Friday, April 28, 2023

Walking Truth

I know that some of you are still stuck on this whole being-honest-about-forgiveness-to-someone's-face thing. You think it's self-victimizing. You think it's a bad idea. You think it's not "safe." You think a lot of things about it. And primarily, you think those things because the culture has created such a narrative around this stuff - a narrative that, we must confess, sounds really good to our ears and makes a lot of human sense - that it's almost impossible to put that narrative aside and imagine any other way. 

But we don't have to imagine any other way; we have already been shown it. 

It is Jesus. 

Jesus already gave us the example of how to handle conflict with love. Of how to handle conflicting cultural narratives with love. Of how to handle judgment with love. Of how to handle truth - and reality - with love. And, of course, in the ultimate display of who God is, how to handle forgiveness...with love. 

Not once do we see Jesus picking a fight. Not once do we see Him inserting Himself into something to become a martyr. Not once do we see Him daring someone else to victimize Him. We don't see Him looking for trouble, the way the world's narrative says we will if we try to tell a wicked person we've forgiven them. And, of course, Jesus had plenty of interactions with wicked persons. 

Nor do we ever see Jesus avoiding anyone because they might have sinister motives. We don't see Him shying away from anyone because they puff up their chest and display a lot of bravado. Jesus never picked a fight, but He never walked away from a moment of truth, either. We never see Jesus say, "It is best that I not go and talk to/see/touch that person because they might be hurtful or wounding." We don't see Jesus following the cultural narrative. 

No, Jesus has another way. Jesus's way is this:

He speaks truth, then walks away. 

That's it. He speaks truth, knowing that truth must be spoken, and then He simply keeps moving. He keeps going along His path. He keeps traveling the road God has laid out before Him. 

He doesn't wait to see if the truth has landed. He doesn't wait to see if it's changed someone's heart. He doesn't wait to see if it's made an impact. He speaks truth, sowing it like a seed into any situation, and keeps moving. Keeps living. Keeps loving. 

Remember when the truth got Him in trouble? He shows up, displays a measure of God's love and goodness, and the people are ready to throw Him off a cliff. But...they can't find Him. He slips through the crowd and is gone. That's because this is exactly what Jesus does - He comes, imparts the truth that needs to be imparted, and just goes on about His life. 

It's a really good lesson for all of us. And it turns the culture's narrative on its head. 

We can do the same thing. We really can. We can step into something, speak truth, and keep going. We don't have to wait around to see how it goes. We don't have to worry about whether it was received or not. We don't have to argue until we are thanked for our truth or proven "right" or whatever it is that we so often try to stand there and demand. We can just...speak and move on. We can just sow truth like seed and keep moving and let things grow however they will, knowing what Jesus said about any seeds that we put out into the world - some are going to grow and some aren't and that's just how it is. 

This is the kind of life I want to live. This is the kind of truth I want to carry. This is the kind of forgiveness I want to offer. This is the kind of love I want to embody. 

How about you?  

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Snide Remarks

While it's important that we talk to one another face-to-face when it comes to Christian ideas like forgiveness, we have to be careful about how we do even this. This is because sometimes, we are tempted to use Christian-sounding language in order to be judgmental about someone else. Or rather, snide. We use this language in a condescending way, reminding others that we are stepping down to communicate with them or to include them or to "bless" them. 

Think about this example: have you ever told someone you're praying for them when they didn't ask you to? Sometimes, of course, this is honest and good. Sometimes, however, it is because we have made a judgment about someone else's life and concluded that we don't agree with it in some way, so we tell them we're praying for them and they just kind of give us a confused look because they don't interpret their situation the same way we do. So our offer to pray for them is quite offensive. (And sometimes, we mean it to be. We mean it to say, "You are wrong, or you are in the wrong, and as an act of condemnation, I will "pray" for you.) This lets us come off as religious and good while at the same time speaking our own opinion in no uncertain terms. 

This happens a lot to LGBTQIA folks in the church. A lot of church folk, upon finding out that someone is homosexual, step forward in absolute confidence to "pray" for them. And they tell them as much. "I'm praying for you." But...most of these persons haven't asked you to pray for them. What you've actually done is condemn them, declare that their sexual orientation is wrong, and set yourself on a moral pedestal. 

(Now, before we get off track, let me say that this is not to take a stand one way or the other on issues of sexual orientation within the church or before God. That's not the point. I do believe that if you believe that homosexuality or queerness is "wrong," there are far better ways to approach the subject than this snide, backhanded, condescending, "I'm praying for you," which is never helpful, never earnest, and never meant to be. It's meant to be a judgment, 100% of the time, and it's not the heart of Christ.)

This is what I'm talking about with forgiveness, too. 

Sometimes, when we tell someone else we've forgiven them, it's not really because we want to set them - or ourselves - free from the burden of an ongoing grudge. Not entirely. Sometimes, it's because we want one more time to remind them of what we think they've done wrong. We want to hammer it into them one more time. We say it because we want them to remember what a horrible person they are, and then look at us as though we are merciful and a really good person. 

It's standing in front of a prisoner with the key to their cell, unlocking the door, but not letting them walk out of it. Then, having the audacity to declare, "I have set you free!" as you continue to stand in the doorway, waiting for thankfulness. 

As long as that prisoner is still in that cell, you are no help. You are no gift. You are not mercy to them just because you have unlocked the door; you do not deserve their worship or praise. As long as you continue to block that door, by reminding someone else what side of if they are on, you haven't really rescued them. 

You are, as Paul would say, a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. You're making noise, but you're not doing anything Christ-like. 

That's why we have to be careful about how we talk about these things in our Christian language, even with those that we ought to be talking to. We've been talking about how important it is to share with someone directly that you have forgiven them, but today is a cautionary tale because here's the thing: you have to actually act forgiving when you do it. If you get this wrong, if you come off as snide or condescending, if you intend to be snide or condescending, then you aren't really forgiving; it's just another way we abuse our Christian language. 

So, as in all things, the act of forgiveness is finding the balance between grace and truth. Which, I know, is easier said than done, but it is so, so important. 

Wednesday, April 26, 2023

Christian Gossip

You're probably still not sold on the Christian definition of forgiveness, which does not leave anyone forsaken. That's okay; the world's concept is pretty powerful and deeply ingrained in us, and you've probably caricaturized it in your head with the worst-possible-scenario, which requires you walking boldly up to someone who has hurt you severely and basically inviting them to do it again. That's not at all what I said - or what Christ said - but for today, we're just going to move on. 

Because if you're struggling with what Christian forgiveness is, perhaps a good place to start is with what Christian forgiveness is not

Christian forgiveness is not going out of your way to tell someone else that you've forgiven a third party who is not there. In fact, we should spent the majority of our time talking about our own forgiven-ness than any forgiveness we have tried ourselves to offer; that is the proper Christian witness. It testifies to the goodness of God, rather to any perceived goodness we might offer - or perceived wrongness of another. 

