Why It Helps to Talk About Stuff

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Leviticus 18:1-3: “The Lord said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘I am the Lord your God. You must not do as they do in Egypt, where you used to live, and you must not do as they do in the land of Canaan, where I am bringing you. Do not follow their practices.  You must obey my laws and be careful to follow my decrees.”

Little A and I have had a few preliminary birds and bees talks, we’ve gone through 2 books together, there have been a few questions and some giggles, I’ve learned a 3rd grader’s terms for certain, ahem, parts, and, and being new to this education thing, I’m not quite sure if we’ve got to the right level of information for this stage, but at least we’re trying…This was a little more than I got as a kid.  Somewhere around junior high, I was handed Preparing for Adolescence and given the instructions, “Let me know if you have any questions!”

<Record scratches somewhere in the distance, music stops abruptly.>

Awkward with a capital A.

Contrast this to my mid-20’s niece who got married a few months ago. I can remember saying to her before she was engaged that she knew a gazillion more things than I ever did at her age about relationships–even after I got married.  Not shocking, tell-all stuff, just wise, discerning things that are helpful for every woman to know going in to a life-long relationship.  She surrounded herself with godly women, she learned, I know that she and my sister-in-law must have had discussions. She went into things wide-open, and she’s told me that she is learning even now.

I like to assume that my daughter has always known stuff like saying “thank you” when someone gives her something, or holds the door for her, but, no, she didn’t know it instinctively. She had to learn by instruction and she had to learn by yielding her heart to the process. Sometimes, more than other times, this is immensely hard. I don’t need instruction, I’ve got this. Easy as pie.  No worries.  <Splat> That’s the sound of me falling flat on my face in mud.

Saying “thank you” is a bigger piece of the pie, really.  It’s about manners, about doing the right thing at the right time and it’s about treating others how you would want to be treated.  Little steps.  And in the beginning of Leviticus, God started off with the “little” instructions, like how the Israelites were to assemble their camp in the dessert (centrally around the tabernacle) or what to do when something became moldy, or what to do when someone had a wasting skin disease, all seemingly tedious details, but they were all important.  God wanted them to live orderly, healthy lives.  And so, as we graduate from how we plant our crops in chapter 19, we move on to how we use our bodies.

Just as we see in the verses above, the Israelites needed an all-‘round rewiring. They needed someone to say, “What you grew up watching, witnessing all around you, that was wrong.  It was hurtful and will bring you nothing but trouble.”  If God was calling his people apart to be holy, just as he was holy (Lev. 20:7), well, then he had to show them how.  Laws like:

1) not having sexual relations with a relative: not your mother, stepmother, aunt, niece, sister-in-law, daughter-in-law, or your neighbor’s wife…

2) no homosexuality

3) no bestiality (Lev. 20:10-21)

God uses strong language here: “Keep all my decrees and laws and follow them, so that the land where I am bringing you to live may not vomit you out.” Lev. 20:22

These are all rules that God continues to want us live by. Over and over again, we see that God is a jealous God.  Why shouldn’t he be? He is our Maker, our Husband.  He wants all of our affections and attentions, and living in a fallen world, these affections are usually right in our face.  Even the things don’t look bright and happy and appealing and attractive, they are there too, Little A and I had a discussion about bad words in school yesterday…sometimes it feels overwhelming.

And so we pray, the Lord’s prayer: “Lead us not into temptation, for THINE is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Be assured, we are not doing this alone, it is God who strengthens us to stand, and so do other believers, by their testimonies and how they live their lives. For we are: “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people, once you had not received mercy but now you have received mercy. ” I Peter 2:9-12.

Let us carry this with us, as we know little acts of obedience yield big results.

Why Numbers Matter

FullSizeRenderHave you ever had one of those weeks when everything seems to come together? You’ve been waiting and praying so long, that when the answer finally does come, it’s mostly unbelievable.  It took me writing a letter of encouragement to a friend a few days ago for me to have my Aha! Moment (thanks, Oprah).  More on that later…

But I share that to say that the book of Numbers isn’t just some confusing text sandwiched between God’s Levitical law and Moses’ reinstatement that God must be #1 in the Israelite’s lives. It is an essential text for the preparation of God’s people.

