"What do you [God] gain by oppressing me?
Why do you reject me; the work of your own hands,
while smiling on the schemes of the wicked?"
Job 10:3 NLT
Confession time: When I opened the Bible app last Friday to find that we were heading into the book of Job, I wasn't thrilled.
Job is so gosh darn agonizing to read. And dramatic. And disconcerting.
It's a lot of things, really.
While I've never had my farm animals stolen; my children crushed; or broken out in unbearable boils, I do know what it's like to lose everything dear in life.
When I was a teenager, my parents divorced and life as I knew it forever changed. Everything I had ever known and loved seemed shattered to pieces, irreparable.
At 16 I found myself shaking my fists at God and demanding answers, much like Job.
Because also, like Job, I had a skewed view of God.
I grew up religious, and much like Job's friends, the church and my incorrect assessment of the Bible told me that I must have done something to deserve this punishment. Understandably, I pulled away.
But I was wrong.
And so was Job.
The advantage we have in reading about Job's life is we see the behind the scenes.
Job 1 seems like something out of a sci-fi film, as we find Satan approaching God, I imagine with a sly up-to-no-good smirk on his face.
"I have been patrolling the earth, watching everything that's going on," Satan says.
Then the Lord asks Satan, "Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless-- a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil."
Wow. Just wow.
What if Job knew that God had said such honorable things about him?
What if Job had the insight to understand that God was allowing these things to take place in his life not to punish him, but to prove his character?
While the events to follow would still have been painful, I think Job would have found shelter in God from the get-go, instead of the drama that ensued.
The same goes for my story.
(Hindsight is 20/20.)
I wish I understood then what I understand now-- that divorce was never God's plan A. But He allowed those trials to happen my life to refine me because He loves me.
Isaiah 48:10 says, "See, I have refined you, though not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction."
God wants to see what I'm really made of. When all the niceties of life fade away, and He is all that remains.
Spoiler alert: God eventually answers Job's challenge. 28 chapters later He "answered Job from the whirlwind", putting an end to Job's pity party pretty quickly and silencing the "wisdom" of his friends.
Job encountered God.
And his response? "I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance."
In times of trouble I must trust that God is good (Psalm 145:9) and He is good to me (Romans 8:28).
God does not punish His children; He proves them.
He tested Abraham loyalty when He asked Him to sacrifice Isaac. He was proven a wholehearted follower of God by his willingness to sacrifice his own son.
He tested Ruth, a young widow who had every right to play it safe and return home to her family. She was proven noble by her resolve to stay with Naomi and care for her.
He tested Joseph when he found himself engaged to a pregnant virgin. He was proven honorable when he chose to obey God, despite public shame.
Man, I wish I had the knowledge 16 years ago that I have now. But that's the essence of wisdom- it comes with experience.
It only seems appropriate to wrap this one up with one of my favorite, most encouraging verses that I've come to experience firsthand- James 1:2-4, which says,
"Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."
Trials don't define us, they refine us.
Dwelling in Him.
"You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.
I am determined not to sin in what I say.
I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
My steps have stayed on your path, I have not wavered from following you."
Psalm 17:3-5 NLT
These are the words that come to mind when I read this Psalm of David's.
David had up-and-down feelings;
He had an up-and-down life.
But he did not have an up-and-down faith.
David remained steadfast.
1. Fixed in direction
2. Firm in purpose
David was passionate about knowing God- and not letting anything or anyone come between having a deep, intimate relationship with him.
Not any distraction.
Not even service to God.
His seemingly unrivaled, passionate pursuit lies in stark contrast to our current culture which glorifies immorality, apathy, infidelity and busyness.
With all these things pulling at us, what is the secret to steadfast faith?
David shares his "secret" in Psalm 27:4, when he says, "This one thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all of the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple."
One sole focus--
How can we be steadfast for Christ?
Because Jesus was steadfast for us.
Just think about it-
He came to earth, confining His God-self to a human body.
He persevered through mockery, scorn and shame to live a sinless life on our behalf.
He endured being whipped within an inch of death, then torturous crucifixion.
And we were the one thing on His mind, the whole. entire. time.
Even now, Christ sits at the right hand of the Father, doing what--
Soaking up the glory?