That's what happens, by the way. Every time you talk about someone you've "forgiven," you throw a spotlight on everything you believe that person has done wrong. With the same breath that someone else is thinking you must be the bigger person and someone to look up to, they cannot help but think that the other person - the one who needed your righteous, amazing forgiveness - is someone to look down on. 

This is what we're trying to avoid. Because if you cause someone to look down on someone else, even if you claim to have forgiven them, your actions indicate that you have not. You still want to throw them under the bus. You still want to make yourself look better than them. You still want to make sure that everyone knows that that other person did something wrong

There's no real forgiveness there. 

It's basically gossip, which is something that we in the church seem to have mastered. We'll call it "Christian gossip," even though we have to be clear in saying that there ought to be no such thing. 

But we do it. We gossip all the time, couching it in Christian-sounding language so that we can say that we didn't mean to gossip; we were just doing what, uhm, Christ would want us to do. 

You can hear this really prominently when we talk about the prayer list. Overwhelmingly, the conversations that start when we talk about the prayer list are not prayer-full conversations; they are gossip. Did you hear about so-and-so? Can you believe that so-and-so is dealing with ____? Gosh, I just can't imagine ever having to live so-and-so's life. And on and on and on we go, thinking that because we're talking about the prayer list, we're okay. It can't be gossip if everyone knows about it, right?

But it is. Gossip is this thing we do where we find it fun to throw around details that aren't ours to share. Gossip happens every time we take joy in talking about someone who we have placed lower than us based on some quantification or qualification that we have made important. And it always involves that - making someone else lower than us. 

Notice how few of our conversations start earnestly about prayerfulness, even around the prayer list. Conversations do not typically start with, I have been praying every day for so-and-so. I really hope with all my heart that God brings His goodness into her life in a powerful and profound way. 

Those ought to be our conversations, but they're too often not. Those would be the conversations of truly Christian persons, of good brothers and sisters. It has at its heart two things: firm belief in the goodness of God and honest desire for that goodness in the life of another. Notice what it's lacking: it has no indication at all of the status of the other as anything other than a child of God. It has no details of the trouble or trial. It is not meant to make us feel better about ourselves, but to feel confident about our God. This is the way that Christians ought to talk. 

So, too, about forgiveness. 

And I think I've hinted a few paragraphs ago at a great way to start to change our dialogue here. Simply put, we should never talk about the forgiveness that we have offered anyone else without first, foremost, and most emphatically talking about the forgiveness God has given us. I just find that the more I talk about the goodness of God, the harder it is to try to shift focus to my own goodness. Or whatever perceived measure of it I might think I have.

So there's a good place to start, if you're looking for one. 

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


I know what you're going to say, and it's a point we have to talk about: you're going to say that you can forgive someone without ever telling them. You can forgive someone without talking to them again. You don't have to tell someone you've forgiven them in order for it to be true in your heart.

You're going to say that sometimes, it's wisest not to talk to that person again, as in a case where that person has been severely abusive or is unrepentant about the harm they have caused. 

To an extent, that is true, and it makes sense in the cultural model of the world. But the cultural model is not always the Christian model. 

Christian forgiveness is exemplified in the model of Christ. Period. And I'm not sure how many of us would be satisfied in the love of God and the forgiveness of Christ if the message we had to preach was that Christ has forgiven us all of our sins, but He still doesn't want us in His presence. Because of our sin, it is much safer to keep us at a good distance. Because of our sin, He doesn't want to talk to us ever again. 

After all, we are all heinous sinners, the worst of the worst. We all deserve excommunication from God; we have failed to live up to the high standards necessary to live in His presence. And yet...

And yet, forgiveness. And there is just not a Christian definition of forgiveness that includes the continued forsakenness of the forgiven. 

You cannot, in Christ, be forgiven and still forsaken. 

I know how countercultural this is. I do. I know how hard it sounds. I do. I get that there are individuals in this world who have caused tremendous pain, indescribable pain, to others and how sickening it is in the pit of our stomachs to even think about seeing them face-to-face ever again, let alone speaking to them. Let alone telling them we've forgiven them. 

This is part of our trouble with the concept of forgiveness. See, most of us think that forgiveness means excusing the act that was done. That it means proclaiming innocence over the guilty. Even when we say that we don't believe that in our heads, that we know that's not the case, something in our hearts still holds onto this like it's the truth. 

Forgiveness is a complicated thing, and it's easier to kind of paint it into this too-big box than to try to articulate the realities of what it really is. So we've let ourselves come to the place where this definition dominates, even when we know that's not the truth of it. 

We know, through the Cross, that Christ has not declared us innocent. If we were innocent, there is no need for the Cross; He nullifies His own work and traps us into a circular argument that we can never get out of. No, we are not innocent; we are just as guilty today as we were yesterday as we were two thousand years ago. 

What is different is that we have been forgiven. God looks at everything that we've done, everything that is true about us, and He chooses to welcome us into His presence anyway. It's this act of welcome that is forgiveness lived out. Even, we have to add, at tremendous risk to Him. I promise you that the chances that we will re-offend are high. Some would say, certain. Even the most repentant heart on this planet is doomed to fail again; it's who we are. 

God never says that's a reason not to welcome us. He never says that's a reason not to love us. He never says that's a reason not to talk to us ever again. He never says He has to "protect" Himself by keeping us at a distance, even though He can use this word "forgiveness" and very authoritatively. 

Forgiveness simply doesn't let us keep living forsaken. We are one or the other, but never both. Never. 

Therefore, if our forgiveness is genuine and Christlike, then we must have some welcome for the other. We cannot continue to act in deliberate exclusion, we cannot continue to forsake, of one we have claimed to forgive. If we do, we have not forgiven them at all; we have merely used the word to puff ourselves up. 

And isn't that what's going on most of the time anyway? (More tomorrow.)

Monday, April 24, 2023

Toxic Forgiveness

Forgiveness is at the core of our Christian doctrine; it's what Christ was all about. (Okay, honestly, He was about so much more than this, but it seems like His forgiveness is central to so much of our preaching about Him, to the exclusion of so many other things. We're not talking about that right now, but it's important to at least recognize here.) 

Truth be told, most of us bristle at the notion of being forgiven. We don't like it. We don't like the way it brings to our minds and our hearts the things that we've done wrong. In fact, I think a lot of us have gotten to the point where we can talk about forgiveness as a disconnected sort of idea - an idea that we accept, but we push aside any recognition of our actual need for it. After all, most of us consider ourselves "good" persons, and forgiveness is intended for real sinners. 

