Are You in the Desert?


Recently while reading in Exodus chapter sixteen, I was struck by the name of the desert Moses led the Israelites through.

The Desert of Sin

But what struck me most was what happened there and how much it parallels our lives today. Five points stood out to me. Perhaps if we see ourselves in any of these situations, we’ll recognize that we’re wandering in the Desert of Sin and allow God to lead us out.

While the people of God were in the Desert of Sin they:

  • Grumbled against their leaders. We see that the whole community complained that Moses didn’t know what he was doing and surely must want them to suffer. Leaders aren’t perfect, but if they are humbly seeking God—we can tell by the fruit of their lives—let’s honor and pray for them rather than complain about them. There is a place for questions & discussion in humility, but not prideful arguments (vs.2)
  • Made dramatic declarations of doom and death. They proclaimed they would have been better off in their past (Egypt). Moses intended for them to starve and for everyone to die. How many times have we made declarations based on emotion that had no basis in truth? (vs.2-3)
  • Disobeyed. They decided to rely on their own plan to hoard manna, but that resulted in something putrid and inedible. Obedience provided for them. Leaning on themselves stunk. (vs.20)
  • Ignored God’s instructions. When they dismissed God and relied on themselves, they ended up disappointed. God did exactly what he said, but they didn’t trust him and tried to secure something more for themselves. We can never get more for ourselves than God’s best that he wants and plans to give us. (vs.27)
  • Forced God to keep them wandering. Forty years is a long time. Often we don’t realize that we keep ending up in the same place because we’ve grumbled, made false declarations, disobeyed and ignored God. God intends to lead us into good. The length of time that takes might depend on our response to him. (vs. 35)

Since the beginning of time, man has allowed the enemy to sow seeds of doubt in man’s mind about God. Does he really mean what he says? Can he truly be trusted? Did he actually say that?

Let us not be deceived by the enemy of our souls. God’s plans for us are for good. Even in the most difficult places he will provide whatever we need. We don’t want to be stuck wandering around in the Desert of Sin.

Four-Letter Words


My husband and I watched a Disney movie recently and noticed how often in this PG rated film four-letter words were spoken. I’m not surprised, just saddened by the way we’ve lowered our standards over the years and especially these past few months.

The Bible says,

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” Ephesians 4:29

Using swear words is unwholesome.

Let’s be real, the world doesn’t care. And all of us are human. I’m sure we’ve all gone through a season of “unwholesome” or let a few words fly from our mouths that don’t benefit anyone. I know I have.

But maybe we could replace our thinking of four-letter words. There are plenty that would be more uplifting and would build people up. Here’s a few I’m learning to embrace.

REST – In this crazy, faster than the speed of light teched-out world, we’ve forgotten how to rest and what rest is for. God created rest. He worked to create the world in six days and rested on the seventh. Rest gives us time to process everything in our lives. It creates space for us to dream. We are refreshed when we take time to rest. What if that time of rest was not only for recuperation but for preparation? Beginning each week from a place of rest instead of thinking we need to catch up makes the dreaded Monday, a fun day. Snatches of rest during a day makes us more productive. According to Alex Pang, PhD., something he calls “deliberate rest” is a practice of highly successful people. Maybe God knew what he was talking about when he told us to rest on the Sabbath day and let the land rest every seven years.

LOVE – As the old song says, it’s what the world needs now. Hatred, violence, and fear run rampant in the absence of love. The Bible tells us that God’s perfect love casts out fear, and as followers of Jesus, we’ll be known by our love for others. Being truthful, kind, compassionate, and considerate in how we talk about and to each other as well as how we treat people shows love and changes our world. God IS love. Let’s embrace Him and show love.

MEEK – I’ll bet that’s not one you expected. Meek has gotten a bad rap as meaning weak, pathetic, or a doormat. But it’s true meaning is humble or gentle. Jesus chose humility when he came to earth. He didn’t answer accusations or defend himself when he faced betrayal and a mock trial. His meekness was actually him choosing to control the power he had, lay down his rights for something far more important (relationship with us – let your mind and heart grasp that), and treating people with kindness and gentleness when he had every right to mock or destroy them. If we choose meekness, we will be humble and gentle in our dealings with people.

