Praying God's Names- Jehovah Sabaoth

Jehovah SabaothI Am the Lord of Hosts

When I come to the end of my self, When I am at the end of my strength, When I need power for deliverance, Then I rest in You.

When no other way seems clear, When I see no other help, When I am at the end of my resources, Then I rest in You.

You are the One who Delivers. You are the Lord of Hosts.

I come to worship and offer the sacrifice of myself as I plead with You. I know no one else who can help me. I face impossible odds and no one believes I can do what you called me to do. I know you are my power and my strength.

I cannot rely on religion. I cannot depend on icons or symbols. I cannot trust my own strength if I want victory. I must come to you in righteousness.

You are the One who Delivers. You are the Lord of Hosts.

You are my righteousness. You are my deliverer. You are the judge of my enemies. You see my heart and save my soul.

You, Jehovah Sabaoth, are the One who Judges. You, Jehovah Sabaoth, are the One who Delivers. You, Jehovah Sabaoth, are the Lord of Hosts.

By Karen Guthrie December 17, 2008

For When You're Stuck

We returned recently from full-time, front-line mission work at Camp Barnabas and though it was an incredible summer I’ve been feeling stuck. Actually run over and then left to dry... in the rain... might be a better description. I’m just spent. Spent and stuck. Stuck and spent. Feeling like there’s nothing else to give and yet too much left over. Spiritually God knocked this summer out of the ballpark- and I got front row seats to His show. He even called me on stage a few times to participate. It was spectacular. People found Christ, dozens upon dozens were baptized, demons were exorcised, and people’s faith grew stronger and mightier. I couldn’t have asked for more. I felt as if I should be walking- no swaggering- out of camp with my head held high, my Bible worn through, my voice singing praises, and my cup overflowing. After all, it was all GodStuff right? And yet I’ve been stuck in this weird, post-victory void; one that both leaves me exhausted and yet feeling guilty that I’m not handling the celebratory victory very well. In fact I’m pretty much sucking at it.

Ugh.

I’ve been in need of some encouragement of late. I desperately needed to hear God tell me it was okay to feel this way, that He understood- even if my feelings are counter-intuitive to the situation- maybe especially because they don’t match the season.

And then I happened upon Elijah. After his epic spiritual victory over Jezebel’s priests in 1 Kings 19, we find him running, alone, hungry, tired, and afraid... spiritually Stuck. So much so he asks God to die right then and there (fortunately I’m not personally <there> but man I can relate!)

God met him right where he was- alone, discouraged, restless and yet exhausted...

“And he lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him, "Arise and eat." And he looked, and behold, there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the Lord came again a second time and touched him and said, "Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you." And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” 1 Kings‬ ‭19:5-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

This struggling and depressed prophet, one of the mightiest in the Bible- rested. When Stuck, God sent sustenance. He gave him rest, He let him lie down, He fed him and gave him shade. His angel actually came a second time to revitalize him again.

I love that. I desperately needed to have permission to rest and be a bit overwhelmed at the past battles. God knows me... as He knew Elijah... as He knows you.

What a relief! What a thought! What grace!

Sometimes I have a tendency to struggle against my Stuck. I look around and I think I’m doing it wrong- and that pulls me down even further. And yet, there is grace even within the quagmire of being spiritually Stuck- whether it be metaphorical or physical- God allows His servants rest, rejuvenation, and revitalization.

So, dear one, if you’re feeling Stuck, take heart and know you’re not alone. Jeremiah encourages us, even in the Stuck, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭40:28-31‬

Praying God's Names- Jehovah Mekoddishkem

Jehovah – MekoddishkemI Am the One Who Sanctifies

You are a Holy God. There is only goodness in You. Sin cannot be in your presence. So, you made a way for me, sinful as I am, to come before you. You set me apart from the world when you saved me. You made me different from the inside out. Now I come to you through grace; the grace of the cross.