But forgiveness also gives us a chance to talk about something terrible that we do with religion, with these kind of holy words and holy ideas of our faith. Because forgiveness is far too often co-opted into culture in a way that makes it a stinging half-truth rather than the fullness of the love of Christ. 

And Christians are just as guilty of this as non-Christians. (We could have easily said, as well, that non-Christians are just as guilty of this as Christians. Either way.) 

Here's what I'm talking about: 

Recently, I found out that I've been "forgiven" for something I didn't do. Okay, I did it, but it wasn't wrong. It centers around a truth - a verifiable, independently recorded, much-attested-to truth with an overwhelming amount of evidence to back it up - that someone else didn't like and so based a grudge on. For years, this grudge went on until life, as it does, forced a reckoning. Something happened that drew a line, and the other parties involved had to decide which side of that line they were going to stand on. 

I was told later that the other side told someone in between that they have "forgiven" me. Not enough to stand on my side of the line. Not enough to even come toward the line. Not enough to actually tell me so to my face. Not enough to change in any way the relationship that brokenness has dominated for far too long. But just enough to use the language and the word. 

As an act of this "forgiveness," said person has found a clever way to both include and exclude me at the same time. And actually, of course, by including me with a remaining act of exclusion, it's not a grace at all; it is, in this case, a permanent remembrance of the bitterness that has existed for far too long. 

It's the idea of inviting a leper to your party, then making him stand in the corner. All you've done is make a very public display of him and his leprosy so that, for the entire duration of the gathering, both his presence and his distance are of prominent awareness. You have made a spectacle and nothing more. Especially if you yourself never cross the room to talk with him, either.

This is not forgiveness. This is not the restoration of someone you once considered unclean. 

It's a social ploy, and nothing more. It lets you say, "I have taken the high ground. Look, I have invited a leper to my party!" while at the same time, not requiring anything more of you than that perhaps you have to Lysol one corner of your living room a little more diligently after he leaves. 

Indeed, when you say something like, "I have forgiven them," you look like the moral party. At the same time, you have thrust an emphasis on the perceived wrong all over again. You have indicated by your righteousness not only how good you actually are, but you've gotten to say one more time how horrible the other person is - they are someone in need of forgiveness. They are someone who had done something so wrong, so terrible as to require you to be the bigger person and to "move on" or "get over it" or "put it behind you." 

This kind of forgiveness "display" is not true forgiveness; it's toxic. But we do this in our culture all the time, right? We talk about our acts of forgiveness with others so freely, so calmly, so self-righteously. 

Without ever talking to the person we have supposedly actually forgiven. 

And I know what you're going to say, as you rightfully should, but there's an answer for that, too. We'll talk about it tomorrow. 

Friday, April 21, 2023

The Good News About Saturday

Yesterday, I said that the single greatest cause of most of our Saturdays is the brokenness of humanity. That's not to say that every bad thing that happens is our fault, but simply that the state of humanity after the fall causes most of the bad things that we experience. It isn't necessarily our sin, but it's sin somewhere. It's brokenness somewhere that often breaks us. 

Then, I said that that's actually good news. 

When I said this, there were readers who likely heard it and thought to themselves, "Of course it's good news. If brokenness is a human problem, then a human solution will do. And that means that I can fix my own problem. I am in charge of my own future here." And surely, that is what the world tells us about these sorts of things. Hey, it's even what Job's friends were saying quite a bit. Your troubles are your problem, and if you'd just get real about yourself and about where you are, a lot of them would go away. 

But that's not at all what I said, and it's not what I'm saying. The fact that fallen humanity is at the center of most of our struggles isn't good news because it's relatively easy to fix. 

It's good news because it's already been fixed

There is already an answer for our brokenness, a balm for our wound. It's Jesus. That's what the entire incarnation, crucifixion, and resurrection were about. It's grace. We already have it; it's with us right now. 

That means that we don't have to spend our entire lives feeling like we're engaged in some cosmic battle that we can never know the outcome of and never seems like it's going to end and always feels like it's one piece of human ingenuity away from finally being resolved. It's already resolved. The battle is already over, and the outcome is already determined. 

Jesus wins. 


Putting human brokenness at the center of our troubles is good news because we already know how that turns out. We already know what the end game is. We already know who wins and who loses and how broken things come back together. We have seen broken things come back together. We have seen the lost found. We have seen the blind receive their sight. We have seen the lame walk. There is absolutely no question left about how our Saturday ends. 

It ends with Sunday. 

Sunday is a-comin'. 

In fact, Sunday is already here. 

This is the already-but-not-yet that we hear so often about that we're all living in. But it's true. This is where we find ourselves. We started this conversation last week by being honest that when our Saturday seems to be going on forever, we don't always want to hear about Sunday, but the good news that we can't lose sight of is that Sunday is coming. Sunday is real. It is even more real than any Saturday we are living in or ever have lived. It doesn't always feel that way, and we aren't always ready to hear it; we have to create sacred space for Saturday, too. 

But let us never lose sight of Sunday. 

It is, and always will be, good news. 

Thursday, April 20, 2023

Your Real Enemy

Time for the hard truth, the truth that we don't want to hear (and we know we don't want to hear it because look at all of the elaborate stories we've made up about the devil just to avoid it). 

The hard truth is this: the number one cause of the troubles, trials, and struggles in all of our lives isn't the devil; it's us. It's humanity. 

Do not misread me. Do not misinterpret this. I know that as soon as I said that, someone heard, "She's blaming me for my own troubles, but I didn't do anything!" And it sounds a lot like Job's friends, who kept insisting that he must be a sinner because so much trouble had befallen him.

That's not at all what I'm saying. While it's true that sometimes, we are the cause of our own trouble through our own sin, that's not always the case. Quite often, the sin of others can be the cause of our trouble. 

This is where this, too, gets a little tricky. We cannot, of course, blame our own sin for everything; we know that we live such an interconnected experience that it would be naive to think that we are the sole determinant of the trajectory of our lives. We spend so much of our time interacting with and depending upon others (for example, needing a boss to hire you or a mechanic to work on your beater of a car) that it's simply not true that we are the only factor here. Nor, of course, do we want to be, as much as we say that we do. None of us wants to be the only one holding us back. That requires too much introspection. 

But neither can we entirely pass the buck and say that our whole lives are someone else's fault. We see this a lot because it's so easy to do, and so satisfying on a surface level. We like to blame our parents. Or our bad boss. Or our sibling. Or our neighbor. Or the workman who did poor work on our possession. Or the company that made that thing that broke. Or our genes. Or whatever. Anything so that we don't have to take a hard look at ourselves. 

