60 Second Devotional | December 13

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. . .  And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

Jeremiah 23:5-6


Jeremiah 23 holds another prophecy of the Messiah. Again, He is referred to as a descendant of David, as a King, and another name is given – the Lord is our righteousness.

This is hard news for those of us who believed we could be good people, good enough to tip the scales of eternal justice in our favor. We can’t. But what we can do is follow God’s plan – the rescue plan He made from the beginning – and accept His Messiah, the Lord, as our righteousness.

But how?

There are several passages of Scripture that talk of putting on Christ – Ephesians 4:20-24, Romans 13:14, and Galatians 3:27 to name a few. The idea here is that we are naked and exposed before the Throne of Divine Justice. All we’ve done, all those times we’ve forcibly silenced the voice of our conscience and done what we know to be wrong, completely unmasked.

But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

Ephesians 4:20-24

Then Christ comes, the One who died to pay the price for us, and if we accept His help, He covers us with His righteousness like a cloak of dignity. His dignity. But we have to accept it and put it on.

By doing so, we implicitly agree to honor His righteous name as well.

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Romans 13:14

60 Second Devotional | December 9

Welcome to my goofy attempts to have Advent devotionals with my busy college students who now live in 3 different cities…

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor. . .

Isaiah 9:6

Today we are going to linger in Isaiah 9 and look at verse 6, specifically the prophecy that Messiah would be called Wonderful Counselor.

And Jesus is this Wonderful Counselor, though the advice He gives is very different from what you’ll get in the rest of the world. We are surrounded by advice to follow our hearts, to do what makes us happy, to live our truth, and all kinds of advice that sounds good on the surface. But anyone who’s tried to keep this advice, like I once did, will eventually end up feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even despondent.

The counsel Jesus gives is different. in the sermon on the mount, He warns us against laying up for ourselves treasures on earth where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal, but advises us instead to store treasure in heaven where it will be secure.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

When we invest in a world that is doomed to pass away, we make a poor investment. But when we invest in Jesus and His eternal kingdom, our investment will pay dividends for all eternity.

Why I Love the Church Despite Her Flaws

I’ll be among the first to tell you that the Church is far from perfect. People get hurt in church, at church, and even by the Church. I daresay all church attendees could pop out a MeToo hashtag along with their own grim tales of church-induced suffering, whether real or perceived.

If I may be so bold, I imagine pastors could write a book about the pain caused at the hands of the flocks they shepherd. Their wives could probably fill volumes. The reasons for this are manifold, but for time’s sake I will only explore a couple.

To start, the Church is a collection of sinful human beings at various stages of sanctification. Not all are mature, not all are wise, not all have understanding, and not all really know what the Bible says or what being a Christian actually means.

In fact, not all people who engage in weekly worship and claim the name of Christ are legitimately members of His Church – the worldwide body of dedicated, true disciples who love Him with their whole heart, soul, mind, and strength.

In fact, Yeshua (Jesus) Himself warned His disciples of weeds sown among the fruitful crop (Matthew 13:36-43) and that not all who call Him Lord will enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).

Its simple to see how any person could be hurt by participation in an assembly which includes people filled with the love of God, people filled with selfish ambition, and everything in between.

But none of these things explain why I love the Church.

It isn’t because she’s never hurt me; she has. Worse than my own hurts were watching my son take friendly fire at a time when he most needed Christian mentoring. Instead, he was invited to various activities by pastors who never followed up. One time in particular involved my then-11-year-old being invited to a group, never told the particulars, then listening in as the group discussed how fun it had been afterwards.

Ouch.

My son walked away from it all. And although I hate it with every fiber of my being, part of me understands. If my faith had been in a pastor, a group of people, or anything other than God Himself, I would have walked away, too.

But I love the Church despite what she’s done to me and to my family for the very simple reason that Yeshua loves me despite what I’ve done to Him.

Every sin I’ve ever committed, whether intentionally or not, is an abject act of rebellion against the One who created me.

Every careless word, every failure to love my neighbor as myself, each and every self-focused thought and action I’ve engaged in may as well be a hammer-stroke on the crude nails which pierced the flesh of the Son of Man.