At the start of this book, Moses was instructed to take a census of the whole Israelite community by their clans and families, listing every man by name, one by one. You and Aaron are to count according to their division all the men in Israel who are twenty years old or more and able to serve in the army. One man from each tribe, each of them the head of his family, is to help you. Num. 1:2-4. This census wasn’t a quick process,  I’m sure each male adult 20+ was standing there, scratching his head, thinking, Why the long lines, why all this precision?  Why the ordered encampment?  Why do the Levites get to be the ones closest to the sanctuary? Why?

Does this sound familiar?

Why am I having such a hard time finding a job? Why did my mother die so early? Why is my best friend no longer my best friend? Why does everyone else see to have it all mapped out and I don’t ?

Let me tell you a secret:

They don’t.

None of us do.

Because we aren’t the ones in charge, God is.

Isn’t the census taking and the tent arrangement and clan alignment so beautiful in light of that?

Because God saw the big picture. He knew what was waiting for Israel down the road.  He knew that Israel had battles ahead.  He knew that there needed be a way to communicate his rules and laws.

Yes, 40 years was a long time to wander in the desert, and time and again, just as the Israelites were tested, so are we. Will we stand firm?  Will we love him with all our heart, mind soul and strength?  Will we glorify and thank him, no matter what the circumstances?  Remember, James 1:13-15: When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Consider this, we find that the total number of men eligible to fight in the army was 603,500, this was for an estimated 2M person population, this was over ¼ of their population, or a 1:4 ratio! To put that into perspective, our current armed forces vs. U.S. population is 1:318!  God was readying them, one person at a time, one heart at a time.  Now what was God doing arranging them by tribe?  These were slaves, they probably didn’t know how to read or write (I’m theorizing), what they did have was oral tradition, how else were they to quickly convey the laws of the Lord, but through speech?

Let me ask you something, if you feel like you’re in a spiritual/physical/life desert right now, wouldn’t you do everything you possibly could to find your way out? And even if that length of time isn’t up to you (which it isn’t).  Wouldn’t you do everything in you could to prepare yourself while you were there for the time that God does open up the floodgates, so that you won’t view money, relationships, success the same way again.  If you’re smart you’ll want God’s view on everything, because, “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.” 2 Chron. 16:9.  In light of this discussion on spiritual fervor, I want to introduce you to what the author, Bob Sorge, in “Secrets of the Secret Place” labels as spiritual violence: the intensity with which the last days’ generation will pursue God.  ‘they will seek God with their entire being, denying themselves, throwing off all entangling sins, in order to run the race with passion, purity and perseverance. ‘The kingdom of heaven suffers violence and the violent take it by force’” (Matt. 11:12).

He goes on to say, “Jesus doesn’t respond to all believers alike. He responds differently to those who seek more diligently. We see this in the way He handled the Twelve.  Peter, James, and John were invited into some of Jesus’ most intimate and awesome moments, while the other disciples were not included.  The difference, I believe, is that the others held back somewhat in their hearts toward the Lord, while Peter, James, and John pursued Jesus harder.  Some of the disciples doubted Jesus, even after the resurrection (Matt. 28:17), and that reservation of spirit robbed them of the greatest levels of intimacy.  Those who had more were given more.”

No, we will never see the big picture, but we do know the artist who is painting it, and it should be our heart’s desire to trust Him, even in the most tedious details.

What small, tedious, repetitive task have you been assigned and have then seen how God used that for a greater purpose? I’d love to hear from you!

Curing Covetousness: A Guest Post

On writing one of my last posts, I’d noticed I had explored the subject of contentment here on more than one occasion, so when I came upon Melissa’s thoughts on the matter, I couldn’t let it pass by without sharing. 

