They faced a wall. An insurmountable, unconceivable, invincible wall. In their eyes, it was unconquerable. But in God’s eyes, nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37).
Are you facing a wall today? A wall of discouragement, disappointment, or doubt? A hopeless situation where you cannot see you’re way out?
After wandering for 40 years in the wilderness, the Israelites were ready to enter the promised land, the land of Canaan. This land flowed with milk and honey and was promised to Abraham over 500 years earlier (Deuteronomy 6:3). Pause for a second…do you see how cool this is? Is anyone else in utter awe? The promises of God are coming to fruition right here as we turn the pages of Scripture. We can stand assured that the promises of God will come true! Mic drop.
However, as the Israelites faced the promised land there was one very large obstacle in their way. A wall. Read Joshua 6:1-27. They could not see a solution to their current dilemma. From their vantage point, there was no hope. Might as well wallow in self-pity…or about face and wander in the wilderness for another 40 years. In the eyes of man, this situation was completely impossible.
And once again, God says “Nope. I got it! What you see as an impossibility is a possibility with God.” (I think someone needs to hear that right now. Go ahead and repeat it and speak it into your life).
God lays out a war strategy that seems ridiculously simple: Quietly march around the city for six days, and on the seventh day, make seven circuits around and then give a victory shout. There is a lesson for us here….our battles belong to the Lord (Isaiah 55:8-9, Exodus 14:14).
When we face an insurmountable situation, it is our faithful obedience to God that yields a Jericho victory in our lives. The walls in our lives produce sanctification, a transformative process to mold us into the image of Christ (read Romans 8:29). In our desperation, we are forced to look to God as our refuge and strength. It is during such times God is working in us to perfect our faith (Hebrews 10:23, 11:1).
God uses such moments in our lives to point our direction upward to Him. He reminds us that He is powerful to conquer our battles (Psalm 18:13-15). He uses the walls in our lives to reorient our focus…because He knows otherwise, we get consumed with earthly things. There is nothing comparable to the power of God. What God says comes to pass. When God speaks, walls crumble (Hebrews 11:30).
The Israelites wandering faith was transformed into saving faith. When God spoke, they listened and obeyed. It is saving faith that propels us to obedience. Because of the grace of God and His abounding mercy, we desire to do what He says (1 Jn 2:3-5). Our faith without obedience is dead faith (James 2:26).
It is our obedience to God that reflects our salvation to the world. It is not enough to say “I believe in God” and then live however we please. True salvation is reflected in how we live. Obedient. Submissive. Humble lives.
Is your life reflecting JESUS this Christmas season? Do others see your “Saving Faith”?
Christmas is a great time of reflecting. Looking back…but also looking ahead. I love the season’s tug to continue to move forward and grow. Here’s a prayer of reflection.
May I never grow weary of doing good…or think I’m good enough to quit trying.
You are good and do good…Ps. 119:68
Whether the task ahead is big or small…may I recount my blessing to play a part in your plan.
Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand,Jeremiah 18:6
In the difficult circumstance, may I keep my eyes fixed on you. And when times are easy, may I recount how you helped me climb the mountain.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.Habakkuk 3:17-19
May I remember all of your wondrous deeds…and remind myself that you are praiseworthy.
Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!Luke 2:14
My identity is secure in you. I have been chosen. Set apart. Adopted. And redeemed. I am enough because you say I am enough. Help me believe it and live this way!
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.Ephesians 1:3-10
There is a common misconception among mankind. “I’m good. I’m not that bad. I’m good enough to get into heaven. The big man upstairs will let me in.”
But that’s not what the Bible says.
It says that there is no good in us apart from God (Rom. 3:10). The fool says there is no God (Ps. 14:1-3). We all are born sinners, fallen and corrupt (Ps. 53:1-3). And it is our sin that separates us from God (Is. 59:2). We are spiritually dead no matter how good we look on the outside. This is why we need a Savior (Rom. 5:12). This is why it was necessary for Jesus to come.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”Matthew 1:21
I think it is necessary to remind us of this Gospel truth every day…because otherwise we think too highly of ourselves than we ought. And when we think too highly of ourselves…we no longer stand in awe and wonder of our amazing Savior.
This is what happened to the Israelites beginning in Exodus 16. The people forgot about the great wonder of the parting of the Red Sea. The looked at their circumstances, rather than keeping their eyes focused on God. They complained about their daily bread (Exodus 18), rather than worshiping and praising God for what they had. They built idols of earthly, temporary, shiny stuff (Exodus 32), rather than fixating their thoughts and eyes on heaven above.