Before the cross, the priests were continually offering sacrifices to atone for the people. So many laws, rules & regulations no one could live up to all of them. The Law shows me my failure, my sin. Jesus cleanses me & makes me holy. Jesus is the final sacrifice, the final atonement. Because He is at Your right hand, I am able to approach you freely. I can worship you. I can ask of you. You freely give.

You gave the Israelites the Sabbath as a reminder that they are your chosen possession & are to be set apart from the world. The Sabbath is the reminder that it is You who make us holy. You created the Sabbath for our good. You instructed the Israelites to keep it. Do no work; reflect on the greatness & goodness of God. It is a holy day to be used as rest for the body & refreshment for the soul.

How do I “keep Sabbath”? How do I make it a holy time & not just a day to do nothing? How do I make it a day spent focused on God? How do I focus on His love for me & for the world? I am not under the Law, but still need redemption. Is this law still valid for today? Didn’t Jesus fulfill the Law & do away with legalism? We worship in Spirit, but the Bible calls this an everlasting covenant. If we are “children of Abraham” are we required to keep our part of the covenant even though not physically a Jew?

How do I live a holy life? How do I live set apart? How do I remain a peculiar people? What do I do that shows who You are? I can do nothing on my own, in my own power or strength. All I can do is have faith in You, ask for forgiveness & plead the blood of Christ. You accept my plea & forgive. Through the blood I am sanctified for you are Jehovah – Mekoddishkem, the One Who Sanctifies.

Sabbath Rest for the body A day to remember God A day to worship

By Karen Guthrie December 4, 2008

Going Number Two

I'm excited to feature another writer today. My sister Alicia Costello has graciously written a wonderful blog for us to enjoy. Please check out her brand-new website too! ~B

My son is 4 years old and 2 months, and this kid is not. potty. trained.

Trust me, it’s not for lack of trying. He took to going number one in the potty fairly well. He goes to the potty every single time to go number one. It’s just, um, number two. He won’t go. No matter how long he is sat on the potty, he won’t do it. The second he gets that Pull-Up back on, he goes. We’ve tried everything. And it’s not only that he won’t go in the potty, but his face is one of no remorse. He’s resolved. He does not care about what we’ve asked him to do. Heck, after changing 4 Pull-Ups today before 2pm, he’s walking around my house literally butt naked because I just don’t have the mental capacity today to change another Pull-Up.

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I’m sure any mom who has potty trained can sympathize. Unless your children are robots, and in that case where do I buy robot children??!!

My husband once said, “I never understood before I had kids why it seemed like every preacher’s story was about their kids. Now I get it. Everything they do preaches to you.”

And God’s never one to waste an opportunity so of course he’s been talking to me through it.

My child has one job: to poop in the potty. We have had many, many talks about this. I have told him he can’t go to big-boy classes at school or church until he poops in the potty. He understands poop goes in the potty. I feel like God has told me, you have one job. You are to go and preach my gospel. Use the tools I’ve given you.

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And like God, I’ve given my child tools. Pull-ups. Access to the potty. And God’s given us tools, although they’re different. He’s given some an extra measure of encouragement, or some a teaching gift, or some a hospitality gift. God’s given me everything I need to do the job he’s asked me to do. And with my kid, I’ve given him everything he needs to do what I asked him to do successfully. And he still won’t do it. In fact, he takes my tools I’ve given him and just poops all over them, which is the opposite of why he has them. And I don’t know if you’re honest enough with yourself to point to a time in your life where you, even you, have taken the tools God has given us to do the exact opposite of what he wants us to do with them. I know I’ve done that more times than I care to remember.

As a mom, the second my kid actually poops in that potty, I will be so relieved and elated, I won’t even care about the years he spent being disobedient. I will just be so happy he’s being obedient now. I’ll just let that preach itself.