No- God's Word says He is interceding for us. Every moment. Even right now. (Romans 8:34)
We were, are, and always will be the one thing on Jesus' mind.
The more I dwell in the the Lord, seeking Him, gazing upon His beauty, the more I come to understand His love and know Him more intimately.
Suddenly the glitz and glamor of the world and all its trappings pale.
Paul understood this. In Philippians 3 he wrote, "Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him." (Phil. 3:8-9)
When culture tempts and taunts me with worldly cares, may I focus on this One thing.
I'm not where I want to be, in this area- but I'm not where I used to be. As I've dwelled on what it means to be steadfast over the past several days, the cry of my heart has been that of David's in Psalm 51:10--
"Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit in me."
Dwelling in Him,
“Then Peter came to him and asked,
“Lord, how often should I forgive someone[a]who sins against me? Seven times?”
“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven!
“Therefore, the Kingdom of Heaven can be compared to a king who decided to bring his accounts up to date with servants who had borrowed money from him.
In the process, one of his debtors was brought in who owed him millions of dollars. He couldn’t pay, so his master ordered that he be sold—along with his wife, his children, and everything he owned—to pay the debt.
“But the man fell down before his master and begged him, ‘Please, be patient with me, and I will pay it all.’ Then his master was filled with pity for him, and he released him and forgave his debt.
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.
“His fellow servant fell down before him and begged for a little more time. ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it,’ he pleaded. But his creditor wouldn’t wait. He had the man arrested and put in prison until the debt could be paid in full.
“When some of the other servants saw this, they were very upset. They went to the king and told him everything that had happened.
Then the king called in the man he had forgiven and said, ‘You evil servant! I forgave you that tremendous debt because you pleaded with me. Shouldn’t you have mercy on your fellow servant, just as I had mercy on you?’ Then the angry king sent the man to prison to be tortured until he had paid his entire debt.
“That’s what my heavenly Father will do to you if you refuse to forgive your brothers
and sisters from your heart.”
Matthew 18:21-35 NLT
One thing I am passionate about is justice.
Unless we’re referring to me.
At least that’s what I’m realizing.
I want God to look on me with grace.
I want others to give me grace.
But I don’t always want to do the same for others.
In Matthew 18 we get to see more of Peter. This encounter with Peter confirms my suspicions that he and I are a lot alike…
Peter asks an excellent question of Jesus, “How many times should I forgive someone?” then, with his chest puffed out he suggests, “Seven times?”
I bet Peter was pretty proud of that answer. I mean- the same person, offending you seven times? Surely that is plenty of chances. I mean, enough is enough, right? I, too, feel pretty good about myself when I write off an offense.
But Jesus isn’t impressed.
“No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!”
Woah there! What?
I bet Peter choked on his own air.
Then Jesus continues, using this parable to change Peter’s perspective, and ours.
In the parable Jesus tells, the servant owes not just a lifetime of debt to the king, but several lifetimes worth of debt.
In other words: he could never repay it.
When you think of those millions of dollars, isn’t it crazy to think that the king would possess so much mercy that he would simply write it off at the request of the servant?
But that’s what God does for us. Extravagant grace.
Galatians 3:13 tells us, “Christ paid the price to free us from the curse that the laws in Moses’ Teachings bring by becoming cursed instead of us…” (GW)
In other words, He took the debt upon Himself.
Man. If someone walked in my life right now and paid off the debt I owe (not nearly millions), I would like to think I would respond differently than this guy – Jesus continues:
“But when the man left the king, he went to a fellow servant who owed him a few thousand dollars. He grabbed him by the throat and demanded instant payment.” (verse 28)
Seriously, dude. That’s ridiculous.
Until I begin to realize… that’s me.
Every time I hold someone at arm’s length.
Every time I don’t accept the apology.
Every time I choose to walk in offense.
Grabbing them by the throat and demanding payment.
And for what reasons--
Because they hurt my feelings?
Because they gossiped behind my back?
Because they aired their opinion?
How many times have I walked in disobedience to God’s will?
How many countless sins have I deliberately committed?
How many times have I offended Christ even just today?
The more I see my own need for God’s grace in my own life, the more freely I can offer it to others.
I’m realizing that this requires a habit I’ve gotten out of the practice of doing—confession.
