Devotions

Week 15: God as Lion and Lamb

Lion and Lamb. Fierce and gentle. Powerful and docile. Confrontational and peaceful. Jesus is all of these things, all the time. How? Jesus is both the conquering king who can slay the enemies of God and the sacrificial lamb, dying for the sins of the world. To me, the image of the all powerful lion, lying next to the mild lamb, is both beautifully offensive and and slave for my broken heart. For me, Jesus has been all of those things. I have felt the discipline of a loving father, and witnessed the wrath against the things He hates, but I have also curled at the feet of my Jesus and felt the smooth touch of his grace and compassion. And he is the same. Jesus is the conqueror over our sins… the reigning king over all creation. He is all powerful, all mighty, and all encapsulating. He conquered death and defeated sin for all of eternity and has won the battle against our shame, guilt and condemnation. In order to do this, he had to be both the lion, roaring with power, and the lamb, who was led to slaughter without a word, without blemish, and without blame. Meditating on this brings me to a holy place. A holy encounter in the throne room of God, where John, in his vision of Revelation, sees Jesus as lion and lamb. My heart breaks for a world who only sees Jesus as one or the other. The God who will send his wrath upon the forsaken people of the world and send all to Hell. Or the God who is the placater of all of our wants, like a vending machine. Do I believe that God is a jealous God, who’s heart is broken by injustice? Yes. Do I believe that God hears our prayers about the things we want from this life? Yes. Do I believe that that is all that He is? No. Theology and the study of God’s character has been a personal journey for me, to look back into my history and see the places where God has been a lion and the places where God has been a lamb, and to meditate on both, to remember. Your journey with God may look different than mine, and your theology might be different as a result. But I believe we serve a beautiful God who can be all things to us.

I encourage you to meditate on God’s conquering in your life, and His soothing grace. In both areas, see the God who loves you and sent His son as the lion to overcome and the lamb to be slain. 

Week 14: God as Friend

I believe in serving in the local church. My relationship with the church started when I was little and would go to church with my parents, then in middle school, I discovered Jesus in a new way, and in high school, I started serving. I was actually tricked into serving the first time – if you want to call it that. I was spending the night with a friend and her mom woke us up way too early the next morning and took us to serve in the preschool ministry. Thus began my love for sharing Bible stories, serving, and translating God’s word.

I eventually moved on to serving in high school and middle school ministries, but one of the most basic truths that we taught the 4-year-olds has stuck with me for 10 years – Jesus wants to be my friend forever. This was such simple way to look at salvation and God’s plan for the world, and I like to think that it laid the foundation for some of those kids who are now in middle school. Teaching them that Jesus wants to pursue them and have a relationship with them, without using difficult language and hard to understand stories, was what set the stage for me to understand my own relationship with Jesus.

Jesus was the guy that I grew up about hearing in my parents’ traditional church. I grew up with a pastor who was, and still is, an incredible storyteller. (I can still hear his rendition of the Christmas story ringing in the back of my head everytime I read the first chapters of Luke.) He told the stories from the gospels, and related it back to something “modern.” So my whole life growing up, Jesus was just this guy… who did cool things, and said nice things, and was just that person in the Bible.

When I settled on the truth that Jesus wanted to be my friend, that he wanted to be in relationship with me, it became so beautifully simple. I think, almost nostalgically, about how little ones can become such fast and easy friends. It can be as simple as a mutual love for grape popsicles. For me, once I saw Jesus’ pursuit of me – it became that simple.

Jesus wants to live in relationship with me, just like my friends do. But he will be the most steadfast, loyal, and faithful friend I will ever have.

On my side, I have to work at our friendship. I think we all know how hard friendships can be to sustain and form, and I believe it’s similar to my relationship with Jesus. I have to work at it. To study his word and learn his ways, just like I would with a girlfriend over coffee who might see the world differently than me. I have to talk to him. For me, talking to Jesus has become a constant thing. In the car, at my desk, in the shower, out with friends. I aim to stay in constant communal with my friend, and creator, Jesus. There are always ways that I can improve upon my friendship with Jesus, and move towards sanctification, but all the while, I can rest in the simple truth that Jesus wants to be my friend forever.

