potter is still shaping.

Yes, I am a work unfinished, but I won’t always be that way. I cling to the promise of beauty from these ashes. I am a masterpiece waiting to emerge from the clay. It may be awhile before the refining process is complete, but it will happen. After all, God never leaves a work unfinished.

“…in the hands of a master carpenter, no piece of wood is safe from becoming a masterpiece.” -Steven James

Why Does God Allow Evil?

“If God is so good, why is there so much evil in the world?”

It’s a common question between believers and non-believers alike. Believers want to know why God allows suffering, while the non-believers challenge that our world is proof that there is no loving God.

Until just now, I didn’t have a good answer to that question. I simply figured that God was God, and He had reasons beyond which we could wrap our finite human minds. While that  still remains true, I’ve found a little more clarity regarding God’s seeming inactivity as I  read the Parable of the Weeds in Matthew 13.

In this story, a man sowed good seed in a field, but when everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and scattered weeds among the crop. When the plants began to grow, it was quite obvious that there had been foul play, but when the servants asked if they should pull the weeds, the farmer said no. He explained that, in purging the evil, they might accidentally uproot the good. The farmer wouldn’t risk that, so the weeds remained until harvest.

So there it is. Straight from the mouth of Jesus. The reason there is evil in our world. Satan sowed his seed among God’s own, and God won’t risk harming His children in order to rid this world of evil. Only when the time for harvest comes will He separate the wheat from the weeds.

It’s pretty bizarre to think that God allows evil for our sakes. It doesn’t make much sense to my logical human mind, but God seems to think that it’s best for me that way. For now, I’m content to  simply cling to the promise of the harvest and know that God is going to purge all the evil from this world someday.

Abraham, Isaac, and… Israel?

Do you remember that great passage in the Bible where God names Abraham? The name was given to him as a promise: “No longer will you be called Abram; your name will be Abraham for I have made you a father of many nations.” (Genesis 17:5) From that moment on, there is no mention of Abram and Sarai. They have been completely replaced by Abraham and Sarah.

Now skip forward several chapters to where Abraham’s grandson has a similar experience. “Then the man said, ‘Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.'” (Genesis 32:28) Strangely enough, the first two words in the very next verse are, “Jacob said.” Twenty-five mentions of the name Jacob later, God appears to him once more and declares his name to be Israel. (Genesis 35:10) I don’t think Jacob ever fully claims that promise. Want to know why? I counted the number of times Jacob and Israel were mentioned throughout the remaining chapters of Genesis. Israel is named 30 times, but Jacob comes in first place with 46. That whisper of a promise was there the whole time, resurfacing every once in awhile, but in the end it seems that Jacob couldn’t rid himself of the title “Deceiver” and to this day, Yahweh is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The promise was seemingly not claimed by Jacob, but it was handed down to his children nonetheless as they call themselves the nation of Israel.

My point is: God has promises for you if only you are willing to claim them. Are you willing, like Abraham, to step out into the unknown, trusting that God’s Mighty Hand will guide you? Or will you fluctuate tenaciously back and forth as did Jacob – er, Israel? I pray that you would find the courage to embrace the promises God has for you. May you step out and be willing to change so that you may accept the full extent of God’s blessing.

The Promise of His Presence

Today I have my head in the clouds. While reading through the Old Testament, I realized how often God appeared in the form of a cloud. In Exodus and Numbers alone, there are over forty references to the cloud of God’s Presence. I found that rather fascinating.

But of course, I’ve always been fascinated by puffy white clouds. I used to lay in my yard and watch them drift peaceably overhead. Perhaps the reason I find comfort in clouds is that God’s Presence still remains in them. Though the most mention you will find of clouds is in the earlier books of the Old Testament, there are still various references throughout the rest of the Bible. Psalm and Isaiah talk of how God rides on the clouds. In 2 Chronicles, the glory of the Lord once again filled the temple in the form of a cloud. A cloud contained the Voice that said, “This is my Son in whom I am well pleased,” at the moment of Jesus’ baptism. And we are told throughout the Gospels and in Revelation that Jesus will return on a cloud. Clouds are a daily reminder of His Presence in our world. Yet we so often fail to see God’s Presence in these familiar miracles.

In Genesis 9, God sends a rainbow as a promise to Noah that He will never again flood the whole earth. We remember the rainbow, but we miss three very important words quoted in that passage of scripture: “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.”

Perhaps in our fear of global floods, we missed the most important promise God provided on that day. Yes, He promised that He would never again flood the earth, but He also promised us His Presence. While the rainbow is an occasional reminder, the cloud is a constant reality. God’s Presence is right here in this moment.

When I look out the window, I can see Him hovering over the mountains, but more importantly, I’m reminded of the way He has enveloped my heart and promised His Presence to me.

The Whirlpool and the Eagle

I was reading through 2 Samuel the other day when I stumbled upon something pretty amazing. I found that the passage looked strangely familiar. I started to speculate that David wrote two Psalms that are nearly identical. Then I flipped through a few more chapters in my Bible and realized that they were identical. The words recorded in 2 Samuel 22 are the same words that are penned in Psalm 18. I didn’t realize that until just the other day.

God wouldn’t put something in the Bible twice for no reason, so I think it’s safe to assume that this is a picture He really wants us to understand. Maybe you should read it for yourself because you might see something other than what I do, but for me, all I see when I read this chapter is an eagle.

One time, when I was walking through a really difficult circumstance in my life, I had this reoccurring vision (that felt like a nightmare when I was wide awake) about a whirlpool and an eagle. I was drowning in the whirlpool, but trying to grab hold of this eagle that was soaring above the waves. The vision made absolutely no sense… until I stumbled upon Psalm 18. This particular Psalm talks about God being a refuge when the floods of destruction are sweeping over you. As I read this Psalm, I remembered my whirlpool, then I read the words, “he soared on the wings of the wind.” I don’t know that I’ve ever had a passage of Scripture take my breath away like that verse did.  The eagle in the vision that I kept reaching out for was Jesus. That one passage of Scripture that is repeated twice in the Bible told me the end of my vision:

“He reached down from on high and took hold of me;
       he drew me out of deep waters.” -Psalm 18:16

And suddenly there was a safety from the storm that was raging around me. I suddenly felt myself being lifted from this pit of despair. I found freedom in that verse.

God wrote it twice because He wanted His children to see it. He wrote it twice so that I’m twice as likely to be reminded. He wrote it twice so that I’m half as likely to forget. What is He saying twice to you?