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But for now, I’m stuck changing Pull-Up after Pull-up. I get frustrated until I literally take the Pull-Ups away. He couldn’t even go in his pants if he tried. He has no pants. Even the act of taking the Pull-Up away preaches to me on some deeper level. Like, it reminds me of the parable of the talent where Jesus says about the unfruitful servant “even what he has will be taken away from him.” (Matt 25:29)

But, thankfully, unlike me, God is so, so patient. Even if it takes us years, God continues to give us unmerited second chance after unmerited second or third or forth or seventy-ninth chance.

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The Bible says very explicitly that God’s mercies are new every morning. So, consider today a great place to start. Apologize to him, and begin using those tools God gave you to do to accomplish the goals he’s set up just for you. Don’t be afraid of how many days you’ve spent being disobedient, just worry about your obedience today.

Take these next few sentences as your challenge:

I’ve given you the goal. I’ve given you the tools. I can’t move you on to the next season until you start being obedient in this season. I’m ready to go if you are. I’ll be beside you on this journey. I see the way. You don’t have to have it all figured out. Your job is just to trust me and obey. And if you follow me, we’ll go on an adventure together.

Destination Unknown

If you are anything like me, you love a good plan. I am a sucker for a well thought-out, finely executed plan. Add in a worthwhile and attainable destination, a point B if you will, and I’m in. I love me a great adventure. God loves adventures too. In fact, scripture is filled from cover to cover with Almighty adventures, holy quests, and God-assigned goals. He is the ultimate plan-Maker.

Except more often than not, God’s plans- His calling on our lives- has no defined end-point. He tends to leave out the destination altogether. Especially (and infuriatingly!) at the onset of each new quest. Take Abram for example, “Now the Lord said to Abram, "Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you.” (Genesis‬ ‭12:1‬ ‭ESV)‬‬ Notice the distinct lack of finale? He simply tells Abram, “...I will show you.” Anyone else get a little clammy at the lack of point B?

Destinations will come. If we follow God He will show us where to go. Step by step we will make it- wherever ‘it’ is. It’ll come- we will get there.

But that’s not the point.

God’s point B is the journey. His goal is our obedience. His finale is our faith-builder.

His outcome encompasses our personal souls, not our personal scenery.

When Abraham was 99 years old, almost 25 years into this journey of unknown destination, God established His covenant with him, “and said to him, ‘I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless, that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.’” ‭‭(Genesis‬ ‭17:1-2‬)

You notice the walking order here? Read it again....

God commands him to walk ahead of Him- eyes forward, listening for instructions from behind. In this case, God didn’t lead Abraham to the destination- He followed him... telling him the destination. The destination was the journey. “...and it was counted to him as righteousness.”

Stop today and take a look around. Listen for the Master’s word... and go. May your faith be your finale.

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” Isaiah‬ ‭30:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Be Still!

Stop struggling. Be still. Quit wrestling. Be still.

Do not panic. Be still.

Cease looking for answers. Be still.

Calm your mind. Be still.

Quit trying to figure it all out. Be still.

I got this. I have you. I am Sovereign.... El Elyon. Be still.

Rest. Come take shelter. Find peace... Jehovah-Shalom. Be still.

You are loved. You are cherished. You are seen. You are noticed. You are remembered. You are important. You are Mine... El Roi. Be still.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, "My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust." For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day, nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness, nor the destruction that wastes at noonday. A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. You will only look with your eyes and see the recompense of the wicked. Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place— the Most High, who is my refuge— no evil shall be allowed to befall you, no plague come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone. You will tread on the lion and the adder; the young lion and the serpent you will trample underfoot. "Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name. When he calls to me, I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation."” ‭‭Psalms‬ ‭91:1-16‬ ‭ESV

Be still and know I AM GOD.

14 Verses to Overcome Mom Fear

It is a pleasure to reblog a great post about overcoming fear. Abbey has wonderful advice and pulled some amazing scriptures out! She is giving away a copy of Helicopter Mom as well. You can enter the giveaway here.  