Oh, like the Israelites, we are prone to wander.
Reorient your focus this Christmas season to keep your eyes above the fray. Only Jesus is worthy of our praise and adoration!
How is God making Himself manifest in my life right now? Will I respond with adoration and praise?
Abraham. Isaac. Jacob. Moses…great heroes of our faith and representations of biblical typology. Through them, we see the foreshadowing of Christ personified. These men of faith provide a glimpse of who Jesus is, allowing us to see the pages of Scripture come alive. The Bible is simple for us to read, yet complex in order that it never grows dull or old.
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;Lamentations 3:22-23
his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
In Exodus 12, the Israelites finally were released from the enslaved hand of the Pharoah only to be overwhelmed by the vast, Red Sea in Exodus 14. Imagine the horror of it. You watch plague after plague and the death of the Egyptian’s firstborn. You see the mighty hand of God upfront and personal. Your hope begins to blossom as you think about what it will be like to be free. Totally free. And finally. The day arrives.
Puzzling, I would assume. Why would God work in such a way? But then again, God’s ways are never like our own.
God was up to something even grander than any imagination could fathom or believe. God says, “And I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and he will pursue them, and I will get glory over Pharaoh and all his host, and the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord.” And they did so” (Ex. 14:4).
The Israelites did not understand that it is in our weakness that He is made strong (see 2 Cor. 12:9-11). With the Egyptian army in hot pursuit behind them and a formidable body of water before them, they began to drown in their own misery. “They said to Moses, “Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? 1Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: ‘Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness” (Ex. 14:11-12).
God often puts us in difficult places so that we reach the end of ourselves and see He is our only option. The exodus is a great illustration of our salvation in Jesus Christ…behind us the army of destruction of our sinfulness, before us the sea of wrath of God. Without Jesus making a way, we would be destroyed.
But there’s more here…I see how God masterfully crafts our own stories so that we see our need for Him. He designs our weak moments, teaching us to rely solely on Him. We often act like the Israelites when we feel overwhelmed. We get cranky. Grouchy. Discouraged. Panicked. Anxious. Angry. Disheartened. Frustrated. Disillusioned. Fearful. Self-dependent. Oh, how we forget to look to Him!
It is in the weak, raw spots that God is working to be revealed. He wants us to not only see His glory but also desires for us to know Him!
Are you willing to allow God to be glorified in your weakness? What does that look like to you?
Jacob runs for his life after lying and conniving to steal his brother’s birthright. And big brother Esau is in hot pursuit after him.
“Esau held a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing his father had given him. He said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.”Gen. 27:41
Following the instruction of his parents, Jacob flees from his brother in search of a wife from his parent’s homeland. It is here, in this journey, that we begin to see a transformation of Jacob take place. Read Genesis 29-31.
Two wives and twenty years later, our story continues in Genesis 32. Jacob is returning back home to Canaan with his tribe of people (wife 1 & 2, eleven sons, one daughter, and two female servants–whew, a crew). The fierce rush of adrenaline rapidly descends upon him as he encounters his estranged brother once again. Unfortunately, it appears as if his brother’s anger has not resided. Esau has gathered an army of 400 men (Genesis 32:6).
The doubt and questioning ensue. “But God…you said.” When the wheels start falling off the bus, how quickly we are to blame God. We often assume the will of God translates into a life of ease and comfort. However, God often leads us into difficult waters to teach us to keep our eyes steadfast on Him.
It is tempting to seek God’s direction more so than seeking God Himself. We freak out when problems arise, as is the case for our dear friend Jacob. We argue with God. We doubt. Rather than allowing the frustration to be an opportunity to experience the presence of God.
We must constantly maintain the far superior privilege of knowing God over merely getting something from Him or implementing an action plan….Reorient your focus. Don’t bypass the relationship because you’d rather have answers to your questions.Priscilla Shirer, Discerning the Voice of God (p. 107)
Jacob thought he was running from Esau.
But discovered he was running from God instead.
Read Genesis 32:22-32. This strange encounter seems relatively unusual at first glance. What we see is a wrestling match between Jacob and a stranger, who winds up being God Himself. Jacob begins the encounter encapsulated with fear and dread about seeing his brother and winds up fighting for a blessing over his life. When God decides the fight is done, he dislocates Jacob’s hip and demands to be let go.