I think the first thing we need to consider this week, is if Jesus is truly our friend? Can we look at our relationship with him and call it a friendship? If we can, what is the ‘state of our union’ so to speak? What can we work on and build on? Pushing forward with the knowledge that no ‘works’ could make us closer, but our obedience and faith can.

Week 13: God as Messiah

What I love about having the opportunity to read the Bible in a year, is that it offers me a chance to read the Old Testament, which most Bible plans these days do not offer. Sure, there are some interesting parts, some repetition, a lot of bloodshed (both human and animal). I think the Old Testament is often misunderstood, and the value of reading it can only be found from behind the lens of God’s overarching story for His people. I always encourage people to look at the Old Testament as the piece that was necessary to fulfill the sacrifice of Jesus. Without the Old Testament law, the prophets, and the history it provides, Jesus’ coming at the time that he did makes no sense. It’s all one big overarching story, with redemption at the forefront. Every part of the Old Testament is pointing to Jesus as one thing: Messiah.

God’s people needed saving all throughout history, and He was constantly pursuing them. Our Christian ancestors set the stage for us to see God’s promises and to see that he will stop at nothing to rescue those he loves. But gosh were they in desperate need of a savior. Sin had put a permanent wall between God and his people. Sin and caused a seperation that our ancestors could not overcome. The only way, before Jesus, that God’s people could be in relationship with God was through a priest, behind a curtain, with a bloody, gruesome animal sacrifice.  When Jesus came on the scene, he opened the door for us to sit face to face with His father. He IS the high priest, who allows us to enter the gates of heaven and speak and be directly with our creator. Jesus IS the ultimate sacrifice, and His death meant that once and for all, all the separation was over. Jesus paid the price for the sins that God’s people had been paying a price for with their harvest and livestock for years.

The Old Testament offers a picture of the prophecy that would be Jesus, and He came at the right time for all of us.

God loved us enough to save us from death. He was and is our messiah, our savior.

I want us to reflect on what it really means that Jesus has saved us. I want us to look at the Old Testament and see the amazing gift that God gave us when He saved us from the world. Imagine a life where, in order to cry out to God, to be in communion with him, it had to be through  a priest, and with an animal sacrifice. Think about your moment of salvation. The moment you saw Jesus as not only the savior of the world, but your messiah. Reflect on what messiah means to you. Count the ways that God has saved you.

Week 12: God as Peace

Have you ever seen someone truly at peace? Someone who just resonates something so much greater than calm?  We can usually find these people in the midst of storms, at least that’s where they stick out the most right? Chaos is contagious, so when we find someone that has not been infected by it, we attract to them like just being in their presence might immunize us against fear, doubt and confusion.

I’ve been around parents who have a child whose cancer has wrecked every part of him, with no options left to battle it, just be at peace.

I’ve met a wife and mother who lost her husband so suddenly and unexpectedly shock the world with her peace.

I’ve been around grandparents who know they are so close to meeting Jesus face to face and are just… peaceful.

I bet this is what being near Jesus was like. I think so often of when He was asleep on the boat, with the waves and storm crashing around him and his disciples yelling at him, “Don’t you care if we live or die?!” And he peacefully, calmly, quells the storm and asks his disciples if they really have faith.

If peace is the antonym of chaos, what about monotony? What about the everyday bump and grind of being a human? Where does peace fit in there?

Peace and freedom, to me, are one in the same. You cannot be at peace when you are a slave to fear. Because here’s the thing: the peace that Jesus offers, goes beyond our understanding. It surpasses the entire notion of common sense. And it’s not the automatic response. For me, my most active mode of being is busy, with to-do lists up to my eyebrows. I thrive under deadlines and urgency. But can I still find peace there? You bet.