You see, I have hurt the Christ. I’ve grieved the Holy Spirit. I have brought sorrow to the heart of my Heavenly Father, and yet despite it all – even despite the fact that I still fall into sin – He loves me.

Love is not just a feeling; it’s also a choice. I choose to love the Church not because she deserves it, but because I don’t deserve it and yet Yeshua loves me.

He also loves His church; loves her enough that He gave himself up for her. And if He who is perfect and pure can love such a writhing mess of sin and self-sabotage as His Church, well then, so can I.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.

Ephesians 5:25-27

A Matter of Life and Death

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

John 5:21

Our world fails to understand the gravity of sin.

Then again, as The Book says, there is nothing new under the sun1. My Lord lived in the same world. The dates were different, the world population was smaller, and the day’s technological marvels would fail to impress the hyper-stimulated modern cynic.

Yet people haven’t changed in the slightest. From the temptation of Eve to the very second you read these words, human beings have underestimated the horror of sin.

To illustrate my point, Mark 2:1-2 tells of a time when four friends lowered their paralyzed buddy through the roof of a crowded building so he could see Jesus. Upon seeing the unfortunate fellow, Jesus declared to him, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

But the crowd wasn’t impressed until Jesus spoke again and the paralyzed man regained the use of his body.

In a similar way, our prayer requests often reflect a deeper fear of physical suffering than fear we will be guilty of gossip. We are afraid of being murdered while murdering people with our tongues. And yet the truth is, unless we accept the Son of God as our Master, we are already dead.

As it’s been said, Jesus didn’t come to show us how to be good. He came to breathe life into our animated corpses. This life and death dynamic is what I’ve been mulling over after reading and re-reading John 5 a few days ago.

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

John 5:24

Friends, Jesus stepped down into a world ruined by sin and took a stand against this great death-bringer. For a time, He forsook His rightful glory and the joys of perfect union in the mysterious community of the Triune and lived as a man. He endured temptation as a man, but He alone never gave into it and so He alone was a fully living Man.

Because of this, His willingness to trade His singular purity secures value sufficient to cover our debt – for we have sinned and earned death; He refused sin and traded His matchless gift for our wages to any who will accept His offer2.

But we must choose to accept His gift of life.

Instead, we bicker and squabble over temporary concerns, pointing out specks in the eyes of others while ignoring the massive planks that blind us3. We pray for health and comfort while using both to drink down death, serving self instead of our Sovereign. In so many ways, we sin, and we do not see it for what it is – the truest and most horrible death. Because we are addicted to death, we refuse to submit to the One who came to offer life.

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life.

John 5:39-40

Don’t miss out on this chance, friends. As the days darken and the rumbles of war send tremors across every land, don’t forget that all sin is death.

Sin is a gilded cage, a poison that tastes like ambrosia. The happiness it promises is fleeting at best, a hollow satisfaction all too easily imploding under the least pressure. Sooner or later, the sweetest sin gives its captives a taste of hell on earth – the flavor of death to taint this life with the enemy’s own eternal destination, one he wants you to share.

Misery, as is said, loves company.

But sin isn’t the victor unless you allow it. The Son of Man still stands ready to receive all who belong to Him. Even now, the One greater than Moses says, “I have set before you today life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore, choose life…4

Turn away from your sin. You are only captive if you want to be. You can turn to the Son of God who came to give you life5 – a sweet taste of it here and now to infuse life’s sorrows with the essence of eternal joy in the presence of God. Jesus

Jesus alone can replace the musty tang of death with the delightful savor of life. But the choice is yours.

1Ecclesiastes 1:9; 2Romans 6:23; 3Matthew 7:3-5; 4Deuteronomy 30:19; 5John 10:10

Alien

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

Genesis 1:27

I’m sitting at my desk, eighteen days into the year 2022 and near the end of my second quarantine, thinking about how absurd it is for humanity to discuss the idea of normalcy.

Ever since the Big Pause in early 2020, I’ve participated in the global lament, pining for life to get back to normal. This year certainly didn’t begin normally, as my I mentioned a couple of posts ago, and it hasn’t continued normally either. At least, it hasn’t felt normal.

This makes me laugh a little. As if any human being on the planet has ever felt what it means to be normal!

The truth is, our world only ever hosted three normal people in its entire history. Two of them later turned their backs on perfection and invited in decay. The Other was God Incarnate.

