Day Thirty-Nine

For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2


At different times in my life I find I need to simplify everything. I’m not sure how it happens, but I seem to get distracted and bogged down. Everyone’s opinions are barking in my ear, and I can’t tell anymore what I think about things. There are a bunch of decisions to make, and I keep making them, but I feel so uncertain of what’s wise. All of my commitments, each one made for a good reason, now all add up to constant busyness and distraction. I need to cut through it all. I need to simplify everything again and figure out what’s basic. What’s the foundation.

That is why Paul made this resolve and stuck to it. It’s a desperate move in a sense. It’s reducing all of life and ministry to one core commitment. But then you do it, and you suddenly realize how liberating it is, how cleansing. All of the opinions of men shout at you, and then you realize they’re only that: opinions of men. For all those decisions you need to make, you can now see a guide. What glorifies Christ? What glorifies Him as crucified? All of the commitments I’ve made, I now submit them to this new resolve.

Some will stay, some will go. Let the glory of Christ, and Him crucified be all I know, or need to know, or need to tell others. It’s a simple and wonderful way. This resolve is a great shout of NO to all of the confusion and options around us. Run today to the blessed simplicity of the love of the Father, in Jesus His Son.

Day Thirty-Eight

For out of Jerusalem shall go a remnant, and out of Mount Zion a band of survivors. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 37:32


 

Git ‘er dun. That was a popular redneck slogan for a while. What does get things done? I’ve got a whole book on it. What’s the answer? A good plan? More hard work? Better “inbox” strategies? We all make all sorts of resolutions, and we all work together in many ways to see things get done. Sometimes stuff does get done; sometimes it doesn’t. I have a good friend who never delegates anything if she can help it. I know why. If she does it, then she knows it’ll be done, it’ll be done right, and it’ll be done on time. People like that are a great asset at times, but in the end, they’ll just burn out. They always do. Our God won’t. This is what this verse says. He will never burn out. The Lord, our God, is passionate about getting stuff done. What stuff? Our rescue and the coming of His Son. Our salvation from sin. Our hope. Nothing else will “git ‘er dun” like His will! It’s the passionate longing of an eternal Being to save folks like us from sin, to rescue us from judgment. It’s this passion that goes to the cross, it’s this passion that chases you for years, it’s this passion that gets His work done in you. Whether you like it or not. Our lives are so unfinished all of the time, our best hopes and hard work are nothing – and my zeal for my family, my church, and my calling won’t last. I need His zeal – His passion for me, in me, and through me. Then everything will get done. His own driving passion will do it. Praise Him!

Day Thirty-Seven

My God, my God, why have You forsaken me? Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but You do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.

Psalm 22:1-2


 

I’m so very glad that these words are in the scripture. Even more, that they’re on Christ’s lips as He dies alone on the wood. Otherwise, how could I hold on to hope when it’s really gotten that bad? Sometimes we have a weak picture of Christ, that somehow, because He was also God, that His suffering was less. As if He were play acting a predetermined drama or His divinity was some eternal tylenol. That would mean these words were lies to me.

The truth is, in His innocence, and in the breaking of His relationship with His Father, that all of eternity and time were being shaken. And His grief was like no other. That’s what it must mean. When we feel low or depressed, when we are suffering, we often feel alone. And honestly, in some ways, we are tasting the tiniest bit of those words. That’s why it hurts so much. But we will never be alone like He was. In fact, we can never be alone again, because He knows how our sadness feels. There is always One who knows your pain and more beyond it. That’s really something. And in the end, it’s “my God.” The tender words of owning and loving the Father who has wounded Him. We are people who know grief. This is a part of what it is to be a Christian. But that grief will never be the final word to us. Take your suffering now to Jesus, because He’s yours. Even the suffering of not finding Him. He even understands this pain and bends His whole heart to His every child crying out in the darkness.

Day Thirty-Six

You shall be careful therefore to do as the LORD your God has commanded you. You shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left.

Deuteronomy 5:32


 

There is a truth here to guide us in a world with so many places to go, so many turns in the road, and so many pitfalls around us. Don’t go to the left or the right. We all have certain directions our personalities tend to go, certain things that tempt us, loyalties that will bind us. Have you ever noticed, as you lift your hands for a brief moment from the steering wheel of your car, that it will tend to drift one way or the other? It’s the suspension, worn down by potholes and uneven tires. Your heart is the same way. Do not go the left or to the right. Right or left of what? Dear child of God, make it Jesus and Him crucified. There is so much distraction, and our own hearts are slow and “prone to wander.” That’s why we like that song so much, it tells the truth about us. We all tend to wander around, either to the left or the right. The real trick is to see it isn’t really about what’s on the left or on right. That’s not what we must concern ourselves with. Not at first. That’s just your context, wherever you are and wherever you live. What is on the left or right will change with the different places you will live and the circumstances you face. What remains constant is Christ and Him crucified. Set your mind on the cross, where your savior died. Set your heart on the Father’s love for sinners, for us His children. Set your hope on the Prince of Glory, who died that you might live. Make that your “true north,” your ready compass at all times. And don’t stray in your worship, in your heart, or in your choices – be careful with this and you’ll discover something oddly beautiful and strange. You will know what way to go, not because you’re smarter or more spiritual than anyone else. No. You’ll know and turn and live freely, because you walk with the path maker Himself. Praise Him.

