Saturday, December 23, 2017


With faith comes expectation... and patience. A friend once described life as picking one's way through a bog in heavy weather conditions. We may not know where to put the next foot, but as we look at God's faithfulness in the steps leading up to this point, He gives confidence that His Word is true. We can step into the unknown, confident He will continue to lead and provide.

God was historically silent for 400 years. Then He came in the flesh. Regardless of today's hardship, pain, confusion, or chaos, I can be confident in God's provision and work. And the more I get to know Him, the easier it is to wait.

Take Christmas as an example. The number of days of December hasn't changed since I was young, but my perspective has. And it's a lot easier to wait today than it was forty years ago.

Take heart. He is at work. It may take a year. Or five. Or twenty. Or a lifetime. But He who called you is faithful, who also will do it (1 Thessalonians 5:24).

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:18-39 ESV)

Monday, December 18, 2017

Giving Too Much

In preparing for Christmas and giving gifts to those we love, is it possible to give too much? Not according to marketers, vendors, and children!

In my Bible reading this morning, people were giving too much. They were so excited they didn't stop until they were told. No, it wasn't Christmas that got them wound up, it was the new tabernacle.

And all the skillful men who were performing all the work of the sanctuary came, each from the work which he was performing, and they said to Moses,“The people are bringing much more than enough for the construction work which the Lord commanded us to perform.” So Moses issued a command, and a proclamation was circulated throughout the camp, saying, “Let no man or woman any longer perform work for the contributions of the sanctuary.” Thus the people were restrained from bringing any more. For the material they had was sufficient and more than enough for all the work, to perform it. (Exodus 36:4-7)

When is the last time your church told everyone to stop giving? "That's enough, you can stop giving now." Wouldn't that be something? The Bible tells us that God moved the people and they responded.

That led me to think about Christmas. Is it possible to give too much? Here are some truths about Christmas gifts:

- I can never give more than God has given me; therefore, what I give is His to begin with. "What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" (1 Corinthians 4:7) Am I using God's good gifts the way He would?

- It's easy to focus on the wrong person. I may say my focus is the receiver, but it's easy for my thoughts to focus on what I give, how much I give, or how thoughtful I am, making it more about me than anyone else. Instead, it should be about God, the greatest Giver of all. "By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him." (1 John 4:9) What is my focus in giving?

-Giving, like every other part of my life, should make much of God. "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16) In what ways does my giving point others to Christ?

- Giving with God in mind puts practical boundaries on my giving:
      I spend within my means. "...the borrower becomes the lender’s slave." (Proverbs 22:7).
      I meet my daily responsibilities and obligations. "But if anyone does not provide for his own, and 
          especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever."
          (1 Timothy 5:8) "Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might..." (Ecclesiastes
      I do what is right and trust God with the rest."Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil;
          cling to what is good.... Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath  
          of God..." (Romans 12:19).

Somehow, in this Christmas season, we get overwhelmed with emotion and a desire for the elusive "Spirit of Christmas." In all of our giving, wouldn't it be wonderful if God was seen more clearly? If Jesus was made evident in our responses (online and in person)? If Christ was magnified in our sleeping, eating, and loving?

The reminder to myself is that, yes, I can give too much, I can give for the wrong reasons, and I need to rearrange my thoughts and attitude (confess and repent). It is a reminder to be Jesus to those around me regardless of the giving, the greed, discontent, disappointment, and despair that surrounds the season because being like Jesus is so much better than simply remembering Him.

Those who walk with God reach their destination.

Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:9-21 NASB)

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

If... Then and the Trouble of Sin

Our world runs by a predictable set of natural laws in regard to gravity, energy, matter, even sowing and reaping. The world of science pivots on "if..then" statements and principles.

In our own lives, we count on positive "if..then's" to come true and beg negative ones to go away. At least I do. I think I should be able to eat whatever I want whenever I want without consequences. I want to binge on Netflix and have a clean house, folded laundry and a beautiful meal at the end of the day. Sometimes I just want a nap--but I don't want it to interfere with the rest of my life.

This morning as I read Exodus 22-24, I was struck by the "if...then" statements. "If a man lets a field or vineyard be grazed bare and lets his animal loose so that it grazes in another man’s field, he shall make restitution from the best of his own field and the best of his own vineyard." (Ex. 22:5). There are a lot of examples--and restitution is expected when a person is at fault for another's loss. It's common sense. It's right. It's God's way.