Being afraid for our kids comes naturally, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. Fear is not from God. Thankfully, God gives us promises in His Word to help us overcome the all-too-common “mom fear.”

(This post may contain affiliate links. For my full disclosure policy, click here.)

The first time Selah put herself back to sleep without one of us picking her up, I begged my husband to go in and make sure she was still breathing. I was terrified that in the 15 minutes between her waking up and going back to sleep, she had somehow gotten herself into a weird position and died.

My husband loves me, so in he went. Lo and behold, she was fine, curled up on her side, snoozing away. But that was a lesson for me.

I can choose to be afraid for my children. I can live in fear that they’re going to stop breathing or hit their head one too many times or break a bone or electrocute themselves. I can stress over every little thing and let anxiety rule my life.

But is that how God has called me to live? Absolutely not.

I can’t be afraid for my children. I can’t live in that. It’s not healthy and it’s not from God.

If He can hold the world He can hold this moment; not a field or flower escapes His notice. Oh, even the sparrow knows He holds tomorrow. (Sparrows, Jason Gray)

Fear for our kids comes all too naturally. We read horror stories online or in books, and the devil uses them to draw us farther into fear. We start automatically picturing the dresser falling on top of them when we hear a loud noise, or suffocating on a blanket when they fall asleep quickly, or falling out of their crib when we don’t go get them the second we hear them in the morning.

And of course, as good parents, we should do everything we can to keep them safe. Lower the crib mattress. Don’t pack their crib full of blankets. Secure the dressers. Cover the electrical outlets. Those are precautions, and they are good and necessary.

But living in constant fear isn’t good, it isn’t necessary, and it isn’t from God. In fact, He specifically calls us to overcome fear, and He gives us verses in His Word, time and time again, to empower us to do so.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” Philippians 4:6-7

Anxiety and thanksgiving cannot coexist. When your heart is feeling anxious for your children, begin to thank God for all His blessings. In return, He will send His peace to guard your heart and mind from fear.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew‬ ‭6:25‬-26

As moms, we fear that our children won’t have everything they need. Maybe we don’t know how we’re going to pay for groceries this month or we can’t afford to send them to a good school. Friend, God loves you, and He loves your kids. He will provide EVERYTHING you need.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7

I want you take a few minutes a memorize this verse. Set it as the background on your phone. Write it on your bathroom mirror. Hire a blimp and drag it across the sky. Whatever it takes.

Mama, this verse is your battle cry. God has not given you a spirit of fear. He has not given you an anxious heart. He has given you POWER over the lies of the enemy, LOVE for your babies, and a SOUND MIND to trust in Him. Meditate on that truth.

“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” 1 John 4:8

There is no fear in love. NONE. Do you love your kids? Then do not be afraid for them. Christ loves you, and when He died to demonstrate that love, He drove out fear once and for all. He now calls you to be made perfect in His love and to let go of your fear.

“If you say, “The Lord is my refuge,” and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.” Psalm‬ ‭91:9-12‬

Your tent=your family. If you make God your refuge and trust in Him, no harm or disaster will overtake your family. He will send His angels to protect you, guard you, and keep you safe. There’s no need to fear, because God is with you!

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13

When we trust in God, He fills us with joy and peace. Fear cannot live in a peaceful heart. If you find yourself overwhelmed with fear, you are not trusting in God. Take a moment, pray to your Father, and be filled with His peace. Then, watch your fear fade away in the light of His hope.

We cannot overcome mom fear on our own. We need the truths of the Word of God to fill us with peace and take away our anxiety and fears.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27

God doesn’t give as the world gives. He doesn’t take it back and He doesn’t give you less than you need. He has given you His peace, just enough for today. Make the choice to accept and live out His peace. Remember, you are a living gospel to your kids. Show them how to accept God’s gift of peace.