I often choose not to bring up my own faults before God. I mean, I’d rather talk about something a little more uplifting, right?
"I’m already forgiven once and for all, through Christ!" I justify.
As if my pretense fools Him.
But confession is not for God’s sake.
He already knows me inside and out.
He knows my darkest thoughts, and my every move.
And He has forgiven me for past, present and future.
But what I’m realizing is that confession is for my sake.
It reminds me I’m human.
It reminds me of my need for a Savior.
And it reminds me that those who are forgiven much, forgive much.
May I never take His extravagant grace for granted.
Dwelling in Him,
“When they approached the crowd, a man came up to Jesus, kneeling before Him and saying, ‘Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is a lunatic (moonstruck) and suffers terribly; for he often falls into the fire and often into the water. And I brought him to Your disciples, and they were not able to heal him.’
And Jesus answered, ‘You unbelieving and perverted generation, how long shall I be with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring him here to Me.’
Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out of him, and the boy was healed at once.
Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and asked, ‘Why could we not drive it out?’ He answered, ‘Because of your little faith [your lack of trust and confidence in the power of God]; for I assure you and most solemnly say to you, if you have [living] faith the size of a mustard seed you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and [if it is God’s will] it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. [But this kind of demon does not go out except by prayer and fasting.]”
Matthew 17:14-21 AMP (emphasis, mine)
Goodness, me. This story has so many layers to it, and so many takeaways, that I’m still (even sitting down to write) struggling to choose a direction.
Strangely enough, my Pastor just preached and entire message on this passage just this past Sunday. I love his take (check it out here), and I’m eager to begin our church-wide 21 Days of prayer and fasting, beginning this Sunday.
Since I had already studied this scripture recently, I wanted to read it in a different translation to really dive in. The Amplified version of the Bible is a little wordy for everyday reading, but it’s great for study, as it pulls out the original, intended meaning behind each passage.
But it wasn’t any of the fancy explanations that stood out, instead, a simple string of five words: “Bring him here to me.”
Instantly I heard the whisper of the Holy Spirit ask, “What demons have you been living with?”
In other words,
What illness have you conceded to live with?
What sin can you not shake, and so you don’t even try?
What dream have you given up on?
This man had been dealing with his son’s demons for the kid’s entire life.
My guess is that he had built his life around this illness—staying by his boy’s side every minute; crazy-kid-proofing the house; declining party invitations.
Until one day he hears about twelve guys who are visiting town, praying for and healing the sick…
Can you imagine?
I’m sure this guy caught a glimmer of hope in that moment.
Maybe, just maybe these guys can heal my boy.
So he bravely steps out from his home, a pocket full of hope, and his son’s hand squeezed tight in his own.
Only to be met with disappointment.
He could have gone home, retreating to life-as-usual.
Settling for the same old, same old.
I guess it wasn’t meant to be.
Instead a holy indignation rises in the man. He squeezes his son’s hand even tighter and sets off to find Jesus.
He’s desperate this time, so he heads straight to the source… and throws himself at the feet of the supposed Son of God, looking for a miracle.
The anxious father pleads for mercy on his son’s behalf. He explains all his son’s problems (as if Jesus didn’t know), and explains everything he’s tried to get him better.
But Jesus says five simple words, “Bring him here to me.”
Or— for us, “Bring it to me.”
Bring your problem.
Bring your burden.
Bring the biggest need in your life.
Come on, I’m not afraid.
I know you’ve tried everything. I know you’ve lived like this for years. I know you’ve prayed and prayed without avail.
But, just scrounge up another ounce of faith, and bring it to me.
The truth is that there are some “demons” in my life that I’ve grown comfortable with. They keep me from living the full and abundant life Jesus promises in John 10:20.
A health issue.
An identity crisis.
An ongoing financial struggle.
Things that I once believed could be healed, but then weren’t, and then I shrunk back in disappointment.
I know in my heart that God can do anything, and yet I fail to bring these things to him because I’ve allowed myself to become desensitized to their presence in my life.
I’ve settled for “normal”. And normal does not always equal okay.
And God promises His children more than okay, anyway.
What are the “demons” in your life?
Those addictions you can’t break.
Those habits you can’t shake.
That mountain you can’t move.
I know what mine are.