HOLY – Set apart. Hallowed. Special. Everything of God is holy. He also calls us holy, because he created us in his image, and he calls us to hold holiness as something sacred. That means we honor God. Set him apart as the only God. There is none like him. He is to be praised. And we are to set ourselves apart from anything that doesn’t bring him glory and honor. We also need to honor ourselves and others in the way we speak and act.

HOPE – If one thing the world needs is love, the other is hope. I write and post about Jesus being our hope. He is our only hope, a living hope. No person, situation, government, money, circumstance, etc. can truly offer us hope. When we place our hope in things, we may be temporarily relieved, but eventually disappointed. People fail, things fall apart, circumstances change. God is faithful no matter what. Only Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

WAIT – We might feel like this could be a swear word. We’re used to everything from food to text replies happening in seconds. If our computer takes more than a few seconds to load, we fuss. Stop lights in my town are three to five minutes long (NOT exaggerating!) and people don’t want to wait. I’ve seen more people speed through red lights here than any other place I’ve lived. But learning to wait is good for us. It keeps us from making rash decisions, or saying something in a moment of anger. Waiting means we can let God secure better things for us in his timing than we could ever get for ourselves. We gain more patience as we wait and that makes us more pleasant to be around.

Those are just a few of my new four-letter words. Are there others you’ve been exploring lately?

Let’s change the narrative, as we say these days, and start using some new four-letter words that build up and benefit others as well as ourselves.

Where Do We Go from Here?


This is a long post today, but bear with me. I think the content is crucially important.

With all the turmoil in our world right now, we need wisdom to lead us through political division, racial talk, and false narratives from every side.

Believe it or not, our times are not unlike what Jesus and his disciples lived through.

Therefore, the teachings and parables of Jesus in the Bible stand out as the final word on how to navigate the season we’re in today.

This week I’ve been pouring over the eighteenth chapter of Matthew. I’ve been, once again, amazed at how relevant it is to our current times. I’d like to unpack a few things that have spoken to me.

As people who read and apply the Bible to our lives, we often take isolated scripture passages out of their context. While this isn’t always a bad idea and can actually be encouraging, we can also miss the greater message Jesus imparted when we do so. For example, I think we’ve heard these:

  • “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jer. 29:11 (true, encouraging, but we miss that God said this after leading people into exile as a way to help them see their need for him and then obey him.)
  • “God will never give you more than you can handle.” Actually, this is misquoted and incomplete. This comes from 1 Cor. 10:13 and God is talking about temptation. He doesn’t tempt us, he won’t allow us to be tempted beyond what we can bear and will always provide a way out of temptation.
  • “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Luke 6:38 –true in every situation, but we hear it mostly applied to finances; however, in context it applies to forgiveness. Think about that one.

I think you can see what I mean.

Matthew 18 is a chapter from which many verses have been singled out and used outside of the context of the entire chapter. I discovered that this week.

And WOW!

Here’s what I believe I’ve missed before…

  • The theme is unity. (Don’t we need that right now?) In verse 1 the disciples are arguing about who’s the greatest. (Sound familiar?)
  • Jesus starts his discourse on unity by speaking of humility. Jesus says change and become like a little child. Humble ourselves. (vs.3-4)
  • There are things and people in the world that can lead us into disunity –our sin can cause others to stumble and fall too – so we need to do whatever it takes, even cutting things off, to protect ourselves and others. (vs.5-9)
  • If someone, even one person, wanders away from safety, we look for a way to help them. God doesn’t want any of us to be lost in sin, despair, brokenness, etc. (vs.121-14)
  • When someone says or does something that hurts us, it’s not only us, but the whole body of believers that suffers. When we confront them, we should do so, not to argue and persuade them that we’re right and they are wrong. Not to press our opinion or validate ourselves. We go in love to present to them in kind words what the problem is. The Bible says if he listens to us, we win him over. What that actually means in the original language is if he’s willing to hear what we have to say (let’s be willing to receive), we have gained him back into relationship with us. If he’s not, Jesus lays out an entire process, in which at least two or three others can see and agree that something is amiss. Following the process, is intended to help someone see how he is hurting his fellow believers. Unity folks. (vs.15-17)
  • If after following the steps of this process, someone refuses to have an open mind/heart to hear his friends (brothers), that is the point where it is for the safety of the entire group to treat him as not part of the group. That doesn’t mean we don’t forgive and continue to love. (vs.17)
  • Jesus goes on to tell us that when we seek him and agree with what he says we have the authority to fasten to him and declare the enemy/sin unlawful. We can release God’s love in the situation and break or dissolve the enemy’s hold on it. Where two or more agree (with God’s will – unity here), Jesus is in our midst and will do what we ask. We must be praying for the person and the situation.(vs.18-20)
  • Then he goes on to tell a parable about being willing to forgive they way he forgives us. We shouldn’t treat someone badly when they sin against us. We remember how much we have been forgiven. Forgiveness brings peace and opens a way for reconciliation. (vs.21-35)