The truth about the truth is that it's usually a number of human factors, not just one thing. Maybe your parents set you up for failure, but you took that failure and ran with it. (Or sat with it, as the case may be.) Maybe your boss is too hard on you, but you've adopted an inner dialogue as a result of that, a dialogue that isn't helpful for you. Maybe your body was broken and your doctor prescribed you that dangerous medication, but you're the one who started using it off-label. Maybe your genetics predisposed you to addiction, but you're the one who broke through whatever hedge of protection should have been around that. 

The brokenness of others breaks us, but we add our own stuff to it, and the interconnected lives that we live become a tangled web that got us where we are today. 

Notice what's missing from all of this? 

The devil. 


Some kind of spiritual adversary. 

And I'm not saying that spiritual warfare isn't real. That's not what I'm saying at all. What I am saying is that we give the devil way too much credit when the overwhelming majority of the stuff we're dealing with isn't because he's living on our shoulder and guiding us down the wrong path. It's because many, many moons ago, he whispered in one woman's ear and broke all of us forever, and we have done an incredible job of perpetuating that brokenness for him. We, fallen humanity, are responsible for most of what is wrong in this world. 

And actually, that's good news. 

I'll tell you why tomorrow.  

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

The Devil's Face

Just because you're not being attacked by the devil because God wants to use you mightily...doesn't mean that God is not going to use you mightily. In fact, it's just like God to not only use you anyway, but to use the exact struggle that you've been going through for His glory. 

Think about the number of persons you know who have incredible testimonies, great stories of all the good things God has done in their life. 

It gets a little complicated here because so often, these persons with incredible testimonies say things like, "I am so thankful that God let me go through that" or "I'm thankful for the challenges that I've had," as though these were good things that were part of the plan - part of God's plan - all along. 

Now, we're going down a complicated sort of rabbit trail. This kind of thankfulness implies that God caused the trouble or trial because He wanted to use it. Most of us would be quick to say that that's not the case because we know that God is good all the time and that He does not cause the things that break us so grievously. God doesn't want your life to be pain and struggle and fear. Not once in all of His story does God say, "I'm going to scare them into repentance." Nor does He ever say, "I'm going to increase the burden on their back so much that they will beg me for mercy." It's not His style. 

So then, we say that the devil did it. That God was on His way to using us and the devil stepped in and created the trial and the trouble to stop God from using us the way He wanted to. And it worked. We tell ourselves that the stories that we have, the ones we're even "thankful" for, aren't the stories we were meant to live. This isn't how God wanted to use us. This isn't the testimony we were supposed to have. 

But God

But God decided to use the story that we have and turn it on its head and use it for His glory. God decided to shove it right back in the devil's face and make it more powerful than the adversary could ever have imagined. God decided, like in the book of Job, to pour our blessings out seven-fold on the other side of darkness and stick it to the devil one more time through us. 

All of a sudden, our story of darkness and suffering and struggle and near-defeat becomes a story of great victory. Not just personal victory, where we have come out on the other side of it, but cosmic victory. Spiritual victory. One more thorn out of Jesus's crown, right into the devil's side. 

It makes us feel really good about ourselves that we get to be part of something like this. It makes us feel really good about our God that He does something like this. It makes us feel really bad about the devil that he necessitates something like this. Win-win-win. Right?

It would be, if it wasn't resting on the unbiblical foundation that we exposed yesterday, this idea that we were on our way to epic, grand, God-glorifying stories that the devil stepped in to stop because he was scared they'd be too big for him. That part still isn't true. That part still has no biblical precedent at all. That part is still nothing more than the hope of our imagination. 

Because the truth is much more difficult to deal with.... 

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Used By God

Here's the one that really gets me, which is what started me thinking down this path in the first place: it's when you're going through a tough season in your life and someone has the nerve to say to you, "God must want to use you for something big." 

"God's got plans for you!" 

"Of course you're having a tough time. The devil is trying to stop the big, amazing, glorious thing God wants to do with your life." 

But that's not helpful. 

Nor is it biblical. It's another one of those things we have kinda sorta attached to Job, to make us feel better about his story, I guess, but even then, it doesn't accurately reflect the story. God didn't want to use Job; God was using Job. Job was a blessing to everyone around him. 

In fact, there is not a single character in all of Scripture, not a single person in God's story, who is afflicted by the devil because God was trying to use them. Not one. And there are plenty of persons afflicted by the devil. 

Look at every single one of the demon-possessed individuals in the Gospels. Look at them. Look at the girl in Acts. Not once does Jesus (or Simon or any other disciple/apostle) cast out a demon and declare that that person has come under spiritual attack because God was trying to use them mightily. Not once. 

Now, here's where it can get a little tricky. Because Jesus does say on at least one occasion that the affliction He's just healed is so that God can show His glory, but pay attention - He doesn't mean it the same way that we try to make it sound like He does. Not even close. 

There is just simply no biblical truth to the notion that when your life is a struggle, it's because the devil is trying to keep God from using you and you are therefore stuck in some kind of massive, invisible spiritual battle. 

When God wants to use Gideon, Gideon is the one who lays out the dry fleece.

When God calls Isaiah, the prophet simply says, "Here am I!" 

When God comes to initiate Samuel into the priesthood, He comes as a voice in the night calling out to the man. 

The evil spirit that came upon Saul (Old Testament Saul) came after God had decided not to use the first king to establish the line of royalty. In other words, after God was done using Saul. (Sort of. It took a bit longer after that.) 

The point is - wherever we got this idea that trial, trouble, and struggle indicate some kind of incredible spiritual battle and the darkness of the devil because of God's great plan for isn't from the Bible. 

Which means that if nobody ever said this ugly non-truth again to someone struggling, it would actually be very okay. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Broken Theology

When someone's living a long Saturday, our broken theology - or our very poor theology of brokenness - starts to show. We come up with all kinds of things to say that sound pretty good, maybe because we use the word "God" in them sometimes - and that seem to make a lot of sense, but they just aren't true. They aren't biblical. They aren't God-honoring. 

When someone's living a long Saturday, we all seem to become Job's friends. 

In fact, most of our broken theology comes from the book of Job and our misinterpretation of it. 

For example, we might say something like, "God helps those who help themselves." And this would be a reference to Job's friends and wife telling him it's time to get up and get on with living. It's time to move on and just do the best he can. It's time to stop thinking about God and start thinking about tomorrow. But, of course, nowhere does God affirm this line of thinking. Nowhere. And though we think we read it into the pages, there's no such "wisdom" in the Bible that God helps those who help themselves. 

Or maybe we say that it's time for someone living on Saturday to confess their sin and ask God to cleanse their heart. Job's friends loved this line of thinking and kept pressing him to confess that he has sinned. Of course he had sinned; if he hadn't sinned, he wouldn't be in this spot right now. But God dashes that one on the rocks, too. God makes clear that it's not about sin. Not always, anyway. So even though we live in a theology that claims that we are all sinners all the time and always destined to Hell but for the grace of God at our begging, this one doesn't hold water, either. 