We've got to grab hold of them again; stop settling for normal.
We've got to muster up our mustard-size faith.
Enough is enough-- we've got to go seek out Jesus.
Despite disappointment. Despite fear. Despite disbelief.
I’m bringing my “demons” and camping out at the feet of Jesus for the next 21 days, believing He is who He says He is, and He can do what He says He can do.
Join with me?
Let's bring it.
Dwelling in Him,
“Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone.
As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.
Peter exclaimed, ‘Lord, It’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.’”
Matthew 17:1-4, NLT
Y’all. I think I’m becoming borderline obsessed Peter.
I mean SERIOUSLY.
Fiery, unpredictable, headlong, real, raw.
This guy was unreal.
You would think that the Son of God would surround himself with some guys who had their lives together. But no, not Jesus.
He gathered together a misfit crew of blue-collar fishermen, average tradesmen, a shady tax collector and a revolutionary and called it a day.
Crazy, crazy Peter.
You know what I think?
I think Jesus saw a spark in Peter
I think that the thing that everyone saw as Peter’s weakness, Jesus saw would be his strength.
Because it takes a little bit of crazy to leave everything you’ve ever known for a man you just met (Matthew 4:18).
It takes a lot of crazy to ask a man walking on water to ask you to come walk on water too (Matthew 14:28).
It takes crazy to declare without a doubt that a has-been, local carpenter is the very Savior everyone has been waiting for (Matthew 16:16).
But what’s more, when Jesus looked at Peter He saw just the right amount of crazy it would take to spread the message of the Gospel to the world (Matthew 16:18).
Peter was passionate about Jesus.
So passionate he didn’t care what others thought of him.
He didn’t care if his dad didn’t understand why he left;
He didn’t care if he sunk to the bottom of the sea;
He didn’t care if he was laughed at, mocked and exposed;
Peter wanted to experience Jesus more than anything else in this world – every ounce of Jesus.
That’s why I’m not surprised to find Peter here, on the mountaintop.
One of the special, chosen three who got to see Jesus in all His glory, here on earth.
Because Peter was serious about Jesus.
He wanted Him more than anything else.
More than security.
More than notoriety.
More than blessings.
And when we want Jesus “more than anything else”, He makes sure we aren’t disappointed.
I smiled when I read, “Jesus took Peter…” because I could just imagine the look in Peter’s eyes, accepted, loved and brought in by Jesus. His every hunger filled in the presence of Jesus.
I love God’s promise in Jeremiah 29, verses 13-14. The Message phrases it like this:
“’When you come looking for me, you’ll find me. Yes, when you get serious about finding me and want it more than anything else, I’ll make sure you won’t be disappointed.’”
Peter walked on water, witnessed miracles, spoke to the risen Savior, preached at Pentecost, and was even rescued by an angel (among other things). He lived and breathed Jesus.
Phew. I’d say that’s quite a lot of excitement for an “average” guy.
So here's my new, dangerous prayer, "Lord, make me crazy."
Dwelling in Him,
"So it was God who sent me here, not you!
And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharaoh-- the manager of his entire palace and the governor of all Egypt."
Genesis 45:8 NLT (emphasis, mine)
There are so many things I absolutely LOVE about the power of small group (more than I have room for here!), but one of my most favorites is the array of wisdom and experience each and every woman brings to the table each week.
Our current study is on the topic of rejection, which leaves much to discuss. Last night as we were delving into everything from trust issues to friendship breakups, my sweet friend Joni spoke a nugget of truth into the air that left us all rubbing our chins and saying, "Hmm."
She said (and this could be botched slightly, so forgive me):
"It's not the events of our life that shape us-- it's our perception of those events."
I must admit I had to think about that one for a bit. So many quotes created to move me forward often leave me standing still in my tracks because they're simply not true.
But this one does not fall in that category.
Joseph's life is pristine example of this truth. And, oh, have I mentioned how much I love Joseph's story? Probably because it seems much like my own, at times... although, it took me years to come to the conclusion He did.
Let's re-hash Joseph's life:
Thrown in a well- check.
Sold into slavery- check.
Lied about- check.
Thrown into prison- check.
If he wanted to, he had a lot he could be bitter about.
Joseph could have chosen to view his life's events through his own, limited perspective, then spent the rest of his life asking God, "Why?"