Peace, to me, means surrendering all that I have to Jesus. It means living with open hands and a willing heart. And it’s a choice. I’m okay with it. I am not surrendering out of obligation, because that’s the last thing I think Jesus wants, I surrender, and I’m at peace. When I am at my best, I am pursuing excellence in every aspect of my life, while finding rest, surrender, and satisfaction in Jesus. That is peace to me.

Think of the times when you have felt the most at peace: after a big decision, during a storm, in the middle of the chaos… what is stopping you, holding you back, from feeling that everyday? Where is the chaos in your heart that you need Jesus to calm?

Week 11: God as Helper

One of my first jobs in college was an internship at a local non-profit and boy did I learn more than I bargained for. It was a donor development internship, wherein I was responsible for raising a certain amount of money, putting on events and basically pushing myself past every comfortable boundary. It taught me a lot about work and the ins and outs of nonprofit management, but it also taught me a lot about competency. There’s this thing that women do – we try to look like we have it all together, and if we don’t we fake it till we make it. And I was faking it a little too much. My boss at the time was extremely good at her job, and seriously intimidated me. Our working relationship got to the point where I was so scared to disappoint her that I put on a really great face, but was dropping the ball left and right. Eventually, she set a rule for me that I had to ask 3 questions a day. It made my skin crawl. I did not want to look incompetent, like I didn’t have what it took to perform the job. But she encouraged me that it wasn’t weakness to ask for help, quite the opposite, it invited teaching and collaboration. You can only survive on an island for so long. I put this rule into practice and later, a different boss would tell me that the thing that impressed her the most about me is that I was always clarifying and never afraid to ask for help.

It’s the same thing with God. So often, the world’s standards creep in on our relationship with him and we think asking for help is a sign of weakness, like we can’t do it all. NEWS FLASH. We cannot. We literally cannot do anything outside of Him. We weren’t created for that… so when we find ourselves thrashing around in the dark wondering where God is, we just need to look a few steps back and see the opportunity we missed to ask Him for help. I’ve found that in my life if I am constantly talking to God, constantly in communion with Him. From the little things, “Jesus, please help me find a parking place.” to the big things, “Jesus, please help me know what to say to her.” I think he cares about it all.

There’s something amazing to be said about turning to community for help – and that’s an entirely different post for a different day… but we cannot authentically turn to community for help, if we cannot first turn to God.

When was the last time you turned to God for help? Was it only when you needed something big? Try this week to taking every little thing to him and watch what the communion and relationship will do to your heart. We cannot be afraid to ask God questions, after all, He is our help.

“Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.” Psalm 54:4

Week 10: God as Redeemer

It is going to be hard for me to write about God’s redemption without diving in pretty deep with you here. God has redeemed a very broken place in me, a very deep wound, that has taken the years since the initial pain to heal from. But at the same time, it is easy for me to write about God as redeemer, because I have seen him this way. So we’re going in, you ready?

When I was 18, I was dating a boy that I met while working at a summer camp. We dated for the entire summer and my whole freshman year of college. About 8 months in, we started sleeping together. I had not grown up in a home where purity was taught, but I had found Jesus on my own and pledged “True Love Waits” when I was 15. I wore a ring and everything. The sin that I lived in during that time was so heavy. I was, as my college roommate would later tell me, “A dead woman walking.” My sin had made me ill, I had lost weight, and I had no idea where I stood with God. I still loved God, and so did my boyfriend. But sin had taken hold of our lives and gripped me so tightly that I thought it would kill me, quite literally. When Scripture says in Mark 4:22, “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open,” it means it.

The second summer we were working at the camp together, everything came to light through an older, wiser mentor who saw through my fake smiles and broken countenance and asked me what was going on. What started as a conversation about my relationship with God, my illness, my desire to take a semester off from school because I was just so confused, ended up turning into a conversation about my sexual relationship with my boyfriend that had escalated to occurring at the camp we were working at. That night ended up being one of the hardest nights of my life, but I SAW Jesus. He pulled me out of the miry pit and put my feet on solid ground and redeemed me, despite my sin, and the fact that I had almost but completely turned my back on him. I left the camp to began a long, hard period of healing and restoration.

