Standing on God's Promises

He Gives Me Directions

“And Joshua fell on his face…and said to him, ‘What has my lord to say to his servant?'” ~Joshua 5:14, NASB

We discussed the falling of Jericho yesterday, and with it, the purpose for the nation of Israel. They were a people of God’s choosing, a people set apart for His purpose. His glory. His revelation.

They were to show who the true God is to the world. And God worked in and through them to reveal himself. Pretty well, too, despite the Israelites many, many flaws. Consider Rahab, her response to the Hebrew spies…

“…our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the Lord your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath.” (Joshua 2:11)

She had heard about the Red Sea. About the wilderness, and the mighty kings the nomadic wanderers had taken out. No doubt she’d heard about the crossing of the flooded Jordan river…and now these people, whose God was clearly THE God, were coming.

Notice what she didn’t hear about…How amazing the leadership was among Israel. The awe-inspiring orator who captivated his audience. The unbelievably gifted song leader who could raise a frenzy of praise with his charismatic performances…Sometimes showing who God is to the world around me is as simple as walking. Am I willing to obey-

She heard about God. HIS power. HIS doing. HIS redemption of his people. Were there amazing leaders, great writers/speakers, gifted musicians? Yep. Among many other extraordinary people, there were such in Israel. Gifted and called by God himself. But Rahab’s faith didn’t sprout from them. She planted herself into the conviction that God was sovereign over all–people, nature, nations. All.

So, what does that have to do with the felling of Jericho? Well, we know Rahab was saved from that destruction. We also know that her legacy wasn’t restricted to her soiled past. Boaz, her son, was quite a good man, you know. And God saw fit to include Rahab in Jesus’s genealogy.

Anything else?

Well, we circled around to this question: “How do we, like the Israelites, show who God is to a godless or idolatress world?”

Perhaps the answer is found in this part of the story.

“I have given Jericho into your hand…. You shall march around the city, all the men of war circling the city once. You shall do so for six days…then on the seventh day march seven times, and the priest shall blow the trumpets…and all the people shall shout…”

What? Not only is that a very strange string of directions, it’s actually quite terrifying. March around the fortified city walls? That is a completely vulnerable position. And seven times? Not only is it vulnerable, it has now become predictable. A recipe for slaughter.

Here, maybe, is the key. Obedience. God said march. Just walk. No shooting. No secret attack. Nothing fancy, cunning, or brilliant. A simple walk around the wall–easy directions that are leg-shakingly difficult to complete. But the obedience is visible, so when Rahab and her family ask “why did you do that?” the people would say, “because God said to.” So when the nations around heard about the walls coming down, the only bit of strategy that they could gain from studying that victory is, “they obeyed God.”

Sometimes showing who God is to the world around me is as simple as walking. Am I willing to obey?

I am Made New

Live New

grassAs a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Ephesians 4:1, NIV

It’s one thing to say I’m new. It’s quite another to live it.

Kind of like love. I love you doesn’t mean much without proof to back it up. And the proof is in the life that says it.

So, living new—what does that mean?

Living new rejoices with those who celebrate—even if what they’re celebrating is exactly what you had wanted and didn’t get.

Living new goes into the score of grief with one caught in its trenches, even if it means your heart is going to break.

Living new returns grace for insult, even if a snappy comeback sits ready on the tip of your tongue.

Living new does not keep an account of debt against those who have behaved badly.

Living new means living like Jesus. It is his calling I have received. His standard has become my aim. Ultimately, my life is in His hands—because I gave it to Him. I pray this new life of my will point to His.

I am a trophy of grace

Not Left on the Shelf

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. ~Philippians 1:6-7 NASB

Partakers of grace. That’s a different kind of trophy. Not the kind that is won, set up on the shelf, and left to collect dust. We, the prize of Christ, the proof of His power and of His grace, are also instruments of that very grace. Commissioned to participate in His Kingdom not only as jewels to His crown, but as citizens and ambassadors of His love.

I received a dictionary about twenty years ago—a nice one. Hardback, embossed with my name and everything. It was a prize, a trophy of sorts, for an academic achievement. It’s the only trophy from my high school days I still keep on the shelf. Not because I use it to brag about accomplishments long since won, which is not the point of this post, but because it’s useful. It doesn’t serve merely as a decorative dust-collector. It has a commission in my life and continues to be useful.

Jesus didn’t win us to His kingdom simply to put us on His display shelf. His love and good intentions go so far beyond that. We have been called to display His character to the world. Called to bring Him praise with everything we do. We’re a unique kind of trophy. Won for His glory and commissioned with purpose.

Has the dust begun to gather? Seek His kingdom. Participate in His gospel. Approve the things that are excellent. Let Him fill you with the fruit of His righteousness. Partake in His grace.

There is much to do. Praise God, His grace does not leave us on the shelf.

I am forgiven

Forgiven by My Father

He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities.

For as the heavens are high above the earth,
So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;

As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us.

As a father pities his children,
So the LORD pities those who fear Him. ~ Psalms 103:10-13, NKJV

This is my favorite passage. Let me show you why . . .

