Set Apart

Answer me when I call to you, O God who declares me innocent. Free me from my troubles. Have mercy on me and hear my prayer.
Psalm 3:1

Being a Christian doesn’t make us a perfect human. It marks us as an imperfect person who’s trust is in someone much greater than us. Often when we pray, it’s easy to forget the depth of how flawed we are and how in need we are of someone to reconcile us to God. This is why there is power in admitting and confessing the ways we’ve sinned. When we ask for forgiveness, Jesus makes us right before God once again. And in that place God declares us innocent and hears our prayers.

Psalm 3:3 says, You can be sure of this: The Lord set apart the godly for himself. The Lord will answer when I call to him.

Stand firm on this promise: If you trust in Jesus, you are set apart.

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”
Psalm 91: 14-16

Wisdom for Godly Living

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT

A proverb is a short, concise saying in general use
that states a general truth or piece of advice.

– adapted definition from Siri’s dictionary

The wisdom we find in the book of Proverbs was written to clearly and quickly communicate truth and advice to those who read it. Written by King Solomon, son of King David, they give us insights into sound judgement and knowledge.

But there is something we need to be careful about here. Because these sayings are short, it can be easy to dismiss them. But these sayings get right to the point, eliminating any and all fluff. There is much hope, comfort, power and actionable steps packed into these two short sentences.

So while you may be tempted to pass by it, let’s instead settle into it. Let’s dig into the meat of it.

Let’s start by taking a closer look at sentence 1:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.

You’ll notice we have a do and a don’t here.

King Solomon is telling us: DO trust in the Lord with all your heart. But what does that look like in reality? What does it mean to trust in the Lord with all our heart?

Sentence two gives us the clue: DO NOT depend on our own understanding.

Why would he tell us this? Why is our understanding so unreliable? If you think about it, our understanding is vastly limited. We only hear our own thoughts and see our own world through our own eyes. Our understanding is limited to the viewpoint one person, yourself/myself, out of billions of people. But God, in contrast, sees all. God knows the intimate details of your life. He also knows the intimate details of your spouse’s life. Extend that out to your parents, your kids, your significant other, your boss, your coworkers, your friends, the people in your city, state, country, world…that’s a pretty big picture. That gives us reason enough to trust not in what we see from day to day, but to trust in God. Who sees every little bit of it.

And you know what? Even though he sees it all, he also sees you. He knows how the story of the human race is affecting your day. This is a beautiful transition into the next sentence.

Sentence 2 says:

Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

Ask for God’s leading in all you do. That means in your upcoming meeting, when you’re with your kids, when you’re contemplating a move or a job change, when you’re trying to map out your schedule for the next week. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take. As you walk, as you plan, as you go about your day…pray and listen.

Do you see how involved he desires to be in your life? I don’t know about you, but these two sentences bring me great comfort. This short piece of priceless wisdom is telling us to trust God more than we trust what we see around us, and to acknowledge him at all times so he can direct us.

I pray this spoke to you and emboldened you to spend more time at the feet of Jesus. In the days ahead, put this into practice and report back. I’d love to know how God moves in your life.

– Kristen Larson

Banished from Eden

The following is a guest post by Luke Larson

“So the Lord God banished them from the Garden of Eden, and he sent Adam out to cultivate the ground from which he had been made.” Genesis 3:23 (NLT)

I remember one time when I was younger some friends and I had a sleepover, which was a pretty regular occurrence at that stage of life. Our usual thing was to stay up late, chips and soda in hand and watch funny movies or play video games. But this time we had a different idea. We decided it would be more fun to take a couple gallons of gasoline and play with fire. We found some plastic swords and had flaming sword fights, we lit a tennis ball and a football on fire and played catch, I even made a flamethrower using a super soaker. It wasn’t until later that I realized the stupidity of having a gas-filled plastic tank on my shoulder while holding a flame to the nozzle. It was only by a miracle I walked away from that night with my ridiculously good looks intact.

The strange thing was, it was invigorating. I wanted to do it again.