Fast forward 5 years to meeting James. My sexual past came up very quickly in our relationship, as I knew early on that he would be my husband. Sharing this information was hard. Telling him that I hadn’t waited for him became a tense subject, that almost always started and ended with me crying. One day, not long after I told him, James looked me in the (tearful) eye, and said, “I see you as pure. Because Jesus sees you as pure.”

And he was right. God did see me as pure. He saw me as a redeemed, beautiful daughter, where I saw myself as ugly, shameful and stuck on the outside. I slowly started to believe in God’s redemption. I always believed in God’s redemption plan for his people, but I didn’t really believe it for me. Make no mistake though, the consequences of my sin and the wounds it inflicted were something that I carried up until my wedding night. Sin has consequences. But God redeems. And God still redeems my life in big and little ways.

We’ve been reading in the New Testament about God’s redemptive glory for the Israelites, and it’s a beautiful story. The Israelites complain and moan and question God, yet He still saves them. I had turned my back on God, the promises I made him, and everything that  I believed to be true, and yet, he redeemed me. He saved me from destruction and called me his own. He ransomed me in my sexual immorality and called me pure, white and precious.

Here’s my question for you this week: Do you truly believe that God can redeem you? Do you believe that God’s redemptive power can be focused on you? Are you carrying something heavy that God has already freed you from? What can God redeem in your life?

Week 9: God as Author

Human beings are naturally attracted to a good story. A story that grips us, makes us ask questions, provides some drama, and then some beautiful conclusion that moves us. We want to be moved. We are addicted to things that can make us feel something. Everything from Jane Austen to Nicholas Sparks, from Extreme Home Makeover to the Kardashians, we want to feel like we can engage with a story.

God is a storyteller. He is the ultimate writer to keep us engaged and help us feel something. We are in the middle of a great story now. You may even recognize the story, as it plays out a lot in popular culture. We often find ourselves drawn to a story modeled after creation. Here’s how it goes: things are really great, something terrible happens, a journey ensues to get things back to the way they were, a hero emerges, a battle is fought, and won, and all returns to beauty. Think about it: The Lord of the Rings, Inside Out, The Notebook. Most, if not all stories that we love follow this arc, proving to me that God is the greatest author. But what about the stories that we’re writing…?

The story that I was writing a year ago was that no one cared about what I was going through. That I was on an island of anxiety and fear and no one around me actually cared. What I imagined the ending would look like was that I would just eventually pull up my boot straps and get over it because I’m an independent woman and I don’t need nobodies help. The ending that God wrote to that story is much better; it ended with community and authenticity and vulnerability, and really hard healing. But that chapter of my life is now closed, because I eventually let God write it. If I had continued to write that story, I would still be sick, unhappy, and in pain.

I think back on a lot of the formative pieces of my story and they are are that way because God wrote the ending. I could write a novel on all of the ways the different chapters of my life would have ended if I had insisted on writing them. Because when I finally submit to Jesus as the author of my faith, of my journey and my story, I can trust that He will write a better one than I. You and I live in the middle of God’s epic adventure as we are the focus of a battle; the battle for our hearts. Let’s live like we are a part of God’s story; let’s submit to his writing as he perfects our faith and we run the race, engage with the story, that He has set before us.

“Let us run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Hebrews 12:1-2

Week 8: God as Faithful

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” The story of the man whose son was possessed by a spirit that gave him convulsions that would often try to destroy him has sat with me. Sat deep. I feel like he is me. The father tells Jesus. “If you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”

How many times have I said that to Jesus? I believe that Jesus can do it. It doesn’t matter what “it” is. I believe in my heart of hearts that Jesus will come through. But at the same time, do I really? Do I really have faith that Jesus will pull through and rid me of what possesses me?

Jesus’ response to the man is one that I have often lovingly heard, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Jesus is asking us if we believe.

It is in God’s character, his very nature, to be faithful. We, quite often, are not so faithful. “If we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” 2 Timothy 2:13 (woof.)