But a passage in the next chapter made me stop and think about how we deal with sin in our own lives. Not just the "oopsies" of life--sins that catch us off guard and happen sporadically--but deep, settled, entrenched sin that is firmly established. There is a connection between the Old and New Testaments and in this case I am going to draw a parallel between the Canaanites (people who lived in the Promised Land before Israel's occupation) and sin.

In Exodus 23:29, God said, "I will not drive them [Hivites, the Canaanites, and the Hittites] out before you in a single year, that the land may not become desolate and the beasts of the field become too numerous for you."

Often, I want the sin gone. Now. All of it. I want freedom. I want the spiritual fight to be over. I just. want. relief. But God says that's not best. He knows the outcome of "all at once." If we receive total freedom from an entrenched enemy, we will not be able to maintain and establish it for good. The land will go to waste and the beasts of the field will multiply before we're ready. We need to move as He allows, thankful for the success God provides over time.

Exodus 23:30 continues, "I will drive them out before you little by little, until you become fruitful and take possession of the land." God's desire that we would bear fruit (see John 15:2,4,5,8). He's not concerned with relief, effort, or ease. He is making Himself known through our stewardship. How am I stewarding the most recent area of life He's given? Until I am faithful with the new work He's doing in my life, He will not add more.

Here's another principle of overtaking sin: God delivers us, He will provide the boundaries, but we must do the work.

Exodus 23:31 says, "I will fix your boundary from the Red Sea to the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness to the River Euphrates; for I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you." Ridding ourselves of sin is not effortless. It's not magical mumbo-jumbo. It requires step by step, one foot after the other taking ground. We must stop to fight, collect our whits, and press into the fray. It will take days, weeks, months. We will experience spiritual thirst, need, hunger, dust up our nose and in our eyes, fatigue, and temporary setbacks, but God gives deliverance. It's His will for us to overcome sin through Jesus' death and resurrection. It's God's way of making us more and more like His precious Son, Jesus (Romans 8:28-29).

As we fight and press forward, we cannot give in to treaties with the enemy: " You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods." (Exodus 23:32). Statements like, "Just this once," "No one will know," "I deserve...." have no place in overtaking sinful habits. We cannot move forward spiritually and maintain friendship with the enemy. It's all or nothing.

God completes this portion with these words, " They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.”" (Exodus 23:33). In other words, it's Nada. Zilch. Outta here. Gotta go. No trinkets, reminders, or souvenirs of our sin. Making provision for the flesh, for that sin we love, will continue to needle us, make it's way into our thoughts and keep us from serving God wholeheartedly.

In other words, "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life." (Galatians 6:7-8)

What are you fighting today? Don't give up. Don't lose hope. "Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass." (1 Thessalonians 5:24)

PS--If your struggle is too big, or too hard, or too great, that's because God doesn't expect you to do it on your own. He's giving you an opportunity to humble yourself, cry out to Him, ask for help, and include others. God to Jesus--"for apart from Me you can do nothing." Take Him up on His offer. He's good for it.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Playing the Fool

Maybe you, like me, say and do things you later regret. Lately I've been reminded of times I was simply a jerk. I said or did things for shock value or to draw attention to myself, only to be marginalized or looked at dumbly. Now what?

After reading helpful books on pride and humility* it has become apparent that the culprit is pride (surprise! Not.). And, thanks to one of my biblical counseling friends, I can ask the question, "Where's the sin?" There are times I have legitimately sinned in word and/or deed by being unkind, impatient, selfish, inconsiderate. At other times I am simply me, my sinful self, without a specific sin against another. Either they just don't like me or a public setting is inappropriate for an apology (which would draw more attention to myself, not less). That's when I am learning to "let it go."

This is where the unseen flow chart comes in. Sin or no sin? If sin, acknowledge my wrong and Jesus' complete forgiveness, confess the sin to myself and others, walk in repentance by God's grace. No specific sin against another? (This is harder because I still burn from shame.) Admit my pride and desire to be like or admired. Confess it as sin to God and ask for His grace to change. Acknowledge that some people simply won't like me--because it's not about me (surprise! Not.)--and move on, looking for opportunities to practice humility by loving and serving others.

As I studied humility, these phrases consternated me, "humble yourself," "humble your souls." According to Scripture either we humble ourselves or God does it for us. So how? How do I humble myself?