"Why did that happen, God?"
"God, you could have stopped _______."
"Why did you allow this to happen that way?"
(These are the ruts I often find myself stuck in.)
But Joseph had a higher perspective. Joseph looked back on his life and didn't see himself as a victim-- hated, rejected, despised and forgotten.
Instead he saw the hand of God, weaving every person, promotion, trial and triumph together into a story for His glory.
So, instead of condemning his brothers for starting the strange chain of both unfortunate and fortunate events in his life, Joseph is able to say, emphatically, "...it was God who sent me here, not you! And he is the one who made me an adviser to Pharoah."
One of my favorite quotes from our current small group read says, "It's impossible to hold up the banners of victim and victory at the same time." (Lysa TerKeurst, "Uninvited").
Sometimes I have a difficult time not falling into a victim mentality when life isn't going my way. After all, it's easier to be a victim.
In these times like these my heart-wrenching cry to God is, that of David's in Psalm 61:2, "From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I."
The rock that is higher than I, Jesus. The ultimate Victor.
Who exists outside of time and space and sees my life from beginning to end.
Who allowed this for my good, and His glory.
And He is using every part to create a beautiful God-story.
Dwelling in Him,
"But the words you speak come from the heart-- that's what defiles you.
For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander.
These are what defile you. Eating with unwashed hands will never defile you."
Matthew 15:18-20 NLT (emphasis, mine)
Most of the time I live like the point of my life is simply not to "rock the boat"...
But Jesus certainly didn't shy away from offending anyone.
The Jews assumed the long-awaited Savior would reprimand the sinners and the Gentiles, but instead Jesus spent most of His time preaching about the goodness of the Kingdom, and setting the religious people straight.
They had gotten off track. In their humanness, they grabbed hold of the Old Testament Law and ran with it. It makes sense- it was a tangible measurement of how godly they were. A way to judge whether they were good enough to get to God. A way to "one up" their neighbor and feel a little better about their own life.
But Jesus came to flip all that on its back.
Jesus pulls a passive-aggressive move in Matthew 15:11 when He says to the crowds, "It's not what goes into your mouth that defiles you; you are defiled by the words that come out of your mouth."
Gasp! The disciples were sweating in their robes. The Pharisees were not going to be happy about this.
But Peter... oh, bold Peter, steps up and says, "Jesus. Hey Jesus- I'm a little confused. Why don't you explain that one a little more?"
Maybe he truly didn't understand. Or maybe he wanted to make sure those pompous Pharisees heard it one more time, so Jesus explains:
"...the words you speak come from the heart... eating with unwashed hands will never defile you."
In essence: It's not about your outside act-- what comes out of your mouth will show what is really in your heart.
You can wash your skin, but your heart is still dirty.
It's easy for me to sit behind my phone or computer screen and act like I have my life together. Act like I love God. Act like I care about people.
But what do my words say about the real condition of my heart?
I can fake submission when my heart is still rebellious.
It'll come out.
I can fake love when my heart is full of jealousy.
It'll come out.
I can fake humility when my heart is full of pride.
It'll come out.
Time and time again the Bible reminds us it's the heart that matters most.
"A good man," Jesus once said, "brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings forth evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of." (Luke 6:45).
I want my inward heart condition to match my outward presentation. Which means I must submit my heart and my life to God, allowing Him to "Search me... and know my heart" (Psalm 139:23).
I must humbly submit every area to Him, allowing Him to point out corners where I am hiding anger, unforgiveness, and unloving ways and wash me with His will and His Word.
Lord, fill my heart with good things!
Dwelling in Him,
"After sending them home, [Jesus] went up into the hills by Himself to pray. Night fell while He was there alone.
Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.
About three o'clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw Him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, 'It's a ghost!'
But Jesus spoke to them at once. 'Don't be afraid,' he said. 'Take courage. I am here!'
Then Peter called to him, 'Lord, if it's really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.'
'Yes, come,' Jesus said. So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus."
Matthew 14:23-29 NLT (emphasis, mine)
I have a new ambition in life:
To be crazy like Peter.
I mean, this story is nuts, right? And every time I read about this *actual occurrence* (because I have to remind myself it. was. REAL.) it just gets crazier to me.