Sometimes our faithlessness doesn’t look so obvious. It looks like small choices. Here’s what it looks like for me: choosing sleep over quiet time, scrolling Facebook instead of reading the Scriptures, judging and controlling situations to give me the outcome I want, slander, laziness, and greed. It looks a lot like loving other things more than I love Jesus.

But here’s the thing: God. is. still. faithful. Even in my faithlessness. He is still faithful. He is faithful to give peace, to show grace and mercy, to show me favor and bless me with everything I need just when I need it. He is faithful to see the whole picture when I’m stuck on one puzzle piece. He’s faithful to love me when I choose other things. He’s faithful to me even when I sin and separate myself from him.

A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with the lie that I was replaceable. It was a deep rooted lie that I had made an agreement with because of a wound from my past. I knew that I wasn’t replaceable. But I didn’t quite believe it. Just like the man with the demon-possessed son. He knew Jesus could do amazing and astonishing things, but he didn’t quite believe it yet. I asked Jesus to help me in my unbelief. To show me that I wasn’t replaceable. Instead of giving me an answer that would have just satisfied that insecurity, he led me to Psalm 77:
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old.
I will ponder all your work,
and meditate on your mighty deeds.
Your way, O God, is holy.
What god is great like our God?
You are the God who works wonders;
you have made known your might among the peoples.
You with your arm redeemed your people,
the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah.

He was saying to me, “Remember what I’ve already done in your life to prove myself faithful. Remember the deeds of the Lord and meditate on them. Rest (selah) in the God who works wonders.”

When we struggle to remain faithful, or when we feel like God is far off, He wants us to remember his deeds of old. He wants us to remember our salvation, and remember the times that He has already proved himself faithful.

This week, ask Jesus to help you in your unbelief, regardless of the season that you’re in. Ask him to show you the ways that He has already been faithful and come through for you. Ask him to show you Himself as faithful.

Week 7: God as Counselor

I grew up going to a Methodist summer camp in the mountains of North Georgia. Some of my most formative memories and experiences with God occurred in the tiny rock chapel and in the wood cabins. One of the best parts of my camp experience was the counselor my sophomore and junior years of high school. My sophomore year, my counselor was a college student from Auburn University. She was short and sassy and she got me. We had nicknames for each other and inside jokes and leaving her that week was hard for the both of us. Little did I know that I would return the following summer and to walk up the sidewalk to the cabin, and see her run out, jump on the railing and scream “TORY!” with her arms up in the air. Carrie was special to me in a way that I don’t think either of us will ever understand. Carrie continued to be a part of my life after high school, into college, and even now. Carrie was a great counselor. She listened and heard, which are two things that rarely go together. She encouraged. She took in my problems and confusions and came back with encouragement and answers.

Carrie set an example for me early on of what a great counselor looks like. Not just the ones who wear khaki shorts and Chacos, but the Biblical version.

Biblical counsel provides advice (Prov. 12:15), safety (Prov. 11:14), success (Prov. 15:22), prospering in all that you do (Ps. 1:1-6), deliverance (Prov. 28:26), and ultimately, victory (Prov. 24:6)

There is a story in 1 Kings 12 that helps us understand the importance of wise counsel. King Rehoboam had gathered with his people, and they asked him to give them a break from the harsh labor that his father had imposed on him. Rehoboam asked for 3 days to think about it (wise) and took it before the elders, who told him to be a servant to the people, to be considerate to their needs and show compassion. (Also wise). But he rejects that counsel and instead turns to the boys he grew up with for advice, who tell him to not let up, but instead to make their burden heavier, and to beat his people “bloody with chains.” Guess whose advice he takes? The chumps he grew up with.

This week, consider where you get your counsel from. I have found in my life that there are certain people in my life that I do not go to for counsel, either because they tell me what I want to hear (which is completely unhealthy and not edifying) or they don’t have the kind of life experience that I need. They are great friends, just not the best counselors.