I was introduced to Melissa via social media by one of my best friends, and while I was impressed with her writing from the start, it took me a little while to get around to listening to her sermons, and that is where the idea for this guest post was born.  My sister and I sat down to listen to her message, “Finding Contentment in a Covetous World” and I was floored. Melissa speaks with candidness, a genuine love for her audience and a desire to see her fellow Christian grow spiritually. This came out of an even bigger project in her life, a book called The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World.  And once you are done reading about it below, click HERE to listen to one of the most well thought-out and helpful messages I’ve heard on the subject of cultivating contentment. 

Q: What’s the story behind your recent book The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World?

A: A number of years ago, while doing a study on the book of Joshua, I noticed the pattern of “see, covet, take and hide” in Achan’s story. As I began to explore this pattern in Scripture, I realized that it goes all the way back to the original sin of Eve in the garden. It became clear that the sin of “coveting” was no minor problem, but one that was at the core of our rebellion against God. But, this issue of coveting was not just an academic one—it was one I faced in my own life as I wrestled with unmet expectations, difficulties and trials. The breakthrough came when I began to realize that God’s commands for thanksgiving and joy were rooted in the Lord’s sovereignty and goodness, not the specific circumstances of my life. My problem was a failure to believe something, not a failure to possess something. I found that coveting was most often a right desire for a good thing that had soured in the waiting process. This awareness drove me deep into God’s word in search of Biblical ways to combat covetous tendencies. Five years after that initial study on the book of Joshua, The Envy of Eve was complete.

Q: What do you hope readers will take away from your book?

A: The central idea that I hope my readers will take away from The Envy of Eve is that discontentment is not a circumstantial problem, but a heart problem. Our lack of joy, impatience, discontentment, or irritability have much more to do with a failure to believe something about the Lord than with what is actually happening on a particular day. Rather than living life always wondering, “Why isn’t God giving me what I desire?”, my hope is that we would start asking, “What does God desire of me as I walk through the circumstances He has providentially planned for me today?” Truthfully, it changes everything to believe that love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control are available for each day as we abide in Jesus and walk by His Spirit.

Q: Is The Envy of Eve for women only or will men find something of value in your book as well?

A: When we consider that the command against coveting is found within the 10 Commandments, we realize that it is clearly an equal opportunity sin struggle for both men and women! In fact, I think it is one of the most important commandments because it speaks to what is happening inside our hearts, not just our external actions. If anyone thought they had fulfilled the law by their outward actions, this command digs deep into the soul and exposes one’s need for the gospel in a particular way. While the examples I use are often directed towards women, the Biblical stories that expose prevalence of this sin pattern are beneficial for both men and women to consider. God’s truths are relevant for everyone, even if the particular desires they battle against are different. We can all benefit from considering carefully what we desire and the effects that might have upon ourselves, the church, and the world around us.

—-

Melissa Kruger serves on staff as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Uptown Church (PCA) in Charlotte, North Carolina and is the author of The Envy of Eve:  Finding Contentment in a Covetous World (Christian Focus, 2012) and Walking with God in the Season of Motherhood (WaterBrook/Multnomah, 2015).  She blogs at Wit’s End (www.melissabkruger.com) and writes regularly for The Gospel Coalition and Christianity.com.  Her husband, Mike, is the president of Reformed Theological Seminary and they have three children.  You can follow her on twitter: @melissabkruger

The Words of My Mouth


(Inspired by Proverbs 10)

Lord Jesus, may the words of my mouth:
-always reflect your commands
-be a fountain that refreshes another’s spirit
-reflect a heart and mind that is discerning
-be prudent, withholding words when needed
-be like choice silver: of utmost worth, sought after and valued
-nourish many, bringing new life to every person within earshot
-flow with the fruit of righteousness
-find favor even in the stickiest situations
There was an incident in the park yesterday, or, what could have been an incident, and somehow, in the midst of ugly words and worthless chatter, the Holy Spirit took over.
I said nothing.
It took everything I had, but I said nothing and as I drove away, I thanked God, for in that very moment, with four little sets of ears listening and four sets of eyes watching,

I said nothing.