Several years ago we caught one of our sweet children doing something wrong—and it was a pretty big deal. It was long and convoluted, and the whole of it played out in dramatic fashion (little girls are knitted with drama, right?). After the worst of the confession and discipline played out, she sobbed heavily. It was the kind of crying that comes from the soul, from a heart that is broken, not from a sneak that is simply mad at having been caught (I have three daughters, so I’ve become pretty good at recognizing the difference). I looked to my husband and we exchanged one of those puzzled ‘now what?’ glances. Disappointed by and now concerned for this rebuked, distraught little darlin’,  we gathered her little trembling frame close.

EscapeShe pushed us away.

“Why?” We asked.

“Because you don’t love me.” She cracked between labored breaths.

I began to cry with her. “You really think I don’t love you?”

She took the tiniest peek at me, and then turned away. “No.” She broke again. “No, but you shouldn’t love me.”

Oh, that killer moment. It still makes me tear up.

I love my little girl. I wish we had different words for love, because saying I love her the same way I say I love my coffee doesn’t do any kind of justice to how I really feel for her. I. LOVE. Her.

Years past that moment, though I can remember the poignant emotion of that day, I honestly don’t know exactly what she had done. Because it was forgiven. It’s gone.

I’ve felt her ache, though. In moments when I realize how utterly wretched I am, how desperately broken, ugly, and wrong my heart is, I weep before God. “Why do you love me? You shouldn’t.”

And then He takes me close, and I’m pretty sure there are tears in His inaudible voice as He whispers, “I love you. As far as the east is from the west, I have removed your sin.”

And it’s gone.

I am not my own

Belonging to Jesus

When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. ~ Gal 5:19-26, NASB

wedding ringsWhen I got married I changed my name. I changed my address, my college, my future plans. I change my allegiance. I was no longer a single woman, serving my own desires, looking out for my agenda. I declared myself his. I belong to my husband.

Sometimes we look at Jesus like He’s the genie in the lamp. I’ll call you when I need you, but otherwise, I’m doing my thing. Living on my own terms.

But a disciple belongs to Jesus. They have made a declaration, to God, and to the world, “I am His.” And what does that mean?

I belong to Jesus, I am no longer pledged to sin.
I belong to Jesus, I have laid aside selfish ambition.
I belong to Jesus, I am committed to His joy.
I belong to Jesus, I claim His household as mine.
I belong to Jesus, I am not my own.

Life was different after marriage, but fifteen years down the road, I don’t have any regrets when it comes to that pledge.

Life is different when we belong to Jesus, but in an eternity of life with Him, there won’t be a single regret.

I am not my own

Called to Unfailing Love

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all
mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but
do not have love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing. ~1Cr 13:1-3

How well-known is the love passage that follows these three verses? I’ll bet you could recite it-at least some of it. “Love is patient, love is kind, it does not envy, it does not boast…” These words cover wedding invitations, wall art of every variety. They find their way into music stanzas, and perhaps most notably this time of year, are scripted into countless Valentine’s Day cards.

But very often these lovely words are minimally applied. Love–agape, is the call of every
believer. Paul wrote this passage to a church, and it directly follows a section in which he fleshed out spiritual gifts. So, when he begins with, “if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love…” It is an extension of what he’d been addressing before. The church, every member, expressing the agape of God by how they live, what they do, how they serve.

See, back in chapter 12 of the book of Romans, Paul wrote that we, believers, are to living sacrifices, holy and acceptable to God. In other words, we are supposed to live a life that resembles Jesus. A life of service, of sacrifice; of love.

Love isn’t the warm fuzzies of an emotional moment. It’s not flowery and poetic and pretty. It’s hard. It gets down on its hands and knees to wash what no one else wants to touch. It offers kindness to the most undeserving gentile sinner. It forgives a traitor, one who has denied Him in the face of agony. It flings the wrongs done against Him as far as the east is from the west. In this evil-infested, fickle world, love never fails.

Unfailing love. That’s a little more than hearts and roses and pretty penmanship. It’s a tall, gritty order.

And it is the life to which I have been called.

I am a Citizen of Heaven

Safe Wings

But Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, [Or to] turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people [shall be] my people, And your God, my God.
Where you die, I will die, And there will I be buried. The LORD do so to me, and more also, If [anything but] death parts you and me.”
— 
Ruth 1:16-17

I try to imagine this passage as it plays out. A woman in grief, still young, with options available to her, but determined. For what reason? To honor her dead husband? For the love of her bitter mother in law? I’m not sure. But her declaration is certain.

Your people will be mine. I will dwell with you, take your name, honor your God. Claim your home. I renounce myself as a Moabitess. I am now only Ruth, your daughter.

We think of home as something familiar. What if it’s rather a determination? An intentional choice that says “I’ve never been there, but that’s where you are to be, that is where I’ll be also.” What a transforming thought.

Ruth, this woman of reckless abandon, brings determination to life. Her resolve brought the notice and favor of Boaz, a man of standing who possessed all of the finest qualities. I love the blessing he speaks to Ruth in the fields.

“May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” -Ruth 2:12
Under whose wings you have come to seek refuge. Jesus says to the disciple who has sought His refuge, “I am preparing a place for you. Where I am, you will be.”

Home with Him. Under the safety of His wings.