“For He Himself is our peace…” Ephesians 2:14

This fills my heart with such a feeling of safety. God Himself is my peace. He doesn’t send an angel to take His place, and He doesn’t take a day off. He is my peace. He is with me, and He will protect me from all fear.

Repeat that last line to yourself. “He is with me, and He will protect me from all fear.” That, mama, is the truth your heart needs to hear.

“God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.’ So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?’” Hebrews 13:5-6

We have no reason to be afraid. God has promised to never leave us and never forsake us. He’s there, always, forever. Man can do nothing to us, nothing to our kids. There is no need for fear.

“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” Isaiah 26:3

When we keep our minds on God, He keeps us in perfect peace. Think about it. If we are constantly thinking on the Lord, thanking Him for His blessings, remembering His promises, fear cannot exist. It is overtaken by thoughts of God, and replaced with beautiful peace.

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

This verse gives me such confidence! God is FOR US! He wants us to be safe and protected and at peace. And if He wants that for us, then that’s how it will be, and nothing can come against that. God’s will for our life is not one of anxiety and fear, and when we realize that, we can begin to live in peace.

“The Lord will keep you from all harm—He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going, both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121:7-8

This goes for you and your family. God will keep you safe. He is always watching you and taking care of you and your husband and your kids. There’s not one moment of your life that He misses, not one danger that He doesn’t see coming. God’s got you.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

This is one of my favorite promises. God is with us, so there is no need to fear. He is our God, He is strengthening us, He is helping us, and He is upholding us. How much better can it get??

We cannot overcome mom fear on our own. We need the truths of the Word of God to fill us with peace and take away our anxiety and fears.

“Whoever fears the Lord has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.” Proverbs 14:26

Not only is God looking out for us, but for our children, as well. When we fear the Lord, love Him, and serve Him, He surrounds and protects us. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! He does the same FOR OUR CHILDREN. OUR hope, OUR trust, OUR peace, it all trickles down to our kids. When we trust in God, they are protected. That is the best motivation for me to overcome my anxiety, fears, and sin, and truly TRUST God.

KEEP READING FOR A GIVEAWAY!

A couple of weeks after Selah was born, I began to struggle with mom fear. A few days later, in an answer to prayer, I came across the book “Helicopter Mom” by Bethany L. Douglas, and it changed my life.

Bethany is a mom who has struggled deeply with fear for her children. From little things to big, she knows what it is to be afraid, but she also knows how everything changes when you begin to trust God and His promises. Here are a few of my favorite quotes form the book:

“God promises so much help in return for giving up our worry and fear (in short, for obeying Him): His peace. God not only commands us not to worry, He ensures an easy pathway to peace. He promises peace and doles it out freely in exchange for our fear! All we have to do is give it to Him!”

“That’s right: Fear is an idol. Hear me well: We are sinning! We wallow in the fear, of the fear for our kids- so we put up false idols to make us feel better. This idea that we know best because we have researched it, that we know the ideal way, and we have the knowledge to back this up is nothing more than so many false idols.”

“It does not do your kids any good if all you do is focus on the image-the idea-the possibility of blood shooting out of his leg and totally miss the work of faith God is asking you to do in yourself and your children.”

This book changed my entire outlook on mothering. Fear is a lie and an idol and if I choose to live in it, I am not being the mother that God has created me to be. If this sounds like your kind of book (it is), you’re in luck, because I’m giving away a signed copy to one lucky winner! Just enter below for your chance to win!

Spiritual HissyFits

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans.  We've got 2 lessons left to go- stay with me! There's SO MUCH good stuff in Jonah! I hope you're learning as much as I am! Click here for lessons one, two, three, and four! YAY! Ninevah's been saved! As we read last time, they all (from top to bottom) repented and mourned. They changed their ways and God relented from His promised destruction. What an awesome thing! What a glorious testament to God's power! What bragging rights Jonah just earned for listening and obeying! I'd be strutting around with bells on proclaiming what a marvelous thing just occurred!