Ever since the first couple disobeyed and the sin curse has corrupted the earth and all it contains with its wretched malignancy, we have lost normal. The senses by which we collect information along with the very fabric of our reason has been warped with this taint. If there is anything mankind is, it cannot be described as normal.

But Yeshua (Jesus) came to restore normal; to inoculate the festering darkness of the human heart with an His purity and light. He came to offer us the cure; so we may choose to allow His Spirit to transform us, renewing our minds, providing glimpses of the sane and wholesome world He intended. Even better, He came to usher us to join Him in eternal life in its perfect and wonderful normalcy.

One great and future Day, He will come again. Eventually, reality as we know it will crumble into ash and a new and normal heavens and earth will take its place.

Until then, we can look into His Word and catch glimpses of normal, though our sin-ravaged brains struggle to comprehend it. Still, we can see it dimly, like looking at our reflection in polished metal. And we can trust with confidence that the alien thing sin has made us into can be restored through trusting in the One normal Man who ever lived, died, and rose again on this earth.

On the Rock

For God alone my soul waits in silence; 
from him comes my salvation. 
He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; 
I shall not be greatly shaken.
(Psalm 62:1-2)

What do you trust in?

It’s an important question as the world reels in uncertainty from the recent shock of the COVID-19 pandemic. Conspiracy theories abound, fear and suspicion mingle, defiance and frustration simmer, and no one seems to be able to get a firm handle on the truth.

Even before this microscopic menace shook the world, my nation already seethed with a sickly admixture of political posturing and spin-doctored semi-truths blended into our daily diet of news and memes.

It’s ironic that in the so-called “Information Age,” it’s become increasingly difficult to find useful information. Most data we are fed is tainted by the agenda of its handlers before being slanted by the agenda of it’s recipients.

Sometimes it seems we are living in a gigantic game of Telephone in which no one remembers either who went first or the words of the beginning message.

As a people, we are well primed for the time my Lord Yeshua (Jesus) warned His disciples against, when “…false christs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders, so as to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.” (Mat. 24:24)

My brothers and sisters in Christ, now more than ever, we need to be both vigilant in understanding the signs of the times and diligent in accurately handling the truth. But even more, we need to take seriously the ambassadorship for the Kingdom we represent during our exile on earth.

So again as we face the unknown, I ask: What do you trust in?

Is it your freedom to choose or your rights? A political party or a system of government? Your local grocery store, a paycheck, the economy? Do you trust most in a spouse or a friend? Your parent or child? Good health?

Or do you trust most in the unchanging One, the Ancient of Days whose hands have formed you; who knows the length of your days; and whose love and mercy know no bounds?

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, 
for my hope is from him. 
He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; 
I shall not be shaken. 
On God rests my salvation and my glory; 
my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 
Trust in him at all times, O people; 
pour out your heart before him; 
God is a refuge for us. Selah
(Psalm 62:5-8)

A Pandemic Invitation

But I trust in you, O Lord;
I say, "You are my God,"
My times are in Your hand...
Psalm 31:14-15a

How is everyone holding up through this COVID-19 pandemic?

We are doing well here in my corner of the world. Huddled at home but not in fear, enjoying one another and leaning in to God.

This same God, by the way, has faithfully met our needs thus far. Not all of our wants – we are all being required to let go of those these days, huh? But we do not lack anything we need. We have food, water, clothing, and yes, even toilet paper.

He has also supplied joy, peace, and patience as we are compelled to be together almost constantly under one roof, living a different life in April than we could have guessed at in our wildest imaginings at the beginning of March.

Yes, life is uncertain these days; yes, there are shortages; yes, there is a great deal of misinformation and disinformation circulating; and yes, there is a staggering amount we do not know about what will happen.

But allow me to ask a question: How is this different than any other day? Only in our awareness of it. We feel out of control, reeling with uncertainty about what tomorrow may bring.

The truth its, all that’s really been lost is the illusion of control.

Just because a new virus stalks the world does not change this fact, though it has enhanced it. You and I, we never had control over our lives. We simply were surrounded by so much routine, so much accessibility, and so many things obtainable that we weren’t aware of it.