Jacob refuses saying, “I will not let you go unless you bless me (v.26).”
Clearly, this persistent attitude pleases God and He responds, “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob [deceiver], but Israel [strives with God] for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed (v. 28).”
Pay close attention. When Jacob entered the wrestling floor, he was hesitant to meet his brother Esau. He was restless and afraid. However, after a night of wrestling it out with God, his attention turned to God’s Word…a word of promise and blessing.
The same is true for us. In our seasons of uncertainty, we can take our requests and questions and fears and yes, anger to God. We can wrestle through our challenging times with Him. The ultimate result is for our good–a humbled spirit and peace with God. When God calls you to the wrestling floor…it is an invitation to receive His blessing. Don’t give up until He blesses you!
What do you need today? How desperate are you for it? Will you wrestle it out with God in order to receive a blessing?
We hope in a lot of things, especially around Christmas. We hope for goodwill and peace. We hope the pound of fudge we inhaled won’t end up on our waistline. We hope that the bills won’t stack too high come January. We hope we win the lottery. We hope and we hope.
In reality, our hope is more like wishful thinking. We hope this & that will come true. However, that being said, there is a sort of uncertainty. We really aren’t sure our hopes will come to pass. I mean, we wouldn’t bet our lives on it.
When our hopes are disappointed (as is often the case), a seed of distrust in planted in our heart. We build up little walls for protection. We grow cynical. We have doubts and fears. We build fortresses. We run and hide.
What if our HOPE is wrong?
Read Genesis 27 & 28. Isaac grew up and married Rebekah…and they had two sons. But these two boys had a serious case of sibling rivalry (Genesis 25). They fought about everything! And to make matters worse, their parents played favorites. Isaac loved his outdoorsy Esau and Rebekah adored her mamma’s boy, Jacob.
There was a lot of strife in this home. Dysfunction. Because, like most families, humanity is not always harmonious. And I love how the Bible gives us an honest, real, vulnerable picture into the heart of man.
Because we are man, we often want to deny our own sinfulness. But the Bible keeps pointing us back to take a look inwardly. We are stubborn, selfish, greedy, alienated, prideful, and idolatrous people. When you put us in cramped quarters (like a home), you see the worse of us. A sin-mess.
Isaac is nearing the end of his life. On his deathbed, he asks for his boys to come in for their final blessing. In this culture, the blessing would go to the oldest male. One caveat: Isaac’s eyesight has gone bad. Seizing the moment, Rebekah takes matters into her own hands and convinces the younger son, Isaac, to steal his brother’s blessing. When we fear losing HOPE, we desperately try to fix it. We show our desperation.
Fortunately, in the midst of the mess, God is at work. We can’t mess-up God’s plan. The Bible reveals to us our sinfulness and our powerlessness over and over again. It is showing us our need for a Savior. We can’t “fix” this broken world….only God can.
The Bible reveals our sin-mess so that we can see our need for JESUS. The main theme of the Bible is God’s plan for redemption of a needy, sin-mess people. Without the mess, we have no need for JESUS.
Sin must be seen and powerlessness must be experienced before we really turn to Jesus and embrace his gospel.John Piper
Take heart if everything in your life isn’t perfect. It wasn’t meant to be. Our friend Isaac had to run for his life, in fear of his brother Esau. There is nothing more painful than family discord. This story shows how we are supposed to place our hope in God, not the things of this world. (And if this is you today, don’t lose hope. God can do anything! He can bring sin to the surface so that we see our need for Him. He can use us to demonstrate the Gospel to our loved ones and the world around in the midst of the mess).
Biblical hope is different than that of this world. Biblical hope is based on God. His character. His attributes. His Word. His promises. His faithfulness. This kind of hope is not based on our circumstances, or the nightly news. It is built on a sure foundation of certainty–God is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.
As for Isaac, God’s will prevailed. God worked in the midst of the mess to demonstrate His gracious love. God loves turning messes into mercies.
“I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring. Your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south, and in you and your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 1Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land. For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”Genesis 28:13-15
Are you placing your hope in worldly things? Do you need to replace it with Biblical hope? Do you believe God can work in your current mess to reveal His redemptive mercy?
Note: This blog was influenced by Jared Carter’s sermon at Austin Ridge on December 9, 2019.