Here are some things I learned--

  • Read the Bible, praying for a greater awareness of my personal limits and God's immense greatness. “Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel; I will help you,” declares the Lord, “and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.(Isaiah 41:14)
  • Grow in awareness of my personal responsibility and stop. Full. stop. when I've done my part.Stop seeking control of people and situations; wait to see what God will do. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the Lord. (Lamentations 3:24-26)
  • Grow in awareness of those around me--what are they feeling, seeing, hearing in this moment? Do they have specific needs? How can I express love and concern (within my personal bubble of responsibility)? Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus... (Philippians 2:3-5)
  • Accept the fact that I am no better, greater, more important than anyone else and vice versa. I am simply me with the gifts, resources, and abilities God has given. They are themselves, wholly and totally, with the gifts, resources and abilities God has given them. For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Corinthians 4:7)

The key is knowing God, knowing me. That is the central theme of Job chapters 38-41. Who am I? Really? And who is God? Is that evident in the way I speak, conduct myself, in my attitudes and actions. If others determine the greatness of God by what they see and hear in my life, what kind of God do I serve?

If I do not humble myself, God in His sovereign love and grace will reach down and do it for me. He's just that good. And it's one more way He's making me more like His precious Son, Jesus Christ.

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:1-13 NASB)

* From Pride to Humility by Stuart Scott, Humility: True Greatness by C.J. Mahaney, The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness by Timothy Keller to name a few

Monday, November 13, 2017

"No More Bad News, Please"

This week I have been made aware of my tendency and desire to avoid suffering. When I see a sad Facebook post, hear an angry comment or complaint, or catch the news, I cringe and turn away. Ugh. I know I shouldn't, but I do.

Unlike His creatures, Jesus walked boldly into a mass of lepers, touched the sick, healed the lame, dialogued with the demon-possessed. He brought life, hope, peace and joy. He is the Good Shepherd.

Part of our human condition is called expectation. We have an expectation, or desired outcome, for everything. We expect coffee to get us up and running, we expect a daily routine, we expect the washer and dryer to work, we expect our children to listen. But sometimes (?) God has a different plan. He sees a greater need.

This morning's devotional came from Numbers 20:1-13 where the people of Israel ran out of water in the wilderness:

“Would that we had perished when our brothers perished before the Lord! Why have you brought the assembly of the Lord into this wilderness, that we should die here, both we and our cattle? And why have you made us come up out of Egypt to bring us to this evil place? It is no place for grain or figs or vines or pomegranates, and there is no water to drink.” 

And the thoughts came, "Did they really expect a place of grain, figs, vines and pomegranates? You're kidding me? Why, all of a sudden, are they prepared to die? At that point would it really matter if they had cattle or not?"

They had a need, a desperate need--but they wanted so much more. They wanted what God hadn't promised. Their imaginations had carried them where God did not intend to take them...yet.

Many of us are familiar with Philippians 4:19: "And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." The unasked question is: how do I know my need? And the answer is: because God will supply it.

If I perceive a need that God's not meeting, there's a bigger one behind it. There's something greater, something more, something unseen that God is doing. I don't need pomegranates and vines. I need water.

Then Moses and Aaron went from the presence of the assembly to the entrance of the tent of meeting and fell on their faces. And the glory of the Lord appeared to them, and the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Take the staff, and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron your brother, and tell the rock before their eyes to yield its water. So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give drink to the congregation and their cattle.” And Moses took the staff from before the Lord, as he commanded him.

God knew the need and only He could meet it. Need water? Got a rock? Really? He doesn't need a specific set of circumstances or "just the right person for the job." He really. doesn't. "need." anything. to take care of us. He does it through His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Jesus made the way for us to interact with God, to receive grace, forgiveness, mercy, and kindness. It is only through Jesus we come to God and call Him, "Father."

And here's where I've been lately:
Then Moses and Aaron gathered the assembly together before the rock, and he said to them, “Hear now, you rebels: shall we bring water for you out of this rock?” And Moses lifted up his hand and struck the rock with his staff twice, and water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their livestock. And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not believe in me, to uphold me as holy in the eyes of the people of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this assembly into the land that I have given them.” 

In other words, "Moses, this is not about you. It's not about your leadership, your desires, expectations, frustration, or ability. I have provided and you contaminated my grace with anger and unbelief. You took it upon yourself to communicate your displeasure by hitting the rock--twice--instead of talking to it. You wanted the people to see you bring forth water. I told you to talk to the rock. You hit it. How did you display my generosity? My gentleness? My power? My holiness? Who are you to use my goodness as a platform for your displeasure?"