I have also found that I have a tendency to take my questions, doubts, problems and troubles to those around me, instead of Who’s above me. God is and always will be the ultimate voice of guidance, safety, success and victory in my life. I want to find myself more and more asking, ”Jesus, what would you have me do here?”

This week, seek to ask God first. And then seek wise counsel. It is Biblical and wise to ask your elders for wisdom, advice and direction. Write down a few names of people who could be your counselors, people who have experience and wisdom, who live a life you want to emulate and who you trust to point you in the right direction. Ask Jesus to show you these people.

Week 6: God as Lord of All

“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Romans 10:9

We are all familiar with this. The profession of faith. The saving words. The Gospel. When we believe that God loved us so much that He saw us in our sinful nature and sent the greatest gift – His only son – so that we may know Him and be a part of His family for all eternity… when we believe this and tell the world, when we put our trust in Jesus and make the decision to follow him with our lives, we are declaring that He is the Lord. But what does that mean?

To have a lord over your life means that you have someone or something that has power, authority or influence. We use the name Lord in the Word when we want to obey God. It means to us that He – the Lord – is above all things, and through all things are held together. We know what this means. The definition. But do we understand the application?

Do we understand the practicality of calling God our master? Truly believing (joyfully) that we are His people and He is our God. We know that by referring to Him as “Lord” we are calling Him by His holiest name.

But is He really the Lord over your life? The one with the ultimate power, authority or influence?

I think of God as Lord of all as I read through the Old Testament and where we are particularly in Exodus. God has just given His people commandments… things that will keep His sacred and beloved people holy… and I have interpreted it below for our consumption and meditations.

“I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery…” Ex. 20:2

(I am the Lord your God who saved you from sin, shame and guilt, who brought you from death to life, who has given you a place in eternity.)

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God” Ex. 20:3-4

(You shall not put money, relationships and marriage, social status, clothing, Netflix, or social media before me. You shall not put self-righteousness, shame, blame, self-deprecation, self-loathing, self-pity, and selfishness above me. You shall not bow down or worship the approval and affirmation of others for I the Lord your God, creator of the universe, knitter of your inmost being, knower of your every thought, your every coming and going, your past, present, and future, giver of dreams, counselor, and father, am a jealous God, and to put these things in front of me grieves me and puts distance between us.)

God has desired to be the Lord of our lives from the beginning. What is lording over our lives right now that we need to throw into the fire? What areas of our lives can we make God the Lord over? How can we worship Him as the Lord of our lives?

Week 5: God as Answer

I had a group of friends in college who were bonafide Jesus freaks. These were people giving every part of their lives to the glory of God: year-long discipleship programs, moving to Africa, Nepal, India, dropping everything to plant churches, finding ways to share the Gospel and be winsome. They loved Jesus, and their passion was indescribable. They came about in a time in my story when I was having a hard time finding my passion, and they pushed me over the edge for it. And they taught me something about living an unashamed lifestyle that has stuck with me today. For a while, if one was to ask one of these friends a simple measuring question, their answer would always be, “Jesus.”

“How are you these days?” “Jesus”

“What’s new in your life?” “Jesus”

“What are you up to?” “Jesus”

While that may seem a little extreme, let me tell you what it taught me about how I live my life.

I have found that I always want God to be my answer. I always want Him to be the one I turn to in distress or triumph, in confusion or fear, in doubt and knowing.  The dialogue above, for me, has always been an internal one, but it has helped me to keep my focus…

“Why did you make that decision?” Because Jesus led me to it.

“Why are you showing grace?” Because that’s what Jesus would have me do.

“Where are you going from here?” I don’t know, but Jesus certainly does.

Like many of you, I’ve fought with times of doubt. I’ve felt the sting of the heart when you feel like you’ve been abandoned, forgotten, or just left alone to fend for yourself. I know what those moments feel like. But if we can move into a mindset of God-knowing, instead of us not-knowing, we can find a healthy relationship with God once more.