In the Meantime

A few years ago, my sister said something that has resonated with me almost every day since I heard it: Every circumstance you are placed in is preparing you for something else.  It’s a concept I’ve seen at work in my own life, which makes me so grateful for how sovereign and crafty our God just is.  For instance, out of college, I went to work for a government agency as a secretary, not the most glamorous job in the world, but I learned accountability, patience, the value of team work and not feeding the gossip beast, a few years and unpleasant jobs later brought me to a some formative years as an editorial assistant, and what I learned here was invaluable: that what I had to write meant something, that some people (namely research scientists) actually valued what I had to say, and of course with any job there were the non-related work circumstances that taught me quite a bit too.  Finally, more recently, personal life circumstances gave me the material to write a book and begin a blog so all of that built on itself: the work ethic, the knowledge, and the humbling circumstances with which to relate to my reader. 
I had a chance to look at this practically when reading to the girls yesterday from a kid’s biography on Winston Churchill.  Winston grew up in a political family, had a few fits and starts with behavior, schooling, and in both of those arenas early on in life, things were looking a little bleak.  However, it took a few people to really invest in him, namely his nanny and to see his passion for leadership and serving in the armed forces to really draw this boy out.  You see, for a long time, Churchill desperately wanted to be a politician like his father, to influence, to lead, BUT, he had to start somewhere, so he began to write and what he wrote he began to speak and when his writing became so good, he was asked to travel and write, which landed him in a bit of hot water (namely, prison) but he managed to escape and in the course became a hero, from there his bravery increased and throughout his life he got into some circumstances which were really out of his hands but formed his character.  Which got me to thinking on the value of starting where you can.  Churchill has huge aspirations for himself but he started with what he could do.
Here’s my encouragement to you, whether you are 17 or 72, start humbly at the bottom.  Do the menial tasks, the hours in the copy room with you and the rumbling machines.  Sweep up when no one is looking, be consistent, follow through.
With my life taking a 180 in the past few years, of course I’ve had the question, “Will things ever get back ‘on track’?” But God may have a couple of different ideas on what that track looks like and I have to be content with that.  I need to realize that whatever dreams I have, big or small, it means doing to grunt work at the beginning:
1) Continuing to write when it doesn’t feel like anything is happening and no one is paying attention
2) Being a good mother to Little A
3) Being consistent and accountable in my jobs
4) Maintaining personal relationships the best way I know how with lots of prayer
Some of these are expansive and require lots of bullet points underneath, others, like faithfully writing are straightforward.
I know we are almost into June already, but now may be just the time to jump start those New Year’s goals or come up with a few new ones, it just may transform your meantime.

Rinse, Repeat

Creative Commons by edenpictures
I’ve found myself chaffing–a lot–lately over the Lord’s discipline.  Don’t you just love it how stuff will come up in your life that causes you to dig deeper–and deeper still, and without knowing it, you’ve come back to the gods that you thought you had knocked down, trampled over and left in the dust?  I came to this conclusion in my reading of the first few chapters of Judges this morning; the only thing that I can take comfort in in all of this, is that I am not alone.  The Israelites  went back to their gods again and again in the dessert and here I am in 21st Century America guilty of the same thing.
Judges 2:6 After Joshua had dismissed the Israelites, they went to take possession of the land, each to his own inheritance.  The people served the Lord throughout the lifetime of Joshua and of the elders who outlived him and who had seen all the great things the Lord had done for Israel.
Then, Joshua died and was buried.
Joshua 2: 10-22 After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel.  Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the Lord and served the Baals.  They forsook the Lord, the God of their fathers, who had brought them out of Egypt.  They followed and worshiped various gods of the peoples around them.  They provoked the Lord to anger because they forsook him and served Baal and the Ashtoreths.  In his anger against Israel the Lord handed them over to raiders who plundered them.  He sold them to their enemies all around, whom they were no longer able to resist.  Whenever Israel went out to fight, the hand of the Lord was against them to defeat them.  They were in great distress.

Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.  Yet they would not listen to their judges but prostituted themselves to other gods and worshiped them.  Unlike their fathers, they quickly turned from the way in which their fathers had walked, the way of obedience to the Lord’s commands.  Whenever the Lord raised up a judge for them, he was with the judge and saved them out of the hands of their enemies as long as the judge lived; for the Lord had compassion on them as they groaned under those who oppressed and afflicted them.  But when the judge died, the people returned to ways even more corrupt than those of their fathers, following other gods and serving and worshiping them.  They refused to give up their evil practices and stubborn ways.
Therefore the Lord was very angry with Israel and said, “Because this nation has violated the covenant that I laid down for their forefathers and has not listed to me, I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations Joshua left when he died.  I will use them to test Israel and see whether they will keep they way of the Lord and walk in it as their forefathers did.”
Skipping ahead a few verses:
3: 1-2: These are the nations the Lord left to test all those Israelites who had not experienced any of the wars in Canaan (he did this only to teach warfare to the descendants of the Israelites who had not had previous battle experience)…
Can’t we see that the Lord’s discipline is a reminder that he loves us?  No, God does not tempt us, but He does test us.  He wants our character to be refined over and over again, he wants the sparkly shine to come out all over us, but that is only done through rubbing, through crushing, through trial.  To be honest with you, I still haven’t got to the point where I “consider it pure joy” (James 1: 2) whenever I do face a trial.    I still cry and scream and stomp my foot and whine and fall down in despair, but God has proven over and over and over again that we don’t want to get to that state of neither knowing the Lord nor what he had done for us.  So, he brings us back, he allows us to feel defeated, so that he can prepare us for bigger things ahead.  Sanctification is a process, as really long, ongoing and in my opinion, can be a painful process.
There is nothing that I would want less than for the Lord’s mighty hand to be against me.  I want his favor, his blessings, his goodness upon my life.  I want to live a life that is full of his unspeakable joy and gladness, a life that is content and at peace throughout life’s trials.  I think, no, I know it’s possible because I have seen it happen before.
Is there something in your life that God is trying to sanctify you through?  It could be a relationship, a work situation, a trial that has you knocked flat on your back.  Will you let this obstacle refine you or will you try and kick at it, climb over it or run around it altogether?
Lord, replace my pride with servant hands that are willing to get stained and dirty.
Replace my greed with a desire to give way past when it starts hurting.
Help me to reach out.
Help me to be transparent when everything inside of me wants to crawl under the nearest rock.
Help me to think of others.  Period.
You do not owe me, life does not owe me.  The only person indebted here is me for the price you paid. Amen.

Let Us Not Become Like Tofu-Part II of II OR Lessons from King Hezekiah


Photo: Creative Commons by Andrea Nguyen 


[Hezekiah] was successful in whatever he undertook.  He rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him.  From the watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory. (II Kings 18:7-8) Hezekiah was going forward in the power of the Lord almighty, defeating enemies, claiming land, purposing success for the nation of Judah.