These are the waters of Meribah, where the people of Israel quarreled with the Lord, and through them he showed himself holy.

In reading Facebook posts of suffering, pain, and uncertainty, I am not called to fix or change anything. But I can pray, extend grace and love. In reading the news, I have an opportunity to talk to God, to reach out as the Lord allows, to interact with a suffering world and the individuals around me. I can give to others as the Lord has given to me--no less, no more. So what kind of grace and mercy have I received from the Lord today? Have I interacted with His Word and in prayer to the point that my heart and soul are reminded of His goodness and filled with His grace? I will reach out to others with the Spirit, grace, and kindness I have received and taken for myself.

How deeply are you drinking of the rock?

For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness.

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play.” We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Cor. 10:1-13)

Sunday, November 5, 2017

For Women Only (or Not): Riding the Struggle Bus

Alright, ladies. I'm going to lay it out there. Because I'm not a man. Because I do know. Because we're in this together.

Last week I was just. angry. frustrated. irritated. Under-the-skin crawling. At my husband. My children. My mother-in-law. The youth leaders. The people in hallway at church. Which means it wasn't them, it was me.

Here's the hard truth. When "that time of the month" hits, it's not an excuse to be crabby, cranky, difficult, know the drill. When I'm feeling out of sorts, frustrated and angry with the world, it's time to examine my heart. "My heart?" Yes, my heart. Because,

"...the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." (Matthew 5:18-19)

Yes, hormones may be off and we know everyone else isn't as perfect as we are--but--the problem is not physical. The problem is spiritual. In the book, Blame it One the Brain, Ed Welch says there's a difference between physical limitations and sin. He discusses brain injury, ADHD, senility and Alzheimer's and arrives at the conclusion that they do not cause sinful behavior, but they may remove inhibitions. In other words, what's going on in the heart may be exposed as a result of physical injury, change or dysfunction, but physical infirmities do not create sin. They simply reveal our heart and desires.

May I walk out on a limb and say the same is true of us? Our hormonal, physical state may remove some inhibiting forces and expose what is really going on under the surface of our normal, everyday machinations. What that means is that the change and flux is not an excuse for misbehavior, but an opportunity for sanctification. It's an opportunity for me to examine my heart: what makes me angry? Why am I angry? What do I really want that I'm not getting right now? What's happening in my thoughts? Why?

It's also an opportunity for me to depend more and more on Jesus Christ. How many times do I cry, "Help me, Lord," or "I need you," or "I was wrong. You are right."

And, last week, as I struggled and wrestled and prayed I was afraid of the future, of that l-o-n-g period of time when everything's up for grabs and life is difficult. But I was reminded that will be yet another opportunity to lean on the Lord, to learn humility and exercise grace. It is not a "valley of the shadow of death," but a mountain to climb.

If you are a man that wants to share this with a woman--be careful. Don't (if you value your life, peace, and the pursuit of happiness). Instead, pray. Wait. Love. Extend grace. Encourage. And, as the Lord allows, He will work His perfect will in her life. Because guess what? It's your struggle-bus, too. It's your opportunity to be sanctified, to experience being out-of-control, to see what's in your heart. So read it again. Because guess what? This is for all of us.

So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it...

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. (Romans 8:16-29)

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Effective Service

So I heard myself pray, "God, please keep me lowly of heart and effective..... Is that possible?"

I said it again and realized the lie. It's as if  one negates the other--humility and effectiveness. "Really?" I asked. "Yes," I answered. How often we think that that to do something well we need to be "at the top of our game," "locked and loaded," "ready for bear" when God says something entirely different.

Jesus is our example and He was most effective when He thought of others as more important than Himself. He was successful when He did not look out for His own interests, when He looked to the interests of others, when He did not seek His station or equality, when He emptied Himself, took the form of a bondservant, took on a lowly appearance, and became obedient to the point of death on the cross (Phil. 2:3-8).

The lie, then, is that I have to "be someone" to be used; that others must see me as important, respected, and worth their time. The opposite, in God's kingdom, is true.

Do I consider others more important than myself? Do I let them go first in traffic? Hold doors open? Adjust my schedule and preferences for theirs?

How often do I consider another's interests? Priorities? Likes and dislikes?

Do I ever take the last place? Put myself behind others in conversation, seating, or decision- making?