This is my take away.

Jesus reminded us that we are to be:

  1. Humble.
  2. Willing to acknowledge and protect ourselves and others from sin.
  3. Open to doing whatever it takes to help someone who is struggling. (Without judgment.)
  4. Willing to lovingly confront when necessary to bring reconciliation for the benefit of all.
  5. Obedient in following the process Jesus gave us.
  6. Involving others who are close to the situation only when necessary. (Not in gossip.)
  7. Seek God’s will and join with others in prayer about it.
  8. Forgive.

I have to ask myself where I’ve ignored, avoided, denied or missed any of this. The first being am I humble?

Humility leads to unity.

Jesus, who had every right to assert his god-ship over us all, willingly laid it down to show his love for us. His was the ultimate act of humility.

Am I even close to doing that? What about when someone doesn’t share my opinion? When I have the “right” to justice? If I’m reasonably (or not) hurt by someone’s words or actions? If something is not what I hoped for or expected?

Unless we start there, none of the rest will matter because it won’t come from the correct posture of our heart.

If I point out someone’s sin, even with the motive of helping them…

If I proclaim to others about what someone did that was so wrong or hurtful…

If I try to “help” someone see the error of their ways or opinions…

If I confront another…

If I pray for someone…

None of those things done without humility with end up serving in love, and can actually lead to more harm and division.

The Bible says:

“If I speak in the tongues[a] of men or of angels, but do not have love {humility}, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love {humility}, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love {humility}, I gain nothing.” I Corinthians 13:1-3

If we follow Jesus’s example of love, it begins with humility. God’s example of giving his only son to reach his children who have turned against him? Started with humility. Jesus allowing himself to be mocked, beaten, and hung naked on a cross for us? A tremendous act of humility.

Humility may not be popular, but it’s right. It’s not easy—in fact it goes against everything in us that wants to fight for ourselves* (that’s pride by the way).

No matter what situation we face in today’s world, humility is the first step to reconciliation and ultimately, unity.

Where can we apply that to our lives today? I’ll bet, like me, you can find more than one area.

May you experience the depth of Jesus’s humbling presence and love today.

*please know that if you are in an abusive situation, it is appropriate to flee and get help – Jesus loves you and wants his children to be safe and healthy in our relationships – that’s why he gives the process 😉 If you’d let me, I’d love to pray and help in any way I can

Confused?


DSC_0059With so many contradicting messages blasting through our world right now, it’s easy to be confused about what to think. Who’s sharing truth and who’s manipulating people’s emotions?

As someone who loves Jesus, the saddest aspect to me is when I see or hear about proclaimed followers of Jesus arguing about politics, doctrine, and their own opinions. Are we adding to the confusion or showing a hurting and broken world faith, hope, and most importantly, love?

Accusing various believers or specific organizations of not being righteous or godly because they worship differently, pray silently or openly, baptize in various ways, support a political party, or wear masks (or not) divides us and drives us into confusion rather than the unity that Jesus desires for us.

The first and most important issue is whether we acknowledge Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. When we receive his gracious gift of laying his life down for our sinfulness, we are part of a family. That’s good news no matter how we receive it—whether in a church service, at a beach worship time, or in our bedroom, car, or shower. We might be homeless in an alley or looking at a sunset when we realize the love of God for us and choose to follow him.

After that, Jesus gave us some pretty clear and simple instructions for the rest of life.