It's hard to imagine myself on anything other than a cruise ship, let alone a stone-age yacht built without the fancy tools and technology we have at our disposal today.
But when I read this story, I always try to imagine myself, on that boat, with the disciples...
So, it's 3:00am. We're out in the middle of nowhere, and things aren't looking good. At this point I'm curled up in a fetal position in the corner of the boat, drenched with smelly lake water, and just wishing the nightmare would be over.
Then here comes Jesus.
Walking on the water.
Nah. Surely I'm hallucinating.
He shouts, "Don't be afraid- You can be brave now, because I'm here!"
Oh, thank God. Jesus is here. Surely He will fix this mess and keep me safe.
But just as we cast the ladder over, Peter speaks up, "Lord, if it's really you, tell me to get out of this boat and walk on the water with you."
What? What kind of request is that even?
Not a, "Lord, if you could stop these wind and waves that would really help my fear levels right about now."
"Come on into the boat, Jesus- let's calm this storm and then I wanna try that whole walking on water trick."
No. Peter, in the midst of the storm, needs to know that it's Jesus. So he puts Him to the test...
"Sure, come on out, the water's fine!" Jesus responds.
Now at this point Peter has to be second-guessing himself. He stares out into the darkness...
If I'm wrong, and this guy isn't real like He says He is;
if this guy isn't trustworthy like He says He is;
if the guy isn't able like He says He is...
I'm going down, down, down.
But he does it anyway. Swings one leg over, then another, and against all odds, Peter-- crazy Peter-- steps out onto the water.
And he walks.
Forget the rest of the story. People like to berate Peter for his lack of faith.
"Oh, Peter, if only you had kept your eyes on Jesus," they tease.
Ahem. When was the last time you walked on real, actual water with the Son of God?
In the midst of the storms of life, I often cower in the corners of my "boat", praying God would deliver me. But Jesus doesn't want to just fix my mess and keep me safe-- He wants for me to experience Him in the midst of the mess.
God wants me to get a little crazy, like Peter.
Because it's only when I step out of the boat in hot pursuit of Jesus, because I have to know, "Jesus if it's really you,"...
Then I find out--
Jesus is real like He says He is;
Jesus is trustworthy like He says He is;
Jesus is able like He says He is.
And He's never going to let me down.
I'd rather be accused of being a little crazy, and experience the thrill of walking on "water" with Jesus, than play it safe and never experience the fullness of Who He is.
Dwelling in Him,
"When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.'
But Jesus said, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.'
They said to him, 'We have only five loaves here and two fish.'
And he said, 'Bring them here to me.'
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.
And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children."
Matthew 14:14-21, ESV (emphasis, mine)
The older (and wiser) I get, the more I realize how little I have to give God.
I used to lay out before Him my talents, my strengths, my knowledge, holding them up one by one, like a little girl with a collection of plastic pearls. "Look what I can do for you, God!"
I thought they were of great value...
But now all I tend to see is the great need of the world, and my own lack to give.
The disciples, too, had a lack. They found themselves in a "desolate" place, surrounded by a stadium's worth of men, women and children who would soon need something to eat.
They opened their lunch boxes and did the math: 5 loaves and 2 fishes. Their stomachs rumbled. Half a loaf for Jesus, half a loaf for Simon, half a loaf for Matthew...
It didn't take long for the disciples to decide it would be wise to have Jesus to send the people elsewhere.
We don't have enough here.
Jesus' response was ridiculous, "They don't need to go away- you feed them!"
"Jesus, did you hear us right? We only have FIVE loaves and TWO fishes."
"Bring them here to me," Jesus urged, a wry smile spreading over His bearded face.
What must the disciples have thought?
Well, it looks like we'll all be fasting.
But then Jesus does something amazing. He takes the little bit they had- those simple, unimpressive five loves and two fishes, and He blesses them. He breaks the bread and hands it back to the twelve to be passed out.
Now, I don't know how long it takes to distribute food to 5,000+ people, but at some point, the disciples must have come to the realization that they had witnessed a monster-sized miracle.
What's more, not only did the entire crowd of 5,000 men (and who knows how many women and children) get to eat, but the disciples didn't have to fast after all: "All were satisfied".
