...a weekly devotional

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Our Everlasting Rock

"The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, 
Because he trusts in you.
Trust in the LORD forever,
For in GOD the LORD we have an everlasting rock."
-Isaiah 26:3-4

As a military spouse change seems to be the only constant in circumstances. Just as you begin to settle into a routine, things get flipped upside-down at a moments notice with a move or a deployment. As if that is not enough, even the change cannot be adapted to because there are details, dates, and locations that all continue to change. We are leaving in less than two weeks and 80% of the details still seem up in the air. With all this change I am discovering how flexible I am not.

I am learning more and more that the only constant is the Everlasting Rock. This is a verse I cannot seem to shake from my mind. Isaiah 26 opens with the words, "In that day..." speaking of God's promised restoration. It is a chapter that prophecies about Judah's response when that day comes- they will sing a song of God's deliverance, and verse 3-4 are part of that declaration. This verse is somewhat ambiguous as to whether it refers to a nation being kept in safety or a person being kept in peace, and you will often find a number of translations rendering it in different ways. I think it is left somewhat ambiguous on purpose to show that whether it is about national security or individual peace, whatever the size of the problem, God is not surprised nor has He lost control. 

As uncertainties arise the only thing you can do is cling to the Rock that is higher than you or your circumstances. I find myself praying "Lord, we don't know what to do, so our eyes are on you." But the thing we can be certain of is that God cares infinitely more than we do about our difficulties. He is not out to get us. He does not bring things into our lives simply to see how hard he can makes things for us before we snap. He loves us deeply and wants our best, therefore, He does what He knows is best. Jeremiah 31:3 says, "The LORD appeared to me from afar, saying, 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness." What an amazing thought that we are drawn in love by God. How could we think that He would tease us with problems or leave us out to dry?

In fact, He often takes away what we think we need or withholds what we want to spare us from greater pain. It is just like the mother who refuses to let her child have an extra brownie because she knows it will just make him sick. But is seems that our only focus is what we lack rather than God's provision. That's why Isaiah 26:4 says "trust in the LORD forever," because with a God who is infinite in His love, wisdom, goodness, and control how could we look anywhere else?

When we trust in God, the "bigness" of our problems seem to shrink, and the goodness of our Savior floods us with peace because in God we have an everlasting rock!

1 Image taken from trip.typepad.com

Friday, February 15, 2013

God is King

"When you saw that Nahash the king of the sons of Ammon came against you, you said to me, 'No, but a king shall reign over us,' although the LORD your God was your king. Now therefore, here is the king who you have chosen, whom you have asked for, and behold, the LORD has set a king over you. If you will fear the LORD and serve Him, and listen to His voice and not rebel against the command of the LORD, then both you and also the king who reigns over you will follow the LORD your God. If you will not listen to the voice of the LORD, but rebel against the command of the LORD, then the hand of the LORD will be against you, as it was against your fathers"...Then all the people said to Samuel, "Pray for your servants to the LORD your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for ourselves a king." Samuel said to the people, "Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside, for then you would go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile. For the LORD will not abandon His people on account of His great name, because the LORD has been pleased to make you a people for Himself...Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you."
- 1 Samuel 12:12-15, 19-22, 24
I believe this story of Israel demanding a king to be one of the saddest stories in all of Scripture. God had given them one of their greatest and godliest rulers in Samuel. He was a prophet, priest, and judge for the people. He served as a bridge between the period of the Judges to the time of the Kings. Judges was marked by rebellion, defeat, confusion, nations disunity, and, despite all this, God's unwavering faithfulness. He did not abandon His people regardless of their idolatry and rebellion. Instead He was faithful to His promises of blessing their obedience and punishing their disobedience. Even as they continued to turn their back on God, He blessed them with the righteous leadership of Samuel who unified the tribes into a nation, helped the people seek God, and caused them to experience peace on every side. 

Despite all this in 1 Samuel 8 the people come to Samuel demanding a king. They gave two reasons: the first being that Samuel's sons were evil and did not walk in the Samuel's ways. However, Eli, the leader that preceded Samuel also had evil sons, but God raised up Samuel to lead the people in their place. In no way was this an valid excuse because God could have and would have raised up another godly leader in the same way He had done for them many times before. Their second reason, was that they wanted to be like the other nations: "Nevertheless, the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel, and they said, "No, but there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Sam. 8:19-20).