  • Love him. He loved us first. He gave his life and longs for us to respond to his love.
  • Love ourselves. We are created and loved by God. He has a great plan for us. Treat ourselves kindly.
  • Love others. We’re all created and loved by God. When we realize we’re loved, we can extend that love.
  • Seek God first. Everything else falls into place when we do.
  • Live humbly. While we have our own thoughts and opinions, so do others. God is God. We’re not.
  • Speak the truth in love. Be honest with ourselves and others always.
  • Mercy over judgement. God forgave us. Forgive others, and let God be the only judge.
  • Grace, not deeds. God’s showed us grace when we were a mess not because we did something right. Be gracious to others in the same way.

I’ve been guilty of seeking my way, thinking my way is the only way, judging others, and not wanting to show grace or forgive.

We all have.

But when we get caught up in whether others are doing it our way, or sharing our opinions, or applying God’s word differently than we think it should be interpreted, we divide rather than unite.

God says a house divided can’t stand. So naturally that’s the enemy’s plan. If he can use us in the church to divide the church, then it’s a win, win for him.

And a loss for us and for those who don’t know Jesus yet and are turned off by our portrayal of him.

We have to let go of ourselves. Our agendas. The way we think things should be done.

Die to self is what Jesus calls it.

Not because he doesn’t want us to be the thinking, creating, unique individuals that he designed us to be, but because he wants us to be free to live fully in those ways. And his plans give us so much more than we can secure for ourselves.

When he increases in our lives, and our broken, self-focused, my-way-is-best decreases, we can walk in love. Loving him, loving us, loving others. Loving life.

And the world will know that Jesus is Lord, and he SO loves them.

Doing vs Being


DSC_0141It’s easier to do something than it is to be honest.

Think on that for a second.

God puts it this way:

“For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule, a little here, a little there. Very well then…God will speak to this people, to whom he has said, ‘This is the resting place; let the weary rest,’ and ‘This is the place of repose,’ but they would not listen. So then, the word of the Lord to them will become Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little there – so that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured.” Isaiah 28:10- 13

Sometimes we just want to have something to do. To have a rule to follow. A formula for getting us were we want to go. A quick fix.

That’s what religion is, isn’t it?

Give us a list of rules. Let’s get caught up in the rituals. Then we don’t really have to face the truth about ourselves or the fact that God is speaking to us. Calling us into a relationship with him.

Because relationships require honesty. Vulnerability. Uncovering ourselves and baring our hearts with their scared, broken places and fears. With our weaknesses and selfish motives and pride. With our two-year-old “I want this” attitudes.

It’s easier to simply eek out an hour every other Sunday. Or throw a five dollar bill in the offering bucket. Displaying a Bible on the coffee table or bookshelf proves we’re religious, right? We certainly will celebrate Christmas and Easter–the important holidays about Jesus.

The crazy thing is, maintaining religion is exhausting. But God calls us to rest.

God never planned for us to get caught up in a religious facade. Proving ourselves better than our neighbor because of the fish sticker on our car or the way we vote. He didn’t give us a list of rules and rituals to keep in order to earn a place in heaven someday.

Maybe. If we’re “good” enough.

God loves and longs for us. The children he created. And he simple asks us to be with him in his presence, resting there, listening to him, enjoying him and who he made us to be. He asks us to be.

And he wants us free.

When we get stuck in doing and living by rules or formulas, we “fall backward” in life. We become captured and ensnared. Doing the same thing, in the same ways. The way we think is best. But it doesn’t ever pan out.

Ever feel like that? Like life just isn’t working?

I’ve been there before. Striving to figure out what to do next but never really getting ahead or feeling free. Exhausted, striving, empty.

“…for we have made a lie our refuge and falsehood our hiding place.”  (vs 15)

Sometimes we think we’re doing all the right things, but we’ve believed a lie. We’ve embraced a falsehood because it’s easier than being honest. It’s easier than letting go of our own understanding or pride. But the very place we’re hiding has become an exhausting trap.

God’s answer is simple.

He tells us to come to him in our weariness. He wants to exchange our way of thinking for his. His was is easy, light and comes with humility. He tells us to stop leaning on our way of thinking, but instead, acknowledge him–that he is God and knows best.