How willing am I to give up my rights? To yield to others, be flexible, and seek peace at my expense?

Am I content with a lowly appearance? Or do I need to impress others? Look better than? Younger than? More attractive than?

And am I obedient to God regardless of the cost? Or do I, like Cain, argue that God is too demanding, too harsh, too unkind? (Gen. 1:13)

In and through it all is the realization that a) it's not about me, it's about God's praise and glory and b) I am not serving God--He is serving me. Any act of service, any kindness, or gift is done through His enabling. God cannot be served by human hands. There is nothing we have to offer that He will accept. But Jesus. Jesus came to serve--and He continues to serve by His Spirit, through His people, empowering us with His Word. God will accept the work of Jesus Christ. It is all we have to offer--ourselves in Christ.

The right prayer, then, is, "God, please help me recognize my rightful place; to be lowly of heart and, as you see fit, fruitful in your service."

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things; and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and exist... (Acts 17:24-28 NASB)

"For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)

[Jesus said], "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." (John 15:4-5) 

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A True Reflection

There are times I walk by a mirror and know I don't want to see what's there.  Other times I need a mirror to make one part of myself presentable but pose in a way that prevents me from seeing other parts. Or I use as small a mirror as possible to get the job done.

It's rather personal, but my guess is I'm not the only one.

But as interact with the mirror--looking at less attractive features and seeking solutions--the reflection changes over time.

Related image
The same is true of God's Word--likened to a mirror. Sometimes I don't even want to know what it says about who I am and what I'm like, so I avoid it altogether. Other times I read portions of the Bible that are comfortable--over and over--and avoid those that reveal things I don't want to see. Sometimes I use as small a piece of the Bible as necessary--or take it in the smallest possible dose (i.e a sermon)--to get the job done and say I did it.

Much like a child playing peek-a-boo, if I can't see it, it doesn't exist. But we know better, don't we? Just because we don't see the problem doesn't mean others don't...that God doesn't. What it means is that I don't. And that's really, really dangerous.

In the world of mirrors, fashion, and real life, I don't have to care what others think of me. It can be a total focus or total disregard. In spiritual terms, what's there is there. Reality counts. Reality has consequences. Reality is not just temporal but eternal. Ready or not, I need to know. And, as I interact with the truth of God's Word and the reality of my need, He works change over time. Unlike a mirror, God not only reveals the need, He provides the solution.

In Christ, we are not left to our own devices. Because of the Spirit that resides in His people, God pursues us, works for our perfection and Christlikeness. He is more concerned about our outcome than we are. So, when God presents and opportunity to look soundly into the mirror of His Word, take it. Thank Him. Ask for help restoring and reconfiguring your reflection. When we look in and Christ looks back, what joy!

O Lord, You have searched me and known me.
You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
You understand my thought from afar.
You scrutinize my path and my lying down,
And are intimately acquainted with all my ways.
Even before there is a word on my tongue,
Behold, O Lord, You know it all.
You have enclosed me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
It is too high, I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea,
Even there Your hand will lead me,
And Your right hand will lay hold of me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,
And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You.

For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.

How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand.
When I awake, I am still with You.

O that You would slay the wicked, O God;
Depart from me, therefore, men of bloodshed.
For they speak against You wickedly,
And Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate You, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against You?
I hate them with the utmost hatred;
They have become my enemies.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. (Psalm 139)

Monday, October 2, 2017

If I Have Biblical Counseling but Have Not Love...

I discovered biblical counseling almost 10 years ago—and it made a huge difference in the way I see and help people who are hurting. If you are not familiar with biblical counseling, it’s just that—giving counsel from the Bible. Parents do it. Friends do it. Bible study leaders, pastors, Sunday school teachers, deacons and elders do it.

So what’s big deal? In the early 1970’s a Presbyterian minister asked why churches send hurting people outside the church for help. Others started asking similar questions and looking for biblical answers to depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, eating disorders, marital difficulty, and other very real, difficult life struggles. In the years since, books, resources, pastors, conferences, and programs have multiplied—all with practical, biblical truths and principles that address heart issues.

Since it’s fall, a football analogy seemed appropriate. No analogy is perfect, but for the story’s sake, let’s pretend Christians are pushing toward the goal of Christlikeness. A person seeking help is a “counselee.” The person offering help (casually or professionally) is the counselor.