The next day I went home and hung out with my family like it was a normal day. However, it wasn’t a normal day. I had done something wrong and I knew it. I didn’t realize at the time, because I was pretty sure that I was as smooth as they come, but mom and dad knew I was guilty too. They didn’t know what I did exactly, but they knew I was guilty nonetheless. Our relationship felt different, there was suddenly a barrier between us that wasn’t normal. They confronted me about why I was avoiding eye contact and why I seemed distant. I cracked immediately, and after a long conversation about how dangerous that was and how I could have been hurt, I found myself grounded for a month with a long list of chores to keep myself busy. 

I felt like my freedom was taken away. I felt like the punishment was far greater than the crime. I should be able to do whatever I want to do. Right? 

After my disappointment subsided, I began to see a bigger picture. I remembered all of the other times I had been grounded. I could see a pattern that part of me always knew was there.

Punishment and consequence serve as ditches on either side of the road of life. This is true all throughout life, but when you are a kid your parents deliver these judgements. When you grow up, the world does. The main difference is this: your parents love you, the world doesn’t. Not only had my parents been alive a lot longer than I had, they also knew me better than I knew myself. They could see my blind spots and my tendencies to move too fast into them. They could see how my choices would play out over time, I had no such insight. 

There are three elements to this story. My choices, the consequences for my choices, and my parents deep love for me.

I made a choice that night to play with fire.

The consequences of that choice involved being grounded, a long list a chores and the feeling that I disappointed my parents. Now what if they had just decided that there was nothing wrong with what I did? I wouldn’t have been grounded, my list of chores and my relationship with my parents would have remained in the ‘normal’ category, and everything would have been ok… At least for a while. At some point though, my misunderstanding of what appropriate behavior was would have gotten me into a world of trouble, and the people deciding the punishment would not be so kind as to simply ground me for a month. Although punishment and consequence from parents might seem like an affront to our freedom, it is actually a great mercy.

The third element to this story is my parent’s deep love for me. No good parent enjoys punishing their children, but deep love cares more about securing a future than avoiding occasional temporary pain. 

Why do I tell you this story? Because it is not much different from the story of Adam and Eve being banished from Eden. Their story has the same three elements. Their choices, the consequences of their choices, and their Father’s deep love for them. Many people see God as a deliverer of judgement for judgement’s sake. You might hear a story like Adam and Eve’s and see only his anger. Maybe your perception of God has been mis-shaped by your parents, your friends or someone else. But if you can put everything on the table and recognize the human tendency is to lean more towards judgement than mercy, you might allow yourself to see God in a whole new light. Let’s look at the context around Adam and Eve’s punishment.

Genesis 3:21-22 (AMP) 

21 The Lord God made tunics of [animal] skins for Adam and his wife and clothed them. 22 And the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), knowing [how to distinguish between] good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take from the tree of life as well, and eat [its fruit], and live [in this fallen, sinful condition] forever”

Looking at the context, God wasn’t delivering judgment because he was angry. He was only thinking of his children’s future. They made a choice, and the consequence of that choice was deep shame and guilt and distance from God. I’m not sure why God placed two trees in the Garden that Adam and Eve were not allowed to eat from. Maybe God intended to share the fruit with them someday. But the truth is He gave them far more than He withheld. But instead of gratitude, they chose selfishness and pride. God recognized the new fallen nature of his children and had to act to secure a future for them. Had they also eaten from the Tree of life, they would have essentially been in what we know as ‘hell’; Living forever in their sin. God would not make their decisions for them, but He would certainly go to great lengths to protect them from this fate. 

Genesis 3:24 (NLT)

After sending them out, the Lord God stationed mighty cherubim to the east of the Garden of Eden. And he placed a flaming sword that flashed back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life.”

In blessing, trial and consequence, God is always looking out for your future. His love is deeper and more real than anything you have ever known. I hope this example encourages you to dig into His word yourself and look for examples of His love. If you do, I promise you will be blown away as you see God for who He truly is; A loving father who is generous in blessing, faithful in trial, and merciful in consequence.