That is where we find a place of repose.

Peace. Rest. Freedom. Surrendering ourselves to Jesus. To simple be with him and be ourselves. Flaws, scars, weakness and broken places. He loves us no matter what and doesn’t require do and do, do and do.

Just an acceptance what he’s already done for us.

“Why Are You Angry”


DSC_0011God asked Cain.

Cain was the eldest son of Adam and Eve. You probably have heard of them even if you don’t read the Bible or believe in God. I think it’s common knowledge that he committed the first act of murder in history.

But the interesting thing is that God tried to help him before the situation ever got that far. We don’t have all the details of the story, but when God asked Cain why he was angry, Cain clearly had already been in a bad place mentally.

Because God asked BEFORE Cain killed his brother.

A little history: Cain and Abel both brought “sacrifices” to God. From what I can tell from scripture, this was not something God required, but something initiated by the boys. They both brought some of the fruit of their labor to God. Abel brought some of his flock to offer to God. The Bible says God looked on Abel with favor.

Cain also brought some of the grain he had grown, but God wasn’t pleased and Cain was upset. Okay, so what’s the deal? It may seem that God was showing favoritism, but that is contrary to God’s character (throughout the rest of the Bible) so we can deduce that it was something about the offer or the motive of the one offering.

It seems God was pleased with Abel’s attitude not just his action, but something was off with Cain.

Our reasoning is further substantiated by God’s comments to Cain:

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.”       Genesis 4:6-7

Seems pretty simple and forthright to me.

God saw something in Cain’s heart that wasn’t right, and he warned him to be careful because if he continued in his thoughts and/or actions, it would potentially lead him to do something worse.

So it seems that God was saying to Cain (and we can take a lesson here too) that if we come to him with sincerity of heart and do the right things, life will go well for us. But if we allow Satan, who is waiting to pounce on us, to grab us with wrong motives, thoughts or actions we will become slaves to him.

The good news God gives us is that we CAN master sin and not become trapped in it.

Reading further in the chapter, I discovered some things that can alert us when we’ve given in to sin and have not owned it…

  1. We hide. Adam and Eve did. Cain did. We’re all prone to avoiding, denying or lying to “hide” in our sin.
  2. We become defensive. Cain asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when God asked what happened to Abel. Cain knew the truth so he became defensive in his response.
  3. We complain about the consequences. Cain griped to God that his consequences weren’t fair. They were too hard. Really? He killed his brother! But he was far more concerned about how tough life would be now for him than the fact that he destroyed the life of a family member and hurt God.
  4. We wallow in self-pity. Cain basically said “poor me” to God when he told God “…the punishment is more than I can bear.”
  5. We yield ourselves to divination. Divination is a spirit that tries to tell us what our future will be and it’s usually bad. Cain started proclaiming lies about what would happen to him – he would be hidden from God (his choice when he killed his brother but a choice God would have forgiven if he’d repented), he’d have no purpose in life, and everyone would be out to get/kill him. God refuted Cain’s “prophecies” and marked him for protection.
  6. We open the door to other sin. Cain never had a change of heart. It says he left God’s presence. So basically he destroyed his relationship with God as a result of his choices. And later, his son was the first man to take two wives (at a time), thus beginning a new culture of sin when God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.

At any point, Cain could have humbled himself, confessed and restored his relationship.

And it’s the same with us. At any point, if we humble ourselves and confess our sinful actions, God forgives us and restores life to us.

But even if we don’t, God is still faithful to us.

I love that God still blessed Cain’s family. Even in spite of Cain’s sin, God didn’t allow him to be killed off, and in his lineage were all who played stringed instruments and those who forged tools of bronze and iron.

But I imagine Cain had a hard life.

God was pretty clear that he didn’t take Abel’s murder lightly. He said that Abel’s blood cried out to him from the dirt so he made Cain live under a curse that caused him to work overly hard without much to show for it. That was the consequences of his attitude and actions.

I’m so glad that God alerts us to sin in our lives, that he offers us warnings to help turn us around, and that he is always loving and forgiving if we do confess and repent. The Bible says that even when we are not faithful, God is always faithful.

All of that is some good news, right?