If counselees are moving toward the goal, I picture myself, the counselor, as another teammate on the field--game book in mind, listening to and checking in with the Coach. Down here on the turf, we take our share of knocks. Some are falling down, others are picking them up. We’re pointing, directing, limping alongside, and holding on to one another, cheering others on, blocking and tackling.

As I push and scramble on the field, here are some thoughts to build unity as we throw hand-signals, pray, and spur each other on:

  • The Coach and Playbook are vital. We have great examples on the field, but we work together best when each one talks to the Coach and studies the Playbook personally. When we don’t, even the best of intentions are ineffective.
  • Every player/counselor belongs on the field. A counselee needs a biblical counselor that is engaged, walking the talk, praying, and getting dirty in this thing called “life.” We carry the ball, block, tackle, and work to protect one another. There is no bench in the Christian life; there are no spectators.
  • In one sense, we're all on the field: each of us should give sound, biblical advice, each of us is struggling and playing. On the other hand, each person uses his or her spiritual gifts to benefit everyone. In addition to hands-on counseling, there are needs to communicate, treat the wounded, provide water, cheer and encourage, make deliveries to the field, run the chain, etc. We're all working together both on and off the field. But if everyone only want to give biblical counsel to the exclusion of other jobs, things are left undone and everyone suffers.*
  • No player or team member is more important than another. We have different gifts, callings, and responsibilities, but we must guard against discrimination based on differences in lingo, resources, plays, and expertise. When we’re all heading the same direction, listening to the same Coach and using the same Playbook, the brand of socks we wear doesn’t matter.  As one Youtube-made-famous-woman said, “Ain’t nobody got time for that!” We all have more than enough of the Master’s work to keep us pressing onward and upward together.
In and through it all, If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all his mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  (1 Corinthians 13:2, The Message)

*I find it interesting how many spiritual gifts are commanded for everyone, but there are some individuals who are especially gifted in that area.

For example, we're all commanded to teach (Matthew 28:20, the Great Commission) but some have the gift of teaching (Romans 12:7, 1 Corinthians 12:28-29). We're all commanded to serve one another (Galatians 5:13), but some have the gift of service (Romans 12:7, 1 Peter 4:11).

For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

And I will show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.(1 Cor. 12:12-13:13)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

God's Best

Yesterday I said, "Whatever God allows at any point in time is His best for me." Later in the day I walked out the door and stepped in a hole, twisting my ankle. As I lay on the ground looking at the sky I said, "Okay, God, this may be Your best, but could You make it a little less painful?"

As I hobble from one place to another I am reminded that God's best is not always pleasant or easy. But--I am confident that what is happening  is in the hand of God because "God causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. How does God define good? Being conformed to the image of His Son" (Romans 8:28-29 Sydney paraphrase) What's happening right now is God's best because He did not withhold His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all--how will He, with Him, not freely give us all things? (Romans 8:32, Sydney paraphrase).

So if God works all things to make me more like Jesus and if He doesn't withhold any good thing, then this.... This is best. This is best for me. This is best for me right now.

How about you? Are you enjoying blessings? Struggling to trust? Finding it difficult to ask for help? God is much more concerned about changing each of us and our hearts than our circumstances. In fact, He is using and has designed specific circumstances to move our focus from earthly, horizontal struggles to His heavenly, vertical provision.

What's God's best for you today? Leave a comment and encourage others if it isn't too much trouble.

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
    we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:26-39)

Friday, September 22, 2017

Good For The Soul

Maybe you, like me, have stood at the back of the store staring at the latest version of HDTV. The detail and color are riveting. Fascinating. And I wonder if maybe I've fallen into an Alice in Wonderland world where everything is sharper, clearer, faster than real life?

Although I'm very content to be inside (my favorite childhood summer was spent reading 70-odd books and listening to Tchaikovsky), I made my way outdoors this afternoon and at one point I heard myself say, "This is very good for my soul."

And it was then that I realized I was living in high definition--it's what so many people want and don't have. It's why resolution and megapixels appeal to us. We need, we want, to experience life. But life is so hard. We want the GREAT parts of life, the FUN parts, the YUMMY, GORGEOUS, SPECTACULAR parts of life without the mundane, sad, difficult, not-so-great parts of life. We don't want to go to the same job, wear the same clothes, eat the same food, pay the same bills (or struggle to pay the same bills). We don't want to listen to children whine, wash dishes, put (blank) away, fold laundry, mow the yard, fix the plumbing, get on the same bus, work with that difficult person.... need I go on?