Sometimes, we say that God doesn't give anyone more than they can handle. We justify this by saying that Job did, in fact, make it through his troubles. God knew he could take it, we conclude. Any other man would have scratched his own eyes out with that broken pottery or gone ahead and killed himself, as Job sometimes seemed to be thinking about. But Job didn't do any of that, which proves that Job was a man with sufficient stamina to endure what the world - or, we imply, God Himself - was throwing at him. God knew it wouldn't break Job, so Job was the man for this brokenness. 

Uhm, have you watched Job? This brokenness broke him. It destroyed him. It turned and twisted his body and his soul. It tormented him. It threw him into terrible grief. God doesn't want anyone to live this way; that's why He went to the Cross. That's what Jesus was all about - that we wouldn't taste this sting of death and trauma and tragedy. And not once, not once, does God pat Job on the back and say, "I knew you were the right man for despair and destruction. I knew you could handle it." God never says that to anybody. (Except Jesus.) This kind of theology is absolute bunk. 

Here's one that absolutely blows my mind: "you must be doing something right." Your whole life is laying in shambles, your heart is distraught, your body is bent, your spirit in broken, and someone has the nerve to look at you and say, "Man, your life must be on an incredible path! You must be doing something right!" In other words, the devil must have stepped in to do everything he could to stop you before you get to somewhere really glorious that you were heading. This gives way too much power to our adversary. Way too much. And it's not an example that we see in the Bible. It's just not. Except, of course, in Job, where Job's life is going well and the devil steps in to tempt him. But that's not the overwhelming example of the Bible; it's just a small piece that we've taken to try to comfort ourselves when really, it doesn't apply here. And how horrible it is to hear that your life is falling apart because you were doing everything right. Why should I ever do anything right again?

Closely related to that is one more, and this one deserves even more space, so we'll talk about it tomorrow.  

Friday, April 14, 2023

A Question of Faith

At this point, I promise you that there are many who are upset with the conversation we have been having this week. They want to stop me, to pull me aside, and to tell me, "If you don't live in expectant hope every single day of your life, then there's a big problem with your faith. Especially if you feel like it's always Saturday." 

I appreciate the sentiment; I really do. This is what the church taught for many, many years. Too many years, really. This is the kind of faith heritage that was passed on to several of the generations that are still living (and to several before them). We have been told that if we ever have questions, if we ever have doubts, if we ever forget, if we ever don't believe, even for a second, then the problem is our faith. 

But that's not really faith. That's superstition. That's fingers crossed, not hands folded. 

It's a faith whose God can't stand up to questioning. It's a faith whose hope cannot bear the real world. It's a faith that has to live in a small box painted with pretty pictures or else, it feels fragile and there's the fear that it might all come crumbling down. Or worse, that God Himself might be disappointed in you and condemn you to Hell for your "unbelief." 

It's not, however, the kind of faith that we see in the Bible. 

See, the days of the Bible are filled with average days. Regular days. Days that don't require a particularly large measure of faith. Days when, yes, even guys like David didn't pray all day. Days when they went about their business, knowing God but not entirely focused on Him. 

Adam and Eve walked around the garden in the cool of the day. They picked fruits (not forbidden fruits). They ate them. They hung out together. They hung out with God. They were not bowed down in perpetual worship all the time, spending their entire lives on their knees in deference. David was not constantly in prayer. Solomon wasn't begging for wisdom every day. 

There comes a point where our faith must be living, and as we've talked about this week, if we're constantly focused on a tomorrow-hope, we aren't living today. We're not. We're always living in some time that is not real to us, some place that is disconnected from our own space. We're not living our real life, and if we're not living our real life, then we aren't practicing our real faith, no matter how much hope it is that we think we're clinging to. No matter how much faith-sounding talk we fill our mouths with. No matter how much time we spend on our knees.

God isn't the God of the unreal; He's the God of the here and now. The actual stuff we have. The actual lives we're living. And He wants us to live them. 

Some days, that means we stop waiting for Sunday and start living the Saturday that we have. That's not unfaithful; it's real faith. 

It's faith that lives not only with the questions, but in them. It's faith that isn't demolished by doubt, even if it shakes a little bit. It's faith that knows even what it does not see, and knows it so well that it doesn't have to cling desperately to it; it can simply trust in the goodness of God because even on Saturday, it is so, so real. That's faith. 

So don't let yourself think that "giving in" to Saturday means you're giving up your faith. Quite the opposite, actually. You're taking hold of the kind of faith that God has desired for you from the start. Real faith isn't afraid of Saturday. 

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Still Saturday

Yesterday, we talked about how you can't just jump to hope on any Saturday. You have to wait until the second Saturday, so that there is an appropriate space for grief. Then, you can circle back to hope if you get around the sixth or seventh Saturday and Sunday still hasn't come; that way, you create space to learn how to live again in the waiting. 

And I said that you need to wait until the thirtieth Saturday to bring it back around again, but we didn't really get to that yesterday, so here we are today. 

It's not really the thirtieth; I picked an arbitrary number that indicates a long-ish time. The point is this: clinging perpetually to hope will inhibit your ability to live in the now, so you can't just spend all of your Saturdays waiting on Sundays; you'll miss too much of your life this way. And when you miss your life, you also miss the blessings and the joy and the growth and the lessons and all that God has planned for you on Saturday. And I promise you - He has plans for Saturday. 

At the same time, though, you can never let yourself be convinced that Saturday is Sunday. That since it's been so long, this is the best that things are ever going to be again and you might as well accept it and settle into it. If you don't hold onto some hope for Sunday, so much of the goodness that God wants to show you gets thrown out, too. 

So when we get in these seasons of long Saturdays, these times when things are rough and aren't as we want them to be and we really just want things to change, to get better, we have to both learn how to live in them so that we don't miss out, but we also have to have these perpetual, but not constant, reminders that this is not how things are supposed to be. Reminders that Sunday is a-comin'. 

Because we lose track of it. Our trial becomes so much our day-to-day truth that we lose sight of the Truth that this is still Saturday. We become so accustomed to our broken life that we figure this is just how it is, and we forget that it could ever be different. Or better. We forget that it ever was. We forget that we ever had hope for anything else, and it's strange, but you can hear some of us talking about how this has always been our life, even if that's not objectively true. We just...don't remember any other way. 

Remembering would make us too hopeful, or too despaired, and now, we're back to point one all over again - where we're living too much for tomorrow and missing out on every single today. Or, at the very least, trudging through every Saturday with absolute misery for no other reason than that it's not Sunday.