I am entering into a season of unknowing. I do not know what’s next, I do not know what the next step is, I do not know where any resource or support is going to come from. But I am walking around the corner with my head held high, because God is my answer. I can approach the fear and doubt and push-back with my head held high, because I’ve put it all on the line for Jesus and he always comes through. I’ve put His name on the marquee, because He is the answer to my doubt.

Christy Nockels’ song Let it Be Jesus, has found a new meaning in my life, as I tune more and more into the voice of God.

Should I ever be abandoned
Should I ever be acclaimed
Should I ever be surrounded by the fire and the flame

There’s a name I will remember
There’s a name I will proclaim
Let it be, Let it be my Jesus.

Jesus has promised to be with us until the end of the age. So when we are lost for words, in joy or sadness, let our answer always be Jesus.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you—
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121

Week 4: God as Almighty

One of the ways that I serve in my local church is as a storyteller for the elementary schoolers. Every 6 weeks or so, I get to join 200 or so K-5th graders to share the amazing Word of God, and it is one of my greatest pleasures in life. It is so humbling to translate Scripture for little minds and so beautiful to watch when they “get it.”

A few months ago we were in a series called ALL MIGHTY. My topic was God is ALL MIGHTY healer. I was telling the story of Bartimaeus (who you should have read about yesterday!).

Here’s the thing. When I think about God as ALL MIGHTY, I think about the amazing and awesome works that He did throughout scripture. I think about creation, the universe, the Red Sea, the calming of the storm. I tend to think of God as only almighty over nature, apparently. So when I got the curriculum to teach that God was almighty healer, it confused me a bit. I felt like kids could grasp that really easily: God is all mighty over sickness, blindness, infirmities. But could I?

Here are some synonyms: all powerful, omnipotent, supreme, preeminent. I started to wonder at the vastness of God, the enormity of Him. All those images that come to mind when you think about His awesome power and how small it can make you feel. Many times, when “almighty” is mentioned in scripture it is in reference to judgement, or reproach. It reminds us that God is to be feared…

Proverbs 1:8 says,”The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” This is the beginning of a book that is teaching us all how to be wise and prudent, how to live full lives, how to store up God’s word in our life. The fear of the Lord here is not what you would normally attribute to the emotion of fear. Fear here is reverence and humility before the maker of the universe. Not run and hide in a hole like a mouse. It involves both reverent awe and a healthy fear of God’s displeasure and devotion to God’s fatherly discipline.

But in the same breath of discipline and awe, we hear this: “I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” 2 Cor. 6:16.

It’s time to ask ourselves if we see God as almighty. If we have a healthy fear of his disciple and a humble reverence for His power. It’s time to consider whether we believe that the all powerful God of the Universe would love us enough to call us sons and daughters. Consider this week how you see God: as an all powerful being that sits on a cloud and sends lightning strikes, or as a loving, father, capable of disciplining us and holding our tender hearts in his hand at the same time?

Week 3: God as Provider

I have a hard time being satisfied with what I have. I always want something else… material or otherwise. It’s always something, right? New shoes, new shampoo, more friends, more money. I have to constantly remind myself to see what is right in front of me. Hannah Brencher’s contentment challenge could not have come at a better time. She’s challenging us to replace shopping and acquiring with resting and learning. I’m participating, and realizing that contentment is so much more than limiting the material things in life. Contentment means trusting God as my provider. I will always want more when I don’t trust that God will provide. I already have everything I need because of Jesus. God has proven himself as a provider all throughout Scripture. My favorite examples come from Exodus 16 and Matthew 14. (I would quote them here, but I want you to dig into them yourselves).

Here’s the thing, I’ve seen God provide in my life, and He has in yours too, if you choose to see it. He will provide the simplest things, from providing a parking space to meet a friend for coffee, to giving me peace when I desperately need it, we just have to believe that He is provider. He provides what we need, when we trust him to. It’s when we take matters into our own hands is when we find no contentment. Satisfaction in Christ comes when we know, and have faith, that He provides. God has promised to provide our most basic needs, but He’s also promised us that we already have been blessed, in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). God is provider, and promise-keeper; our ultimate satisfaction.