Pretty sure Jonah was too... (4:1-3) "But to Jonah this seemed very wrong, and he became angry {wait... what?!?!} He prayed to the Lord, "Isn't this what I said, Lord, when I was still at home? That is what I tried to forestall by fleeing to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live."

If I didn't know better, I'd say Jonah just threw himself a spiritual hissy-fit. (For being a bit of a fraidy-cat, the man clearly had no worries confronting the God of the universe....yikes!) It is fascinating to me how, at the pinnacle of his success, Jonah is wallowing in his own selfishness; he was actually MAD about God forgiving them! And this from a man who not 2-seconds earlier in the story was himself running away from God. I'm guessing he didn't see the parallels in his own life...

As much as I'd love to point fingers at our wayward prophet's hypocrisy here, three more would be pointing back at me. I'm not going to belabor the obvious point. Rather let's do some self-evaluation-

The question here is this, what "Nivevites' in your life are causing you to stumble and throw a spiritual hissy-fit? Who has done you wrong, or what enemy do you have that has found God... and how do you feel about it? Anyone come to mind? How are you taking the news of their repentance- with skepticism, with joy, with anger (like Jonah), with thanksgiving?

I admit there's been a few over the years that I had a hard time accepting into God's family. It's just the truth. But as we'll read about in the next installment, the problem of dealing with our new family-members lies directly with us... in our hearts, between us and God. Meditate on the following for a bit and search your thoughts (and more pointedly, your behavior!) on them...

Romans 12:9-21 (ESV)

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Start working on that now dear ones- search your heart and get it right with God. Instead of Jonah, use the Ninevites as your example. Hear the word of the Lord and repent, confess, and make it right with Yahweh. I'm right there with you!

When the Worst Teach the Best

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. Click here to read the first, second, and third posts in the #JonahSeries?  

It is no wonder that Jonah ran away from going to Niveveh. These fierce-some people were no strangers to violence- especially against Jews. Without belaboring the point, let's just say they HATED each other- and killed each other as often as possible. God telling Jonah to go evangelize them, saying that his God- Yahweh God- was going to smite them in a few days time, was nothing if not a suicide mission. I liken it to God telling one of us to go deep into the heart of ISIS and letting them know that God (the Hebrew God) is going to wipe them away.

Ummmm... no. We'd be lucky to get past the border without being slaughtered.

And yet, in the third chapter of Jonah, after his 'come-to-Jesus' time in the whale, we see him doing just that. Walking steadfastly into enemy territory- to a people who hate his people, a culture who know nothing of his God, a nation of violent warriors... the worst of the worst. But Jonah proceeds. (You gotta give it to him in the courage department.) The whale spits him out on dry ground and he steps obediently across the border to enemy territory.

Can you feel your pulse quickening? Mine sure does thinking about it.

From chapter 3 verse 3- So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the Lord. Now Nineveh was an exceedingly great city, three days' journey in breadth. Jonah began to go into the city, going a day's journey. And he called out, "Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!" And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.

Wait... what? Back up... Just like that? The entire city believed God?

I'm confused. Anyone else?

Let's go back to ISIS- you go in, walking at least a days journey (and I'm sure looking over your shoulder with every step- just waiting for the bullet in your back... or worse), you're still alive and in one piece, you give the message (still alive...), these enemies of God actually listen (still alive).... and the entire population believes you (aaaand, you're still alive!) People this is an astounding story! Think about what it's actually saying. A violent and depraved culture, who is 'bad enough' that God Himself actually takes a personal and active interest in (meditate on that for a second..), hears one man tell them one thing and they believe. They mourn, They repent. They change.

Wow. Just WOW.

How often do we children of God resist the tiny things He's trying to correct in us. Though sin is sin is sin in His eyes, very often we're not exactly dealing with murderers here. Our sin stands the same against the Nivevites- though I imagine ours rank a bit more bland in the sin department. And yet we push against His gentle correction. We tug at the boundaries of what is acceptable. We resist His guidance.