That's no way to live. 

So we introduce hope on the second Saturday, after an appropriate time to grieve. I don't think the disciples really understood that first Sunday, to be honest with you. I don't think they understood until there were fish frying on the seashore and someone talking to them on the road. I don't think that first Sunday made sense to their hearts. 

Then, we come back to hope somewhere around the sixth or seventh Saturday, when it's been going on longer than we anticipated, and we've been able to settle into a new kind of normal, but we need this reminder that it's still temporary. That even though we've found a way to live, we weren't meant to live this way. It eases our souls a little to know this. 

Finally, we keep coming back to hope every now and then as time draws on and we're stuck in Saturday. We live in today, and we recognize today for all that it is (and all that it isn't), but we keep bringing up these little reminders of hope because we need reminded from time to time that Sunday's still coming...and that this isn't it. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2023

Intolerable Hope

Don't talk to me about hope on Saturday. Just don't do it. 

That's what we're talking about in the wake of Easter, as we wake in the mornings to a resurrected Christ and know that He walks among us again. That somewhere, He's making breakfast. 

The truth is, there are a couple of Saturdays when it's okay to talk about hope. Those are the second Saturday and somewhere around the sixth or seventh. And perhaps again, briefly, around the thirtieth Saturday.

The first Saturday, that time after the hard news hits, isn't the time. Everyone needs an opportunity to process what is going on and to grieve what seems to be lost, even if they know the story. Even if they have heard how things are going to end. 

The disciples had heard Jesus preach about exactly what happened, telling them that He was going to die at the hands of others and talking about this Kingdom thing He couldn't shut up about. But even though the disciples had all the teaching in the world and should have had understanding, look at them on Saturday - grieving. Lost. Planning their return to their day jobs. To try to talk to them about Sunday at a moment like this wouldn't have made much sense to them and it would have diminished the very real experience they were having, the very same experience that God was about to step back into. 

So no, don't talk to me about hope on the first Saturday. I need that time to grieve and to process and to feel my lostness. There's nothing wrong with that. 

The second Saturday is the sweet spot. Here, I have processed, and I am ready for hope. I have accepted, to some degree, what is happening, even if I don't love it, and I'm looking for how it all ends. I'm looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. I am much more prepared to hear about hope on the second Saturday. 

But if Sunday doesn't come that week, then I need more time. I need more space to let things be the way that they are. This is the season where I start to learn how to live again. 

See, on that first Saturday, I'm pushing through. I'm just trying to make it one more day and find some small piece of ground to put my feet on, some quiet place to rest my head. It's survival mode, pure and simple, and that's all I'm doing - trying to survive. Waiting to see how this whole thing plays out. On the second Saturday, I'm holding out. Hope gives me a little bit of much-desired denial, where I can believe for a bit that this is just a passing moment, just a brief season. Things are going to get better. Things are going to be okay. I'm not going to have to make any major adjustments to my life because Sunday is a-comin'. 

If Sunday doesn't come, though...then I start having to figure out how my life needs to be different if I want to keep living it. I have to start making accommodations for this thing that isn't going to be just a passing phase, just a blip on my radar. I have to start learning how to get up in the morning, how to get dressed, how to go to work, how to love my family, how to settle back into a routine. And here, hope isn't helpful. Hope - the idea that Sunday is a-comin' - it prevents me from doing these things. Because it convinces me that I don't have to. 

A lot of persons live in this space, never figuring out how to live again on Saturday when Saturday has drawn on for far too long. And it's because they have either too much hope or too little - too much optimism that they don't really have to change anything because nothing is really changing or too much pessimism that they don't need to change anything because it won't matter any way. 

Remember yesterday when I said that Christians living on Saturday haven't forgotten God? That they haven't forgotten hope? They haven't. But they understand that you can't live in hope perpetually when it's always Saturday; you have to find a way to live again, and hope keeps you from doing that. It keeps you from accepting that what you have today is what you're going to have for awhile. 

And that's just it - the hope that we still have, the hope that we hold on these long keeps us sober. It reminds us that we believe in the goodness of God and the restoration of all things, but keeping a healthy distance from that hope, rather than clinging desperately to it, lets us also accept and embrace what is true about our lives today. We know Sunday's a-comin', but we don't know when. We know today is Saturday, but we don't know for how long. 

A healthy hope, a healthy faith, lets us embrace both. 

But if we have someone, even someone well-meaning, who keeps trying to shove hope down our throat without respecting the season that we're in, it ruins both. It lets us hold neither. We come to a place where we neither believe any more, nor learn to live with it. This is despair. 

That's why hope doesn't circle back around until sixth or seventh Saturday. We need that space to figure out how to live again while we're waiting. 

(We'll keep this going tomorrow. It's getting a bit long.)  

Tuesday, April 11, 2023


This past weekend, Christians around the world gathered to talk about, and to celebrate, the hope that we have. 

Well, most Christians. 

Some...stayed home. 

They stayed home not because they don't want the hope of Christ; that's not it. Nor is it that they don't believe in the hope of the resurrection; overwhelmingly, they do. 

But if we're being honest, sometimes...sometimes that hope feels like a cruel joke, even for the person who has spent years believing in it. 

It feels like such a short time for us. We hear it in the voices all around us. "It's Easter already?" "Wow. This year is just flying by." We know, on Good Friday, that we are just two sleeps away from the resurrection, that the grave doesn't last forever, that death is about to meet its defeat. It feels like sometimes, we blink on Friday, and Sunday's not a-comin'; it's here. Just like that. 

Unless you're living a life where it's been Saturday for oh, so long. 

Unless you're living a season when you remember everything that Jesus said, know everything that He promised, believe in every ounce of hope that He's given...but doesn't feel like Sunday's a-comin' any more. If it is, it's not happening tomorrow. 

There are those among us - and I confess to you that this year, I am one of them - who have lived a thousand weeks without a Sunday. A thousand nights without that hope in the morning. Desperately holding on, desperately clinging. Knowing that one day, it's coming; believing that with all of our hearts. 

But today, again, is not that day. 

And it just gets harder and harder to believe that tomorrow will be, either. 

It's one of those things that's tough to describe because the minute you say that you don't believe tomorrow will be the day, others are quick to accuse you of having lost your faith. Or failing to believe. Or having given up. Others are quick to think that you don't believe in Sunday any more.

I want to tell you, from my personal experience, that that's not necessarily true. In a lot of cases, it's not true at all. Those of us living in a deep, dark Saturday - a long Saturday - want Sunday more than anyone. We believe in Sunday more than anyone. We know it's coming; we've read the story and we live on this side of the resurrection and we know. It's just that...well, Saturday is real, too. 