And yet, as I felt the weight of apples from the tree drop in my picking bag and watched the chickens at work below, there was a sense of satisfaction. There was joy in doing what needed to be done; in seeing and enjoying the world at work. When dust blew in my eyes as I charged over uneven blades of grass and cars whizzed by on the highway, I said, "This is good."

I have noticed in the quiet, mundane, difficult, and trying moments of life, I pray. I think of others. I am aware of my need and sin and forgiveness; of grace, mercy and justice. I hear my thoughts and my heart speaks. God listens, knows, and reveals. When I'm not writing or planning or being entertained, there is a moment to whisper, "This is good for my soul."

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness  for his name's sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23 ESV)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Good News Club--12 Years In

I have been asked to share what Good News Club has meant for myself, our school and community.
After praying and waiting for 3 years, I discovered Beth Lamb, our Child Evangelism Missionary, who helped me contact local administrators and get things rolling. That was 12 years ago. Since then, I can’t tell you how many children we’ve ministered to or how many salvation decisions have been made. I wish I could, but that’s a couple computer’s worth of material that’s been lost or misplaced (!).
What I do know is that the gospel has been presented and children have responded. We promote Good News Club at our annual Children’s Festival and reach a couple of hundred children and parents each fall. We have chosen to teach an Old Testament series every fall and a New Testament series each spring.

The majority of the people in our community are Hispanic, but the gospel, through Good News Club, transcends race, culture, language, age, and church affiliation. We sing, “Yo Tengo Un Amigo Que Me Ama.” We send home information, Wonderbooks and Bibles in both Spanish and English. We pray for brothers, sisters, parents, grandparents and pets. We know Jesus was sent to die for our sin and rose again; that His Spirit lives in and through us and we are united in Christ. We teach and model what it means to tell others and share the good news of God’s love through Jesus.

One of the joys of being at school is overhearing children in the hall ask one another or their teachers, “What’s Good News Club?” Just being there and putting up our sign each week gives others the opportunity to share the Good News—our clubbers, parents, even teachers and staff!

Now that we have been part of Good News Club for twelve years, our “clubbers” are graduating high school. The gospel has united us. We greet children and parents at school and community events, ask how they’re doing and how we can pray. Some are attending college. One is a professional boxer. We have been invited to quinceaneras and street dances with a mariachi band.

We have walked children home, met their grandmas and pets, shared stories, laughter and tears.
If we had time, I would tell you about the children we've watched grow up before our eyes, the girl who left class and how it gave me an opportunity to share the gospel with her mom. I would tell you about the child who said, “That sounds too good to be true!” or the questions, “What color will we be in Heaven? Like green? Or pink? Or blue?” and “Did Jesus have a grandpa?”

We are active volunteers in other areas of our school district and our own children attend the public schools. Like Jesus, we feel public ministry is vital to transparency and discipleship. In John 18:20 He said, “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.”

We have a reputation and relationship with the students, parents and community. We don’t expect to see all the results until we get to Heaven, but we are blessed by the opportunity to share Christ, build relationships, plant and harvest as God allows. One way He has done that is through Good News Club and we are blessed.

To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. Therefore I ask you not to lose heart at my tribulations on your behalf, for they are your glory.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:8-21)

Thursday, September 7, 2017

A Challenge for the Day


A humble person is grateful person.

So how many thank-you's can you say in a day?

If Brother Lawrence trained himself to practice the presence of God in a kitchen, surely each of us can use the events of our daily lives.

So what are you grateful for?
On your mark.... Get set....



Monday, September 4, 2017

Thoughts on Suffering

One of the certainties of life is suffering. There is flooding in Texas. In my personal world, a young woman is fighting cancer and treatment is uncertain. Friends lost their 25-year-old brother unexpectedly. Our world is one of pain, grief, loss, disappointment, failure, betrayal, and anxiety. No one is exempt. It may come in different forms, but suffering is certain.
Job's suffering was unexpected and devastating. He lost material wealth, his children, and his health. Like some of us, this is how others responded:
  1. Relief at all costs: “Curse God and die.” This was Satan’s goal. If Job’s relationship with God was dependent on his circumstances, he would love God when life was good and curse Him when life was bad. Job’s wife, unfortunately, was on Satan’s team for this one. Isn’t it interesting that of all the things Satan asked to take away from Job, his wife was not one of them.
  2. Experience is the solution: “I’ve seen this. It happened to ____.”  Job’s friend, Eliphaz, related Job’s suffering to his own experiences. We may have seen, heard, or experienced things in our lives but that is a) not a comfort someone who is suffering and b) not an accurate measure of who God is or how He works.
  3. Traditional practice is the solution: “If you’d done this (name it) this (name calamity) wouldn’t have happened.” We may not come right out and say it, but it’s easy to carry the same undertone as Zophar ‘s message: “We’ve always done it this way.” In other words, it’s your fault for not following the accepted pattern. “What did you do to bring this on yourself?”
  4. Rules or legalism is the solution: “You can fix this by ____.”  Bildad professes a health, wealth and prosperity doctrine: If you do such and such, you can make it go away. This is another form of, “It’s your fault” with the added burden of changing the circumstances.