But he hits a snag.
Throughout his reign, he witnessed the King of Assyria begin to snatch up land all around him, in Samaria, deporting Israel to Assyria and settling them in various towns, but the scripture was specific in why God had allowed this , “This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated his covenant–all that Moses the servant of the Lord commanded.  They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out.”
And unfortunately, the next big target for the King of Assyria was Judah…“Sennacherib King of Assyria attacked all the fortified cities of Judah and captured them.”  This is where, I believe, the story gets sticky.
Because Hezekiah allows himself to be intimidated and begins to back down saying to Sennacherib, “I have done wrong.  Withdraw from me, and I will pay whatever you demand of me.”  Not only does Hezekiah hand over all the silver in the temple, but he raids the treasuries of the royal palace, going so far as to strip the doors and posts of the temple of their gold.
Wait a minute…didn’t scripture say in II Kings 18: 6 that Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him.”??  Why was he backing down?
Proverbs 29:25a “The fear of man will prove to be snare…”
We cannot back down. 
That is why God gives us his spiritual armor (Ephesians 6:13), promises his angel armies (Psalm 91:11) and declares throughout Scripture, “Never will I leave you, Never will I forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)  Yes, our enemy the devil is prowling BUT that is why we are commanded to remain self-controlled and alert. (I Peter 5:8)
Continuing on with the story: “The king of Assyria sent his supreme commander…with a large army, from Lachish to King Hezekiah at Jerusalem.”  They called for the King and he sent out his palace administrator, secretary and recorder. 
Isn’t it just easier to get other people to do our dirty work? 🙂
Assyria’s field commander tried to intimidate King Hezekiah’s men with phrases like: “You say you have strategy and military strength–but you speak only empty words.  On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me?”
And if you say to me, “We are depending on the Lord our God”–isn’t he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, ‘You must worship before this altar in Jerusalem?”
The enemy begins to bargain with them:
“Come now, make a bargain with my master, the king of Assyria: I will give you two thousand horses–if you can put riders in them!”
And then he resorts to just plain lies:
“The Lord himself told me to march against this country and destroy it.”
He turns to Hezekiah’s people, switching his language from Aramaic to Hebrew so that they can understand [I can just see the sweat trickling down his face.]
“Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! This is what the king says: Do not let Hezekiah deceive you.  He cannot deliver you from my hand.  Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord when he says, ‘The Lord will surely deliver us; this city will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria. 
He then showers them with empty promises (I can’t help but think about the first liar in the garden…)
“Make peace with me and come out to me.  Then every one of you will eat from his own vine and fig tree and drink water from his own cistern, until I come and take you to a land like your own, a land of grain and new wine, a land of bread and vineyards, a land of olive trees and honey.”
Stand firm, brothers and sisters.
This man has got to be red in the face by now, asking,
“Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria?”
But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply because the King has commanded, “Do not answer him.”
After this passionate speech, Hezekiah’s messengers were scared, intimidated, tore their clothes and came back to Hezekiah, telling him what was said.
Guess what?
Hezekiah was scared too, he tore his clothes and asked for his men to go to Isaiah the prophet and have him plead their case before God.
And Isaiah relays this message from the Lord: “Do not be afraid–those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me.  Listen!  I am going to put such a spirit in him that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.”
The King of Assyria sent a second message to Hezekiah.  Same scare and intimidation tactics…
Hezekiah is broken, he is frightened. He is fearful for an entire kingdom that he had carefully grown for fourteen years.  So this is where the story catches in my throat.  We know God’s promises.  Hezekiah knew God’s promises–it was going to be ok, but he did the only thing he knew to do.  He took it to God, face down, fingers clutched around the King’s letter and laid it before the Lord of Hosts, the Lord Mighty in Battle.  He says, “It is true, O Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.  They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by men’s hands. Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.”
God wants us to come to him like this.  Whether we are pleading or crying or just submissive, he wants us to lay it out before him–and Hezekiah’s words and actions are reminiscent of another’s, “We don’t know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”(I Chron. 20:12)  Nothing we can conjure up will make it go away, so we lay it submissively, painfully, frightfully at his feet and we remember the promises.
Isaiah sends this message from the Lord, “I have heard your prayer concerning Sennacherib king of Assyria…He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here.  He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it.  By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord.  I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.”
And we serve a God who is true to His Word:
That very night, the angel of the Lord put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp.  So Sennacherib broke camp, returned to Nineveh and stayed there…he was later killed with the sword by his two sons.
This is a powerful story and there are so many elements that we must be mindful of in our own lives.  Maybe you are hearing these very threats of intimidation right now, I know I have personally, but here is the important part:
Cling to God with the last ounce of strength that you have, rely on others to intercede in prayer for you, take it before the father, just like Hezekiah did and admit that you have nothing left except for a promise.  Find that one verse that God has revealed to you in all this mess, memorize it, repeat it, put it up places where you will see it several times a day and finally, worship God in advancefor the victory that He will bring you. 
You need only be still.