It doesn't take much for me to believe that the longest day in human history was that first silent Saturday. That first day of rest after death, when it looked like it was all over and nothing could be done. When the people had no inkling of a resurrection, had no idea that it was even possible to walk out of a grave. Well, they'd seen it once, in Lazarus, but who could ever think their voice powerful enough to call Jesus Himself out of the grave? 

That Saturday, that day when you don't know what's coming next, when it seems like you've lost everything, when the whole universe is falling's a long Saturday. It is a grueling, agonizing, drawn-out Saturday. 

And for those of us who, in this season, can't just move on to Sunday, I think that's a good reminder that we're in good company. Eleven men, and many more, who loved Jesus dearly and believed so very much in everything He is, had trouble with hope on that Saturday.

This past weekend, many Christians gathered to celebrate the hope that they have on Sunday. But not all of us. Because it doesn't seem to matter what the calendar says or how quickly the year is passing or that it only looks like two sleeps 'til Sunday.... 

For some of us, today, it's still Saturday. Sunday, we know, is a-comin', but this ain't it. 

Maybe tomorrow. 

(But probably not.) 

Monday, April 10, 2023

God of the Battle

God will fight for you. You probably know that, or at least, you've heard it. 

Whenever I hear something along these lines, I get cinematic-type images in my head of me and God going to battle together, each of us slashing a sword around and cutting through darkness (in my imagination, we don't have to slay anyone; just darkness. Call me a pacifist. I don't know). Anyway, I have these images of me and God in the trenches together, sharing an MRE, taking our helmets off for a second, wiping our brow. 

In other words, when I hear that God will fight for me, I can't seem to help but think about the battle. 

But the battle is only part of it. 

The other the outcome.

Israel was standing on the edge of the Promised Land; Moses was giving his final instructions; Joshua was preparing to lead the people into battle; the people...had their hesitations. Nobody wants to go into battle. Nobody wants to have to fight. Then, Moses tells the people: God will go into battle with you. God will fight for you. God will fight with you. 

Then, God will save you. 

Isn't this really what we're all thinking about? It's not that God would fight for us, or that He would go into the battle with us. I mean, that's nice and all and most of us are certainly appreciative of that. But what we really want is to come out on the other side of the battle. What we really want is a victory. What we really want is to be saved from all of the things the battle threatens to take away from us permanently. 

"God will fight for you" are amazing words. Tremendous words. Encouraging words. But these extra few words - "and God will save you" - change everything for me. They remind me that this life, this faith, it's not just about the fight, which is a lie that is so easy to get drawn into; it's about the victory. It's about the saving. It's about coming out on the other side of it. 

And I don't mean just eternally, just when this life ends and we get to Heaven. That's not what I'm talking about. That's not what Moses was talking about. That's not what God was promising on the edge of Canaan. The people of Israel could not have imagined anything at all like a crucifix; they could not have imagined anything at all like Christ. When they heard Moses tell them that God was going to save them, every single man, woman, and child in that assembled nation heard that God was going to bring them through this battle, through this fight. In this generation. In this life. 

Do you believe God is saving you in this life? Do you believe that when He fights for you - when He fights with you - the end goal is that you would be Not for all eternity, but for today, for right now? 

Have you heard that God will fight for you? How do these extra few words - "and God will save you" - change your understanding of what that means? 

Friday, April 7, 2023

God of Worship

This one is important. Particularly in an age in which we are told that your preference is the most important consideration in anything. 

As Moses was going through his final instructions in Deuteronomy, he came to the topic of worship. He told the people of Israel what God expected of them as a worshiping people and how, exactly, to offer their proper worship. He told them about feast days and festivals, about bringing sacrifices, about how to offer those sacrifices once they had come. He talked about the presence of the Lord and the altar. 

And then, he said, "You don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is." 

Read that again: you don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is. 

The people were already thinking in their hearts about how they might worship once they reached the Promised Land. They were thinking about how they were going to offer their sacrifices and how to act like priests in their own lives. They were thinking of the proper things to do, and thinking at the same time of "new" ways to do those proper things. Ways that might fit more easily into their lifestyle or that might put them more in charge of their own acts of worship. The people were dreaming of the time when they were more settled than they were in the wilderness, and they were starting to plan what their new lives of faith would look like on the other side of the Jordan. 

And they weren't thinking bad things. They thought they were being earnest. They thought they were being honest and acting with integrity. Their hearts were in the right place - they legitimately wanted just to worship and to offer sacrifices to God and to be thankful to Him. They wanted to celebrate everything that He meant to them and the love that they had for Him. Their motives were pure. 

But you can't just slaughter a lamb in your backyard and call it worship. 

You don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is. 

So the things the people were thinking of doing, the things they were planning - even though they were earnest - were wrong. They may have looked like worship on the outside, but they were not actually worship at all. They were not pleasing to God. God would not see worship if He looked and saw these things. That's what Moses says. 

I said this is important, and it is. We are living in a time that says that worship is whatever you say it is. So you "worship" by going fishing on a Sunday morning and rejoicing in God's beautiful creation. You "worship" by giving your body additional rest and sleeping through times when you could be serving. You "worship" by singing the songs you like to sing, even if they aren't Christian songs, because you're making a joyful noise, right? And on and on and on we go, justifying so many of the things that we do as "worship" because we do, earnestly, love God and want to praise, honor, and glorify Him. 

We have all but pushed out what used to qualify as worship in our world. We have all but pushed out liturgy and solemnity and silence and prayer, all of the things that have been hallmarks of the church for thousands of years. And we have said that in its place, we have put our "worship" - "worship" that fits more easily into our lifestyles or puts us more in charge of our own presence at the altar. And we have called it good.

But is it good?

The truth is, as Deuteronomy tells us plainly, we don't get to decide what worship is. God decides what worship is. 

Is your worship....worship?

Thursday, April 6, 2023

God of the Present Generation

Yesterday, we saw how God acts not just for those who are outside of the faith, but for those who are inside of it; the plagues were just as much for the Israelites in Goshen as they were for the Egyptians. Today's lesson is similar, but equally important, and it is this: 

God doesn't act so that your children will see it; He acts so that you will see. 

On the edge of the Promised Land, as Moses was giving his final words to the Israelites, he reminds them of everything that they have seen as God led them through the wilderness. And he says plainly, "God didn't do all of this for your children to see; He did it for you." 

This is important because if you remember, by the time Israel got to the edge of the Promised Land, they were a generation of children. They were the next generation after those who left Egypt. Earlier on, Israel had sent spies into the Promised Land, and they weren't convinced their God was big enough to give it to them, so they came back shaking in fear and terrified everyone else. God then sent them back into the wilderness to wander until that entire generation had died, promising that He would show their children all of the things they were now going to miss. 