Being a small group leader, I am often burdened of the needs of those God has placed around me. It can feel like a desolate place. After taking inventory of my own limitations I confront God, "God, there's not enough here for what you're needing."
The disciples couldn't meet the need of the crowds, and I can't either...
But Jesus just asks for me "little bit"--
My little bit of money.
My little bit of encouragement.
My little bit of time to stop and talk to somebody.
My little bit of courage to do something brave.
"But God, it's just a little bit- surely You can't use that."
"But God, how many people can that really help?"
Yes, without Him my talents, strengths and knowledge seem oh-so-small for God to do anything with. "Only five loaves and two fish". Limited.
If I choose to hold them in doubt, fear or selfishness they will only satisfy me. Limited.
But when I place them in His hands--surrendering my wants, my doubts, my fears-- it is then that He is able to bless them, break them, and use them to satisfy the hunger of others. Unlimited.
God wants to take the lid off my life.
And all He asked is that I live open-handed, giving Him the little bit I have, in holy surrender, and leave the results up to Him.
Dwelling in Him,
"So Potiphar gave Joseph complete administrative responsibility over everything he owned. With Joseph there, he didn't worry about a thing...
Joseph was a very handsome and well-built young man, and Potiphar's wife soon began to look at him lustfully.
'Come and sleep with me,' she demanded. But Joseph refused.
'Look,' he told her, 'my master trusts me with everything in his entire household. No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God?'"
Genesis 39:6-9 NLT
One of the few words the Lord has been repeatedly teaching me about over the past several months is integrity. The Bible talks a lot about integrity directly, throughout the Psalms and Proverbs, but here, God gives us a picture of it.
If anyone had a reason to go "rogue", it was Joseph. Here he was, maliciously sold into slavery by his brothers, taken away to a country not his own. Instead, Joseph chooses to work in excellence. Honoring God, despite his cruddy circumstances.
The Bible tells us that God blessed him because of this, and "he succeeded in everything he did".
Potipher notices this, and grants him even more power:
"...he soon made Joseph his personal attendant. He put him in charge of his entire household and everything he owned."
As a slave, this is an unusual scenario. Put in charge of everything? Potipher's trust in Joseph was obviously great... because of his integrity.
Recently as I was looking into this subject of integrity, I looked up the definition:
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished:
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition:
My eyes honed in on 2: "the state of being whole".
Immediately, God showed me a picture of a beautiful quilt, but this quilt had small holes in it, throughout. Holes so big that you could stick a finger through. What a shame.
He then spoke to me about my own life and asked, "Is your life whole or full of holes?"
Meaning, is my life sound (free from defect)?
Is it the same behind-the-scenes as it is in public?
Am I the same person with my friends as I am with those I lead?
...Or do I have holes?
Behaviors permissable with some but not others.
Words I've spoken about others that I wouldn't want them to hear.
Attitudes in my heart that lead to less-than-best work.
Joseph was whole.
Even when continually flattered and tempted by Potiphar's wife, he stood his ground. He said, "No one here has more authority than I do. He has held back nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God?" (verse 9).
Joseph remembered that God it was God who had given him the authority he had.
He remembered Potiphar trusted him.
He remembered it wasn't just his reputation was at stake, but God's too.
Now, things didn't go perfectly for Joseph, despite his integrity, and they won't all of the time for us either- but that's not up to us. But our integrity is.
The bottom line is: God honors integrity.
Ultimately Joseph's integrity withstood the test of time, despite the lies that were told about him, and he was promoted-- even in prison.
What about me...
How would my life stand up under criticism?
Would my actions speak for themselves?
Do I do what I say I'm going to do... with excellence?
Does my life honor God across the board?
I hope so.
More and more my desire is to be a woman of integrity, my life as whole as Joseph's. A life that honors God in every area- not just out in the open, but behind-the-scenes.
"How can a young person stay on the path of purity? By living according to your Word." Psalm 119:9
...and the only way to live according to His Word is to be in His Word and know His Word.
Dwelling in Him,
A little about me...
Hi, I'm Katie!
Wife to Craig, mom of three, author, writer, Rooted Moms founder, Jesus-follower, Bible teacher, and coffee enthusiast.
Follow me as I follow Christ and share my heart throughout the journey.