Let Us Not Become Like Tofu-Part I of II OR Lessons from King Hezekiah

Photo: Creative Commons by Andrea Nguyen 
Having been a vegetarian for a few years now, I’ve found that there are a couple wonderful things about tofu: it’s a great protein source, low in fat and cholesterol, it’s a little bit wiggly…  It can be fried, grilled, sautéed, you name it, but the MOST lovely thing about it is, put it into any dish and it will automatically take on the characteristics of the main spice/flavoring you add, kind of like a potato, but jiggly.  All good things when you want to add a meatless filler to your meal. 
However, in the context of who we are as Christians, I think it would behoove us to figure out if we’re adding the spice or just absorbing it.
Upon first moving  from Northern VA to right outside of Atlanta, I wanted to get to know my little town, so, I started walking the neighborhood streets with Little A in the stroller, joined a mommy’s group, even found a Bible study close by.  I was lovin’ the new digs.  However, I  found myself not necessarily taking on the customs of this new town but my way of thinkingwas influenced, “Hmmm…I don’t understand it, but I guess that makes sense…” and it wasn’t until I got into my church that I realize I needed a mooring.  I was becoming tofu-ish.  Not good.  Looking back now, I realize that much of that “ishness” had to do with being overly concerned about what other people thought of me.  How do you make friends?  You fit in, of course. 
How do you keep them guessing, making yours and their lives inevitably uncomfortable?  You hold on to the Word of God for dear life.  You hold on and don’t let go and you see that He is the only one who can deliver you from life’s terrifying circumstances and you keep holding.  Which is exactly what King Hezekiah did in II Kings 18.  
Now, Hezekiah, King of Judah, came from a long, long line of disobedient kings, kings who realized that it was the “in” thing to set up high places, worship other Gods, defiling the temple with idols.
But Hezekiah had his heart set on something higher.  Someonehigher.
He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, just as his father David had done.  He removed the high places, smashed the sacred stones and cut down the Asherah poles.  He broke into pieces the bronze snake Moses had made, for up to that time the Israelites had been burning incense to it.  Hezekiah trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel.  There was no one like him among all the kings of Judah, either before him or after him.  He held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses.  And the Lord was with him… II Kings 18: 3-7a
This was a strong man, and we all know who he drew his strength from because we can see from Scripture he certainly wasn’t getting any support from his father, nor from the culture around him. 
Are we steering the conversations around us or are we allowing them to steer us?
After all, what would be the harm…the temples, the high places were already there, but, thank God, Hezekiah had his heart set on God.
Is there someone in your life that you can look to that you’ve seen has been steadfast in their devotion to the Lord–when the heat got really, really hot? Thank God for those examples and if you’ve found yourself becoming a little more tofu than rice-like (after all rice is rice no matter how you slice it), ask for his strength to stand firm.
In Part II of this series, we’ll find out just how important that steadfastness will be…

Offering Parts to Serve the Whole

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness.  For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace. Romans 6: 11-14.

Father, let my hands be instruments to hold the young, to embrace the elderly, to wash dishes, vacuum floors for your glory.

Keep my back strong so I can lift boxes for the poor and bend low before you in humility.

Strengthen my legs to go into places where other fear to go.

Give my mouth the ability to speak the word of truth to a crooked generation.

Keep my eyes from those things that act to distract me from the Beauty of your Face.

Five Ways to Keep in Step With the Spirit in 2014


Over the holidays, I found myself becoming apathetic about most things: my fitness, good eating habits, and yes, even trying to post for the blog. 
Thankfully, I came upon this terrific sermon by John Piper on Jonathan Edwards, who was an incredibly disciplined individaul when it came to studying God’s word.  The sermon in itself is a wonderful piece of work, but tucked in the end was a Q&A session from the audience, and Dr. Piper gave this brilliant acronym for working in the Power of the Holy Spirit:
A.P.T.A.T.
Admit that you cannot do whatever it is you want to do without Christ
Prayfor Assistance, Help, Enablement to do that task
Trust in a particular promise of God to help you in that situation (i.e. Philippians 4: 6-7 Do not be anxious about anything,but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. )
Act.  Get up, do it. There is no passivity here, and in the words of Dr. Piper, “Don’t wait for the Holy Spirit to kick you in the butt.”
Thank the Lord that you’ve had the wherewithal to do it.

Has this helped with a particular task that you’ve been meaning to address in a while?  Please share, and I hope you’ll be able to apply this throughout this year.

Happy 2014!!