The older I become, the more I realize that my story is less about me and more about God. He is writing my narrative. And if I lean into the voice of the Holy Spirit, I can see the story of redemption being penned. My prayer is that you see God working in your life today too.
This is the purpose of God in all that he does in creation and redemption. God’s purpose in all that he does is: to magnify his sovereign grace and keep us in our humble place.John Piper, Desiring God
Read Genesis 22:1-14. God made a promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2, “I will make you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great; and so you shall be a blessing.” When Abraham and Sarah were well up in years, Sarah finally gives birth to their long-awaited son, Isaac. There must have been an overwhelming, celebratory, exuberant kind of joy at the birth of their baby boy!
Little did they know…God wasn’t done. There was an even greater test of their faith to come.
Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”
“Here I am,” he replied.
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”Genesis 22:1-2
As Abraham journeyed to Moriah, he must have felt overwhelmed with emotion. Confusion. Doubt. Anger. A ball all mixed-up, twisted and tied. Why would God ask him to sacrifice his beloved son? There is no way that Abraham could put the pieces together. He had no idea…God was painting a picture, a foreshadowing, of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.John 1:29
God was illustrating to all mankind what justifying faith looks like. God asks us to do many difficult and painful things, but we can be confident that Emmanuel God is with us…even in the hard. It can be scary to trust God when He asks us to do something against our natural instincts and abilities. We can’t always make sense of God. Remember. Reflect. We have a trustworthy, sovereign God.
Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23 and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God.James 2:21-23
God provided a ram in the thicket as a substitute sacrifice that particular day of old. But years later, our God would give His one and only Son to pay the ultimate sacrifice for you.
Whatever you are facing today…remember Jesus is with you. The path that Jesus walked here on earth is much harder than anything we have had to endure. He is building in us a persevering faith, the kind that is tested and tried by fire (Romans 4:22-25). When our flesh is weak, ask for help. He is here to help and strengthen you (Isaiah 41:10).
Is there anything God is asking you to offer up to Him? Are you clinching too tight, holding on, rather than giving it over to Him?
I’m thinking about you. As you dash through the day, I wonder what you will encounter. Disgruntled guests. A mess on the floor. Decorations that pale to Pinterest. For some of you, Christmas season brings joy…a time to remember and be thankful. While others will struggle because life is hard…difficult in this very moment.
I think about the possible expectations you have of God. Are you barely holding on? ‘Tis the season of doubt? Or unexpected troubles?
Have you lost hope because of hardship? Are your prayers less than they should be? Have you forgotten about God during this time, as you scurry and worry about?
I think about you. Yes, I do. And my prayer is that you remember…Emmanuel, God with us. He is with us always and forever. In sending us Jesus, God is saying, “I haven’t forgotten you for a second.”
Since therefore the children [believers, children of God] share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devilHebrews 2:14
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood,
God sent us Jesus because He loves us so. Let us be reminded. “For God so loved the world that He sent us [JESUS]” (Jn 3:16). As a child of God, we have been hand-chosen by Him. Adopted. Set Apart. God had our salvation in view when He sent us His Son. Oh…the thought of this makes my heart twitter.
You were chosen by God the Father long ago. He knew you were to become His children. You were set apart for holy living by the Holy Spirit. May you obey Jesus Christ and be made clean by His blood. May you be full of His loving-favor and peace.1 Peter 1:2
“He himself likewise partook of the same things,
Jesus is the face of God. Deity becoming man so that we would know Him. Jesus is fully God, yet fully man. Although this truth is difficult to grasp, it is a basic tenet of our faith and part of Scripture. Jesus is relatable because He suffered as we do here on earth.
“that through death”
God became man so that He could die for our sins. Christmas is the predecessor to Easter. The two walk hand-in-hand. Christmas proclaims, “The RESCUER has come”, whereas Easter says, “It is finished. You are REDEEMED.”
“he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil”
The devil’s greatest weapon against us is our sin. But, Jesus came and put an end to sin by dying on the cross. He paid our death penalty. The penalty that the devil tries to accuse us of every single day is dead.
What does this all mean?
We don’t have to wallow in our sin! We are guilt-free. There is no shame or condemnation. We have been set free! And we can walk in freedom with our head held high because we have been justified. And the devil can’t steal our salvation away.
So, go ahead, live differently…indebted…grateful…free.
What is stealing your joy? What biblical truth to you need to believe today?