These Nivevites with their violence, hatred, idolatry... you name it... put us to shame too often in the obedience department. I think their utter dropping and repenting of their sins is a huge example to us- not only in their wholeheartedness but in their immediacy. They heard the word and they immediately repented- not the next day, or next week, or 'sometime soon'- they dropped everything and repented, begging God for mercy.

They heard the word and changed.

The worst of the worst is one of the best Biblical examples I can think of to teach the 'best' of us. Surely if the Ninevites can surrender it all to God- in spite of their wickedness- then we as actual children of God can do the same.

If there is something God is trying to correct in you, if there is sin that needs repented of, if there is a word you've been given by God... hear the message and change!

Salvation Situation

This summer at Camp Barnabas was chock-full of GodStuff, but none more pronounced than what God taught me through our daily devotionals. Camp did 4 days of devos over Jonah– one day for each chapter. Multiply that times 9 weeks of terms and I got a whole ‘lotta Jonah. You’d think for such a short book that I would have run out of material, but God had other plans. Go here to read the first and second installments in my #JonahSeries. So we're into chapter 2 of Jonah by now, and I wanted to share something that hit me profoundly during one of our devos this last summer. Although I had always thought of the whale in the Jonah story as one that was sent as punishment for our wayward sailor... a dear friend of mine had always thought of this giant as something completely different.... a savior.

Let's take a look...

Jonah has been thrown overboard, Though the physical storm on the seas immediately stops raging, Jonah's storm is just now beginning. Though the sailor's lives are now safe, Jonah's is now very much in peril. His storm has just started- he's in a pretty bad place. Out in the middle of nowhere, miles from land, sinking like a rock. Death closing in second by second.

Verse 5, "The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever..." Yes, Jonah is most certainly on a fast track to the bottom of the ocean. Certain death.

And then comes along a great beast of the sea, who swallows him whole. And suddenly, though his situation may have become significantly more odoriferous and dark (I mean, let's face it, having personally never been INSIDE a whale before, I cannot speak to the living conditions, but I imagine them as less than ideal) Jonah is ALIVE. He is no longer actively dying. What an unusual turn of events!

Jonah is suddenly smack-dab in the middle of a salvation situation.

Verse 7, "When me life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple... . But I with the voice of thanksgiving will sacrifice to you; what I have vowed I will pay. Salvation belongs to the Lord."

Jonah's prayer in the belly of that big, 'ol whale, which makes up the entirety of chapter 2, is nothing if not an obvious and immediate recognizing that this fish has saved him. Literally. Though I had not noticed it before, Jonah did immediately. He went from dying to living because of the whale. It wasn't a punishment at all, it was his salvation. As he says in verse 6, "... yet you brought up my life from the pit." I think it's no stretch to think here that not only was God bringing his life out of the pit spiritually, He was very physically bringing a behemoth from the deep to save Jonah's life.

Look back on the storms of death and chaos that have (or still are!) surrounding you. Where is the whale? What does your salvation situation look like? Do you need to reexamine those dark places in your past with a new outlook? Perhaps God sent a big, smelly, fishy, slimy whale to save you. Have you been looking (as I did) at the creature as a punishment or a savior?

Salvation Situations rarely look or feel like we think they will. More often than not there's rot, decay, blood, bones, sweat, and tears involved. But if we look more closely, we see the meager beginnings of change, growth, strength, and renewal. We see life! God often uses unusual saviors for us, I regret that we probably see them in their obvious form instead of the spiritual work they've been sent to do.

Today, take a look back and spend some time thanking God for the whales in your life. Thank Him for the big, slimy, wild, smelly, wet creatures that He sent to save you- swimming miles and miles of treacherous ocean, braving wind and sea while you are stowed safely inside to bring you to a new land. "And the Lord spoke to the fish, and it vomited Jonah out upon the dry land."