These were the children Moses was talking to. They were the ones for whom God was acting, in direct consequence to their parents' generation who had acted out of faithlessness. That means that the paradigm for this generation, the understanding that they had of God, is that He works through the children to teach the parents something. That's why Moses has to say what he says - no, it's not through the children, it's not for the children, it's not on account of the children; God is with you. Now

Imagine the dramatic shift this had to have been for this generation of Israel. They had spent their entire lives carrying the weight of knowing they were the ones holding the promise for their parents, the promise that their parents were never going to see. They had this solid understanding of the role of children in fulfilling the word of God. And by the time they get to the edge of the Promised Land, many of them have their own children. It's so easy for them to just pass their promise off, believing that God will use their children much in the same way that He has used them. 

But the times, they are a'changing. The times are different now. This is not their parents' Israel; it is their Israel. God is with them, just as He has always been, and Moses has to tell them that the promise they've been carrying is no longer because they are children of their parents, but because they are children of God. 

Do you often fall into the trap of believing that you are carrying God's promise for someone else? That everything you're going through is for someone else's glory, not your own? That you aren't the one who is going to enter the Promised Land, even though you stand on the edge of it? 

Maybe you need to hear these words today: God hasn't brought you this far just to give your promise away. He's brought you this far to bring you into it. It's not for the children. God is with you


Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Signs of the Living God

You may remember that when God's people were slaves in Egypt, He had quite an elaborate plan to free them. It consisted of repeatedly insisting, through Moses, that Egypt let His people go and when their hearts remained hard, performing miraculous signs and wonders (read: plagues) to let the Egyptian people know that He meant business. 

But the signs were not just for Egypt. 

The people of Israel, caught in slavery, trapped in a foreign land, needed to know that God was for real just as much as Egypt did. The people of God, who probably didn't believe much after 400 years of slavery that God still cared about them, let alone that He was still with them, needed to know how near God was...and how willing to use His power for their good. The people for whom the Promised Land was but a distant echo of a long-ago whisper needed to see God just as much as the people who didn't believe in Him at all and weren't inclined to go along with His plan. 

Egypt scoffed at the plan; the Israelites struggled to believe it was still the plan at all. 

If you need proof of how much Israel needed to see these things, it's right there in Deuteronomy. When Moses is giving his final speech in front of the people and reminding them of everywhere they've been and everything they've been through, he starts not with the parting of the Red Sea, but with the plagues that came upon Egypt. Plagues, we must also remember, that did not come upon Goshen, where the people of Israel were living in captivity. 

We often think that because we are the people of God, He doesn't do signs and wonders for us any more. Why would He have to? We already believe. We already know the story, know the truth, know the love. We already know the Cross and the manger and the incredible story of God walking the dusty streets of Jerusalem for us. We already know what it means to be His people, what it requires of us and what it adds to our lives. We already know God can turn water into blood...or even wine. Why would He need to show us?

He shows us because we need reminding sometimes. Because we need to see it just as much as the world does. Because when we're looking around, we need more than just to know that God will fight for us; we need to see Him do it. We need to see Him act in His mighty power and incredible grace at the same time. We need to see His favor poured out on our lives in a real, tangible way. We need to see Him draw lines between Egypt and Goshen. We need to see all of this. 

Thankfully, He shows us. 

What if that thing God is doing in your life right now isn't just to show the world who He is? What if it's also to remind you of everything you thought you already knew?  

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

God on the Edge

One of the best parts of Israel's wilderness journey is right at the end of it. No, not when they were finally entering the Promised Land, but just before that - when they were starting to divide up the land God hadn't given them yet. 

It's the wildest scene: all Israel is gathered and Moses is giving his final speech. The whole community knows that Moses is not going with them across the Jordan, but that doesn't stop him from telling them what land they are going to inherit and to start dividing it among the tribes of Israel. Dan will have this land, and Reuben, this one. Judah will live here, while Levi will scatter among the peoples, just as God promised. 

Just. as. God. promised. 

Not delivered. 

They hadn't taken a single inch of the promise yet. They hadn't laid hold to a single acre of holy ground. But here they were, casting lots and making plans and drawing lines on a map that they couldn't even trace yet. They were that certain that God's promise was coming true. They were that certain that God was good. 

When was the last time you were that confident? 

God does this all the time, though we are often not bold enough to lay hold to it. As soon as we start thinking about all the things that are starting to come true in our lives, the things we can see and almost taste, there's this little bit of "worldly wisdom" that tells us not to count our chickens before they hatch. Well, it's worldly, but it's not really wisdom. 

Because God has always been a chickens kind of God. 

God has always been clear about the promise that is coming and the fullness that it entails. God has always been honest about the milk and honey flowing in the land. God has always been straightforward about what it looks like when you get to where He's leading you. 

And it's glorious. 

What would your life look like if you started to lay claim to the promise of God in your life right now, even if you're still on the far side of the Jordan? What would change if you trusted everything that He said? How would your heart be different if you started counting chickens instead of staring at eggs?  

Monday, April 3, 2023

God of Good Gifts

On the edge of the Promised Land, God started instructing His people about the gift they were going to receive. He set out the parameters of who would inherit what land and where, and He made some rules about what happens to that land in the years to come. 

Several rules come out about the land: first of all, if a man only has daughters, his daughters get his portion of the land, but they can only marry their cousins so that the land stays in their family. Second, if you sell your land because you need the money, you always have the option of buying it back. And finally, in the year of Jubilee, your land comes back to you anyway. 

All of this was meant to ensure that no one who received God's portion ever lost it. So that what was holy and blessed would stay with the one it was meant to bless. 

For the glory of God. 

Sometimes, we diminish our gifts. We pretend that they aren't that big of a deal. Sometimes, we try to give them away. Sometimes, we try to pretend that our gifts are different, that they are more like someone else's gifts that seem more desirable to us...or to those around us. We do all kinds of things with the gifts that God has given us, except, it seems, to hold onto them. To cling to them. To love and cherish them. 

We might even sell them if we think it might benefit us in the short term.

But God reminds us that He gave us those gifts for a reason. Those gifts are part of His holy plan for us. They aren't meant to ever go out of our hands. They aren't meant to ever leave us. We aren't meant to leverage them for our benefit; we are meant to cling to them and enjoy them and let them flourish in our lives. Those gifts are ours.

For the glory of God. 

And that's why they keep coming back to us. I don't know about you, but in my life, the truth has been that I can never escape my gifts. I can never get away from them. I can refuse for a season to use them, selling out what should be my spot to someone else who seems to have a knack for it or a good idea, but my gifts always circle back to me. The things that God has given me and has put on my heart just keep coming back as opportunities and open doors, and I just can't ignore them or avoid them for very long. 

Then again, why would I want to?