Yet even a month ago when we could pick up toilet paper any day on our way home from work or school, we had no guarantees of arriving home. On any given day, a vehicle accident could rob us of life. Or our hearts could cease to function. Or we could break our necks tripping over stairs as we bring the toilet paper into the house. Or one of dozens of other “what ifs” could happen.

Over sixteen years ago, my life was altered by a virus. Not COVID-19 but viral meningitis landed me in the hospital and triggered a chronic headache condition accompanied by chronic fatigue. And yet, I still do not fear this new threat.

Why? Because I trust in the One who holds my times in His hands. The illusion of control had already been stripped from me only to be replaced by an experience of חֶסֶד (chesed); of the steadfast and unwavering love of the Lord God.

For over sixteen years, He has continually been showing me how good He is, how He can provide, how He does wonders even in the midst of unrelenting pain, how His strength is truly perfect in my overwhelming mental, physical, and emotional weakness.

I not only believe these things to be true, I have lived their truth. I know them like I know my way around my house.

Friend, if you are anxious or afraid, if you feel trapped in uncertainty or by addiction or sin, you don’t have to be. I invite you today to turn it all over to the One who holds our times in His powerful and unchanging hands.

He isn’t asking you to give up control but telling you He is the one who has control, not you.

He isn’t asking you to give up fun but ready to show you true joy and fun are not found in the sin which promises so much and yet produces only temporary pleasure at best, a permanent prison at worst.

He is here in this pandemic, waiting for You to accept the gift of salvation in the mighty Name of Jesus Christ who died to set you free from sin’s clutches.

In Him alone can you find freedom from fear, joy in His presence, pleasure forevermore.

You are invited, friend, but you have to decide: Cling to your illusions? Or trust in the One who made all things and in Whom all things hold together?

Wisdom Seeker: Day 3

Proverbs 3

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.

Proverbs 3:5-7

Proverbs 3:5-6 are among the earliest verses I memorized as a new Christian. Perhaps because of their familiarity or perhaps because the Lord has been dealing with me specifically in the frailty of my trust, they definitely caught my eye in today’s reading.

But I wonder why I never tucked verse 7 into my memory along with it? It seems to be sort of a “how-to” guide for the other parts. How do I show my trust and acknowledge Him in all my ways? By taking note of my own lack of wisdom, by truly fearing Him, and by choosing to turn away from evil.

Which brings me to another potent passage:

My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, for the LORD reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.

Proverbs 3:11-12

Like I said, He’s been dealing with me in my little trust. I won’t lie – it’s been a full-on discipline session. For years, I’ve prayed the father’s prayer from Mark 9:24: “I do believe! Help my unbelief!”

And He has been helping, just as a loving Father would. Not by waving a magic wand and giving me a miraculous faith boost, but by pointing out the little momentary choices I make to give more credence to my anxiety or fear than to His faithfulness.

He’s been reminding me not only to present my requests to Him, but to do so with thanksgiving.

He’s been showing me that my anxiety for my children to know and love the Lord and walk uprightly before Him has done more to show them how little I trust God to bring about their salvation than it has to show them how much I love and trust the Lord myself.

Ironic, isn’t it? That the enemy can use a thing like a powerful desire for one’s offspring to have an eternal viewpoint and twist it until it’s a sinful mistrust of the God I so want them to trust.

So yeah. Today I will add verse 7 to my memory. And I will continue through the painful process of having my sinful choices revealed little by little without growing weary of my Father’s discipline, hopeful of the promise given in verse 8:

It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:8

Oh Father, thank You for being patient with such a slow student as myself. You are good and faithful, and You are so gentle in exposing my sin and guiding me to true repentance. Help me to continue in this new joy You have provided and my my children and husband come to bask in the joy of Your love as well! Amen!

So what about you? What verses did God speak to you through in today’s reading?

Tuesday Prayer: Follow

A quick note to my blog friends: I apologize for not being very active or reading your blogs lately. I am in the middle of teenage chaos and adjusting to a new job. It is all I can do to post once or twice a week right now, so know I miss you and hope to be back to reading and commenting soon – though realistically, it may be months! ❤

Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

John 12:25-26

Lord our God, the Almighty, we praise Your name today, for You are good! By Your power, You defeated death once for all, raising Jesus from death to life so that we who follow Him may also be dead to sin and alive to You in Jesus. Hallelujah, for He is risen!