Find the ways that God has proven Himself as provider in your life. Journal about them, and thank Him for His provision. Ask God to continually be your contentment, as He provides your every need.

What is one area of your life that you are not trusting God as your provision? Where can you let God provide to show you His faithfulness?

Week 2: God as Healer

Elementary school art class was my jam. Math and Science were hard for me, but Ms. Fox, my art teacher, made me feel like I was an art master. We did the best projects, from oils and acrylics, to self-portraits and foil-pressing… but my favorite was always clay. I loved being able to mold something new out of a brown blob, because if you didn’t like the way your art was shaping up, you could just smoosh it and start over. One Christmas, we had an assignment to make our parents a gift out of clay. At the time, I had a slight cat obsession. My muses for the project were the family cat, Pearl, and Fat Louie from the Princess Bride series. I decided to make my mom a… holder of sorts. The clay was formed to look like a cat laying on its back with its front paws on its stomach and its back legs sticking straight up in the air, with its tail curled around the side. I made it with big bulgy eyes and painted it to look like our cat, black with a white belly.

We wrapped our gifts at school and I sat on Christmas morning and watched with anticipation as my mom unwrapped, only to find that one of its little legs had cracked off. It was devastating to say the least. My tiny world was over as I knew it, everything I had put into the little project was for nothing.

But alas, mom being the mom she is, found some Gorilla glue and glued that little cat’s leg right back on without missing a beat. She fixed what I thought was forever ruined. The little cat still sits on my mom’s vanity table to this day and holds her rings and small jewelry. She is still so proud of my elementary school creation that I believed unfixable.

God’s history is one of fixing the unfixable, of healing the broken, and putting the sundry pieces back together,

What, in your life, are you believing is unfixable? What can God heal in you this year? Find evidence in your own life of healing work He has already done, and ask in earnest prayer for Him to show himself as faithful healer once more.

Week One: God as Creator 

The town I grew up in has a “Country Fair and Festival” every October, complete with carnival rides that normally live in the beds of 18-wheelers that for some reason we trust enough to pay to ride, vendors selling turkey legs and anything fried, fresh apple cider, pony rides, and tours of the cotton gin and steam engines. It’s a sentimental tradition that has lived on for years, despite its kitschy-ness.  Among the booths of local vendors and clubs, is the most fascinating part of the fair: the chainsaw guy. If you’ve never experienced the chainsaw guy, you are really missing out on something special. He is cooler than the motorcycles that drive around inside a globe, cooler than the dudes who guess your age, and more fascinating than the albino tiger show. This guy, with his bleach blonde hair and hardware apron, and his Oakley-looking protective goggles is my main intrigue each year of the fair.

The chainsaw guy starts with a very ordinary looking log. Something that you would cut up for firewood and burn. He starts with something very boring and turns it into something beautiful. Slowly, with different chainsaws, he carves out wolves, bears, raccoons and eagles. He trims away at the log, sawdust flying, and makes something amazing. I can sit and watch him for hours as he knows exactly where to cut to create something out of nothing. You don’t know what’s coming until almost the very end. Each cut has a purpose, each trim reveals a little bit more of his intentions. Here’s a video to show you what I’m talking about. The Chainsaw Guy.

Just as the chainsaw guy creates a bear out of a log, God created the world out of nothing. Before there was anything, there was nothing. The story of creation is so beautiful to me, because from the outside, the void of the universe was just that – void. But God saw and his intentions were clear. To create a universe to echo his glory for all time.

As we begin the new year, what is something God can create in you? From your view of yourself, you may see something totally ordinary. But God looks at you and sees a beautiful intention and plan. What can God mold in you this year? A greater understanding of His word? A deeper relationship through your prayer life? A heart for the broken?

Ask God to create something new in you this year. Ask Him to show you, through His word, His intention and purpose for creating you. Though you may see yourself as ordinary, God sees the extraordinary, if we let him mold and shape us through His word.

“Yet you, LORD, are our Father. We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.” Isaiah 64:8