Day Thirty-Five

“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

Ezekiel 16:6


This is a picture from the delivery room, a scene of blood and birth, which our Father is using to describe His love.  In this passage God’s people are described as a newborn abandoned in a field, despised by its mother. How can this express His love?  There is nothing really attractive about birth.  It is a fairly gruesome event.  This birth is even worse. However, our Father is talking about the way He loves us without any conditions.  We were not his children naturally, and He chooses to love us even as He sees where we begin in it all.  The poet Herbert wrote, “I was born crying, and every day shows why.”  This is us, born into the world’s misery and ugliness. We are not beautiful.  But He sees all that, and He loves us.  It is this love that began before the world was made, for in His love he chose us before time was time.

He loved, and he loves today.  So often in our squalor and guilt, we feel helpless.  This is what the doctrine of election, of God’s choice, is for – it is to give hope to us.  If I was loved this way, and chosen this way, I have so much to hope for in His love.  I can be bold; I can come to the Father, I can trust in His love.  When the Father loves, nothing and no one shall defeat it.  Let us come, full of repentance and faith today, remembering that the Father looked on us and saw the whole truth of who we were.  And then He decided to set His love on us.  How great is His grace!

Day Thirty-Four

“And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’ I said to you in your blood, ‘Live!’

Ezekiel 16:6


 

This is a picture from the delivery room, a scene of blood and birth, which our Father is using to describe His love.  In this passage God’s people are described as a newborn abandoned in a field, despised by its mother. How can this express His love?  There is nothing really attractive about birth.  It is a fairly gruesome event.  This birth is even worse. However, our Father is talking about the way He loves us without any conditions.  We were not his children naturally, and He chooses to love us even as He sees where we begin in it all.  The poet Herbert wrote, “I was born crying, and every day shows why.”  This is us, born into the world’s misery and ugliness. We are not beautiful.  But He sees all that, and He loves us.  It is this love that began before the world was made, for in His love he chose us before time was time.

He loved, and he loves today.  So often in our squalor and guilt, we feel helpless.  This is what the doctrine of election, of God’s choice, is for – it is to give hope to us.  If I was loved this way, and chosen this way, I have so much to hope for in His love.  I can be bold; I can come to the Father, I can trust in His love.  When the Father loves, nothing and no one shall defeat it.  Let us come, full of repentance and faith today, remembering that the Father looked on us and saw the whole truth of who we were.  And then He decided to set His love on us.  How great is His grace!

Day Thirty-Three

Then David inquired of the LORD again. And the LORD answered him, “Arise, go down to Keilah, for I will give the Philistines into your hand.”

1 Samuel 23:4


 

This was David’s habit. What should I do here? Where should I go? What should I do next? He inquired of the Lord. He asked God. At a later point, he stops these questions. Stops asking what and where. No more inquiring of the Lord. His lust and pride blind him to his own awful destructive manipulations. But that’s not yet. Here it’s just wonderful. Now David had some advantages. He had a priest who could find God’s will for him. Before some of you say, that must have made it easier for him, need I remind you how little we listen to men of God today? But the priest had the advantage to help him. He could throw dice to discover God’s will. That sounds primitive and crude because it is. If it looks like an easy way to live, it isn’t. It takes a whole lot of faith to throw a seven and run into danger with confidence.

But the truth is we have an advantage over David! David was limited with a small Bible (one he was actually writing!) and priest shooting dice. I have the Son Himself, and I have the Holy Spirit, and I have scriptures – rich, full, and complete! He really was flying blind compared to us, so why is his faith so much stronger? He had a habit. Go and ask our God what to do.

But I think he also had something else. We could compare scars with David (we’d lose) and compare how much we know versus how much he knew (we’d win,) and it just wouldn’t matter. God isn’t fairer now than He was then. You’re responsible for what you know, so it’s all essentially equal in the end. But what David had was surrender. He never went to God and asked about what to do and then thought about it. Never. He went to God with a heart that was already committed to doing whatever he was asked. That’s the difference. Whether you have a ton of info or just a little isn’t the issue. We usually go to God and ask Him to tell us to what He wants, so we can figure out if we’re going to do it. I can tell you one thing. You’ll never discover any of His wisdom for your life with that attitude. And I see it everywhere, even in myself. The deeper habit of David was not that He asked God what to do, is it? The deeper habit of faith that David understood was a heart surrendered. So when God said “Get up and go down to Keilah,” David’s only response was “How long till we get there?” A habit of the soul that I believe sees every answer. Amen.