Unchanging

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

I’d like to start this post by giving you a little behind-the-scenes look into my writing process. You see, back in August of last year, I was praying and asking God about writing weekly. I had some great foundation-building experience earlier in the year, and I was wondering how to apply that to this blog. The idea I got was to start out by doing seventeen weeks around the topic of trusting God. From there, I did a simple Google search: Verses on trust. What you’ve been reading up until this point, and what will continue until March 18th, are devotionals I’ve written as I’ve studied seventeen of those verses.

This weeks verse has been especially helpful in my own life, as the verse, just by itself, packs a punch. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Just sit back and let that sink in.

To be honest, chapter 13 of Hebrews feels a bit over my head. Reading it makes sense, but summarizing it here for you feels like a mountain I am unable to climb. So I’d like to just say this for today,

As you pray, remember all God has done.

It makes me think about the Old Testament stories…the story Noah. Moses. Joshua. Daniel. David. God asked incredible things of these people. God worked in their lives in ways that defied logic, reason, and the very laws of nature. But those people trusted God and saw incredible things happen as a result.

That was Jesus at work.

Then in the New Testament I think about the inspiring miracles and lives of Matthew, Peter, Paul, and the other apostles.

Jesus was at work.

In recent history, I think about the testimonies of Martin Luther and Billy Graham.

Jesus again at work.

It just inspires me and grounds me into this reality: Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If Jesus did that way back then, why do I limit my belief?

My biggest takeaway from Hebrews 13:8 is that I need to remember who I’m praying to when I pray. Because lifting up payers on the fly is one thing…lifting up prayers while acknowledging it’s Jesus I’m talking to is a whole different faith experience.

So this is my encouragement: the next time you pray, pause to think about who it is you’re praying to. Who it is that’s listening to you. What he’s capable of. What he’s been through with the people of the past, and what he experienced himself as a human who lived on this earth for thirty-three whole years. It’s making a difference in the way I pray. And I bet it will for you too.

They Do Not Fear Bad News

“They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.”
Psalm 112:7

I love this verse. I just love it. It invites us to trust God on such a practical, down to earth, everyday level. It also invites us to dig deeper, because the following questions beg to be asked:

Who does not fear bad news?

Who confidently trusts that the Lord will care for them?

Because I want to be that person. I want my relationship with God to be that solid. I want to have that kind of confidence.

So how do I get there?

My study bible opens this psalm up by saying that, “God guards the minds and actions of those who follow his commands.”

So this is our first step: follow his commands.

I know this may cause you to bristle. But let’s think about this for a second. Because the more I get to know God, the more I come to know that his commands are always and only for our good. Just as a parent stops their kids from touching a hot stove to save them from getting burned, or from eating too much candy to prevent an upset stomach, or to warn them about getting into dangerous situations to keep their futures secure and their bodies safe, so the Lord does the same for us through his commands.

When news of bad things come, I want my first response to be wonder at what God is up to behind the scenes. I want to stand firm in confidence that as I follow God with all my heart, soul and mind he will guard me, guide me and protect me in ways I could never imagine.

And when the news is particularly hard, hitting so very close to home, I want my first instinct to be to turn to him with my tears of sorrow, pain, or confusion because I know he loves and cares for me. I know that in turning to him I may not find understanding, but I know I will most certainly find peace.

How joyful are those who fear the Lord
    and delight in obeying his commands.

Psalm 112:1

They do not fear bad news;
    they confidently trust the Lord to care for them.

Psalm 112:7

Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.
John 14:21

Be Strong and Very Courageous!

“This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
Joshua 1:9

Before we really dig into verse 9, I want us to take a look at the verses leading up to it. I’ve found that in the past I have often quick-claimed inspiring verses like this one, but failed to acknowledge the context proceeding it. The context helps us understand who said the verse, why it was said and to whom. It adds a depth and a power that would otherwise be lost to us.

In these verses, the Lord is talking directly to Joshua. Here’s what he said…

“No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you.Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do.”
Joshua 1:5-9

Joshua was among the twelve Israelites that went into the land of Canaan to explore and bring back a report before the entire population Israel was to enter1. Of those twelve, only he and Caleb returned full of faith that God would be with them and fulfill his promises. The other ten were so terrified by the obstacles and opposition they saw that they caused the entire nation to rebel against God.

Though God punished them and set them to wonder in the wilderness for forty years, Joshua’s faith remained firm and did not go unnoticed. At the end of their wilderness punishment, Joshua was appointed to take over and lead the people into the Promised Land.

As we consider God’s powerful promise in verse 9, we need to make note of its caveat in verse 7. It says, “Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do.

After reading these passages, I find myself thinking of two different belief systems.

The first is that God created all, including us. And including the rules. That the only way to succeed is by following his instructions. That he is the way, the truth and the life. Our hearts are always yearning for more of God and are being refined by him.

The second is that we’re smarter than God, who is out of date, old fashioned, and behind the times. We have full understanding of the world and can, and will, be just fine, if not better, on our own. God will ultimately only slow us down and hold us back from all that life has to offer. Our hearts are growing ever more hard and stubborn.

The world I live in loves this second system and is doing everything it can to eliminate consequences to bad, sinful decisions. It wants good things, prosperous things, but it doesn’t want rules on how to get it. It prefers an anything goes mentality. Satan cleared the way for this, and he paved it to make it easy. He lit it up, made it public, and made it socially acceptable. The stops along the way are irresistible, even predictable, so that we do not have to wonder, second guess or fear.

But Satan doesn’t love, he hates. And he’s cunning and will keep those who follow this path moving further and further from God and closer to eternal separation from Him.

In direct contrast the first is, at its core, submission. It’s admitting that we’re human and not deity. That we see only in part. That we can’t create our own peace or joy. That we don’t know it all. That, when we truly look at our own actions and thoughts and motivations, we’re not better than anyone else – we’re actually far worse that we thought. That we don’t actually know what’s going to happen.

It’s admitting that we’re mere sheep and we desperately need a good shepherd to provide for us, protect us, guide us, heal our broken bones, find us when we’re lost, and redirect us when we’re wandering off.

When we follow the first, when we are careful to obey God and not deviate from him, turning either to the right or to the left, this is where his promise comes into play. This is where he says “…be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This is when we can go boldly, knowing that the Lord is on our side and is mighty to save, strong in battle!

God knows what’s best for us, and his way is our base case scenario. Whatever you’re facing today, submit it to God. Then go forward with courage. Be strong. Be very courageous! For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

1 Numbers 13-14