O God, let our rejoicing not be limited to Easter Sunday but continue throughout the year. Truly, our Savior lives and is alive and active every single day. Likewise, we have joy in Him daily even when our choice to follow Him leads us into places we would rather not go. But Lord, often You call us to follow You into the difficult and uncomfortable places, for there is where You do Your greatest work. 

Today, we pray that the Spirit will increase our zeal for God and for Your Kingdom. Train our hearts to let go of our lives in this world, considering them disposable for the honor of following the King of Glory wherever He may call us. Teach us to go wherever You lead us,  Lord – even if You lead us so far out of our comfort zones that we have nothing to cling to but You. Maybe especially then.

Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8

And when we feel weak and inadequate because of the depths of the waters where You have brought us, remind us that Your power is perfected in our weakness. Your glory shines through most of all when it is clear that You were the one working all along. Teach us to trust You enough to lean on Your power and not on our own capabilities; to trust You enough to step out even onto the waves when You call us there.

And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Matthew 14:28-29

This week, Lord, we ask for You to give us the courage to put obedience to You above our comforts, to put Your will for us above our own will and desires, and to increase our trust in You. We do believe; help our unbelief! May our actions reflect our faith as You call us into a more intimate walk with You, setting us apart to display Your splendor here on earth.

As we step out in faith and follow You, may our trust in You grow with each new stride and may our addiction to security fade as we learn to exult more fully in You, amen. 

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Matthew 10:38-39

Ebb and Flow: A Migraine Story

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

Psalm 34:8

I haven’t written a migraine post since this year began, and since I’m on a brief hiatus and am actually typing these words several days before you read them, I thought now would make a good time for an update.

I’ve been on Ajovy, one of the new anti-CGRP migraine prevention meds, since mid-December. I’ve also weaned off of amitriptyline and divalproex, two of my other preventatives (which weren’t really preventing anything except weight loss and… um, other things I’ll spare you from). I’ve also had a single treatment of Botox.

And things have been… OK.

February was amazing. I only had 11 headache days, not a single one of which went above a 4 on my pain scale of choice – at least after I took the rescue meds. In fact, the rescue meds actually worked and completely knocked out the oncoming migraine. I thought we’d found the combo for sure.

Then March came in like a lion, so to speak, and it hasn’t been as lovely. With a day and a half to go in the month, my current count is 22 days affected by headaches, some of which were full-blown migraines ranking between 6 and 8 with rescue meds, many of which lasted for more than a single day.

So much for the winning combo. But it’s still better than 30 headache days, so I’ll claim it as a victory nonetheless.

But you know what? God is still good. He is still sovereign, and I refuse to let mere pain make me forget that. Even without migraines, pain is just a thing I deal with. It’s a part of my life; an expectation. A back injury at the age of 12 and early onset of arthritis-like changes in my 20s ensured that.

And with migraine, well. It’s just a thing. Avoid what triggers I can, deal with what I can’t avoid.

As an aside, it cracks me up when I’m asked how many times I went to the emergency room for my migraines. Why on earth would I do that? I know what the pain is, and I know how little can be done for it. I already have the ER treatments in my medicine cabinet, so the last thing I want to do is be add being poked and prodded amid the craziness of a hospital ER to my misery. Heck, I didn’t even go to the ER for meningitis until the third day of zero food or fluids…

But back to my point.

Pain is transient. Not fun, but not worth getting worked up over.

You see, my hope does not lie in a pain-free existence on earth, nor is my joy found only on low-pain days. I’ve tasted small sips from the Fount of Living Water and seen that He is good. More than anything, I long to drink deeply of this Living Water and be fully refreshed, and I know I will be someday.

Pain will end. Suffering will cease. But not just because my body dies. It ends because now – while I labor on in this broken body on earth – I have surrendered myself to the Lordship of Christ over my life. He is my King. He is my Master, and I am no longer my own. I belong, completely and utterly, to Him.

In my little life, I’ve had a sip from the cup of God’s wrath and from the cup of Living Water. One is bitter; one is sweet. Both are enduring. The amazing thing is that He sets before each of us both cups. We get to choose the one we drink from.

As for me, I choose to serve the Lord. Even in pain.