Samuel is deeply grieved at their request, but God reminds him, "for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being King over them" (8:7b). He warns them of the foolishness of their choice, but they are stubborn in their request. Consequently, the king God provides them matches their request. The same was that the people of Israel were more concerned with being like the nations around them, Saul, cared only about what people thought instead of what God thought. We find repeated occasions in which Saul disobeys and displeases God and every time he gives excuse after excuse about how he feared the people. 

In chapter 12 Samuel is addressing the nation for the final time of his career. He reminds the people that even though they are unwilling to accept or admit it, God is still their King. He reiterates God's faithfulness- that if they seek Him, God will bless them abundantly and provide them with peace. But if they turn away from God, He will be faithful to punish them. But Samuel adds that no matter what God would never abandon them. 

The thing that makes this story chilling to the bone is how similar our hearts are to the people of Israel. We reject God as our King on a daily basis. We deeply desire acceptance and to "fit in" with the people around us, when the only opinion that matters is God's. We are quick to give excuses for and even ignore our sin. Although God has protected and provided for us over and over, we still anxiously doubt and dread. We go after futile things which cannot profit or deliver, because they are futile (1 Sam. 12:21). We want to see and put our trust in something tangible because we are certain that will be easier than remembering that God is in control. We cling to money, relationships, occupations, entertainment, even our own ability, even though the LORD your God is your King! (12:12).

In the same way Samuel leaves a charge to the people, "Only fear the LORD and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you" (12:24). I challenge you in the same three ways:

God is King!
1. Fear Him (trust and rely on all that He has revealed about Himself)
2. Serve Him (love and obey Him)
3. Thank Him (for consider what great things He has done for you)

1. Image taxdollars.ocregister.com

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Happy Groundhog Day!

I could not pass up the opportunity to write a post about Groundhog Day. It is my favorite holiday for the following reasons:
1. We need a reason to celebrate right about this time of year. The Christmas season has passed and the next big holiday is Valentine's Day, which the retail stores have been preparing for since December 26th.
2. The movie, Groundhog Day, is brilliant. I watch it every year. In fact, I only let myself watch it on Groundhog Day because otherwise I would be watching it all the time.
3. I never pass up a chance to have a party...groundhog cupcakes and all.
4. Most importantly, it is the reminder that winter does not last forever. I have had my share of bone chilling winters; the kind of winter where you start to forget how the warmth of the sun looks and feels. Regardless of how cold and long winter feels, the snow and ice always melt into spring.

"The unfailing love of the LORD never ends! By His mercies we have been kept from complete destruction. Great is His faithfulness; His mercies begin afresh each day. I say to myself, 'the LORD is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in Him.'"
-Lamentations 3:22-24

These verses were written during one of the darkest times in Israel's history. It was a time of destruction, exile, and hopelessness. The name of the book says it all! It is an acrostic poem, the very center of which are these verses. It is the reminder that no matter how desolate life becomes, God's lovingkindness is secure, and His faithfulness to us is renewed on a daily basis. For His children, eternal life with Him is our inheritance.  

Often we think of hope in uncertain terms. For example, we say things like "I hope I don't get stuck in traffic today" or "I hope it doesn't rain." But biblical hope is a fixed assurance in a certain future. It is not a wish that something may or may not be, it is the set knowledge in the promises of God. 

In this life we often find ourselves longing for more; it is because we were made for more. C.S. Lewis paints this hope beautifully in the last chapter of The Last Battle in the Chronicles of Narnia. The chapter is titled "Farewell to the Shadowlands" and on the last page C.S. Lewis writes,
"There was a real railway accident," said Aslan softly. "Your father and mother and all of you are- as you used to call it in the Shadowlands- dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before."1 
It is described at the end of the last book of the Bible as this:
"Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.'" - Revelation 21:1-4
Even if moments of this life, or this life as a whole, feel hopeless and dreary, this is not the end. The end for believers is a glorious future. This life is the beginning of our eternal life with God. This winter will soon melt into spring. 

That's why I love Groundhog Day. It is the reminder that no matter how dark and desolate life feels, this is not it. We have hope that relief will come, whether it is in this life or the next. We cannot control our circumstances, as the movie Groundhog Day so humorously portrays, but we can control our attitude. We can set our focus on God and the hope of a certain future, and allow our lives to reflect that hope to those around us. 

1. C. S. Lewis, The Last Battle. HarperCollins: New York, 1956, p. 228.
2. Image taken from allthingsd.com