None of them were helpful. In fact, they made things worse. On top of external forces, Job battled his thoughts, emotions and the untruths of his "friends."
These friends were focused on why Job was suffering. If they knew why, they could escape, avoid, or control suffering in their own lives. They pointed the finger, “It’s your fault” as another way of saying, “As long as I don’t do what you did, I’m safe.” There is something threatening about suffering—something ominous, dangerous, and unpleasant—we want to avoid. In reality, we can't. And we won't.
What about Job? In the face of disaster and calamity, who, like him, doesn’t want to talk directly to God?(7:20, 10:2, 13:3, 15, 22; 16:21; 23:4, etc.)
Once they ran out of arguments--Job included--Elihu, the youngest, silent observer spoke. Unlike the others, Elihu persisted in presence with a listening ear and keen thoughts. Because he escaped God's criticism, we would do well to listen to his words and attitudes.

In humility, he admitted his own failures. He found common ground with Job and proved it by sitting through this entire discourse (7 days of silence plus 28 chapters' worth of discussion). He did not lay blame, tell Job what to do, or criticize him harshly. He practiced what Dr. Bob Kellemen calls, "climbing in the casket." And after lying in that dark, despairing place with Job, he provides perspective: don't forget God's grace and generosity, look for God's hand and purpose even in suffering, if God controls the lightning, wind and wild beast, He is able to care for you, and remember, God cannot be moved or manipulated by the works of man.
God, in His goodness, wisdom and sovereignty approached Job in chapters 38-41, but not to answer Job's “why?” Instead, God assured him that He saw, knew, controlled, and governed in might, goodness and wisdom.

Job's reply?
“I know that You can do all things, And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.
‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand, Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
‘Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.’
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You; Therefore I retract, And I repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6)
Then the Lord spoke to Eliphaz (how terrifying!), “My wrath is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has” (42:7). They offered sacrifices, Job prayed, and they were forgiven. The Lord returned Job’s wealth and “blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…” (42:12)
In our suffering—in suffering with others—we may never know why, but we can always know Who.
Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him.
11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand,
And marked off the heavens by the span,
And calculated the dust of the earth by the measure,
And weighed the mountains in a balance
And the hills in a pair of scales?
13 Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord,
Or as His counselor has informed Him?
14 With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding?
And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge
And informed Him of the way of understanding?
15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket,
And are regarded as a speck of dust on the scales;
Behold, He lifts up the islands like fine dust.
16 Even Lebanon is not enough to burn,
Nor its beasts enough for a burnt offering.
17 All the nations are as nothing before Him,
They are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
18 To whom then will you liken God?
Or what likeness will you compare with Him?
19 As for the idol, a craftsman casts it,
A goldsmith plates it with gold,
And a silversmith fashions chains of silver.
20 He who is too impoverished for such an offering
Selects a tree that does not rot;
He seeks out for himself a skillful craftsman
To prepare an idol that will not totter.
21 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
Has it not been declared to you from the beginning?
Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?
22 It is He who sits above the circle of the earth,
And its inhabitants are like grasshoppers,
Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain
And spreads them out like a tent to dwell in.
23 He it is who reduces rulers to nothing,
Who makes the judges of the earth meaningless.
24 Scarcely have they been planted,
Scarcely have they been sown,
Scarcely has their stock taken root in the earth,
But He merely blows on them, and they wither,
And the storm carries them away like stubble.
25 “To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.
27 Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel,
“My way is hidden from the Lord,
And the justice due me escapes the notice of my God”?
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth
Does not become weary or tired.
His understanding is inscrutable.
29 He gives strength to the weary,
And to him who lacks might He increases power.
30 Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
31 Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary. (Isaiah 40)