This post, along with some recent others, is part of a series of devotional thoughts that I am compiling for a book I'm working on called His: The Most Privileged People on the Planet.
Read Luke 12:32.
I love watching a good, clean, relatable comedian. It tickles a special part of my funny bone when I hear someone verbalize my exact feelings about an everyday occurrence when I wasn’t aware I felt that way in the first place. It’s even better when you realize that everyone else in the audience is having the exact same experience; deep down for years you all felt a certain way about Cracker Barrel’s decor or luggage stores at airports or bacon, but just now, for the first time, the comedian has brought it to the surface.
Unfortunately, many of us have wrong views about God that are so deep-down that we don’t even realize we’re thinking them. Here are a few of them:
In Luke 12:32, the Pharisees warned Jesus to leave because Herod wanted to kill him, but Jesus made it clear that no one interrupts His schedule. Repeatedly in the gospels, especially in precarious situations, He says, “My time has not come,” referring to the moment of his death. John 10 tells us that no one takes His life but He lays it down of His own accord. Did the Jews kill Jesus? Yes. But Isaiah 53:4 tells us He was afflicted by God and Acts 2:23 makes it plain that the death of Christ at the hands of men was all according to definite plan and foreknowledge of God. Jesus had to remind Jesus to go betray Him. Then in the Garden, He had to ask the soldiers twice who they wanted to arrest
We could worshipfully study God’s sovereignty for a thousand years and never understand His ways exhaustively, so I’m not going to try to do that. But if the scriptures above weren’t clear enough, here are three more:
How does this apply to our lives?
Our nation has a history of deistic thinking. I think it’s safe to say that most people in America believe in one way or another that a higher being created the world but He is distant and does not interfere with our lives. The Bible paints no such picture of God and we can rest in His good sovereignty. God doesn’t struggle with anxiety and fear like we do. Trust Him today.
Deep down, what wrong thoughts do you tend to have about God’s control over your life?
What can you do to combat those thoughts?
What is one verse you can be thinking about today?
I wanted to start a Christmas tradition that was others-centered, fun, and most of all, doable. I liked two ideas: Elf on the Shelf---the kids look for a posable toy elf that finds itself in a humorous new situation every day---and 25 Acts of Random Kindness, where each day you do something in the community that might brighten someone's day.
I decided to combine the two and my husband suggested I share my plans here on my site because others might benefit from it.
Each morning the kids will be sent off to search the house for the elf (I plan on using a $3 ornament from Target instead of the elf that comes with the book for $30.) The elf will be doing a task related to our plan for the day.
When the kids find the elf in a bucket with a sponge, for example, I will announce that we are going to wash a family member's car that day.
I made 26 different activities and I'm sure you could think of many that are better than mine. Most of them can actually take place at home and only about 1/3 of them will cost any money, so I really think our family will be able to do this even though we have a newborn. :)
I also want to give a little card to whomever we are serving that tells the person we love him/her and has a verse that concisely explains the gospel. I'm not a fan of "pay it forward" or "random acts of kindness" because, at least in my opinion, that makes acts of service less personal. I don't want to treat people like a project. These acts of kindness are designed to help people in our community---most of whom we actually know---not to try to get warm and fuzzy feelings for being good people.
I lined the sides with washi tape and I plan on taping a business card for our church on the back.
Please feel free to download these and implement this in your family this holiday season!
PDF for list of Acts of Kindness and corresponding Elf on the Shelf placements
PDF of "You Are Loved" card (just cut it out and fold it over)
Send me pictures or tell me stories of how this goes for you and I'll compile them all in a blog post at the end of next month! :)
I hope this is a sweet time for you and your family and whomever you are seeking to serve! :)
“Me just not know what me gonna do with two sisters,” my 3-year-old son explained to me sorrowfully in a memorable heart-to-heart. My third child, Evangeline, was due any day now, and Stephen had been acting strangely all week. He was finally letting me know why: he felt the weight of responsibility of being a big brother and wasn’t sure he could handle it. I didn’t know what to say, so I hugged him and assured him he’s been a great big brother already. That was encouraging to him, but as I thought more about it throughout the morning, I realized that my heart was in the same anxious place as his in so many ways, and we both needed better advice than “you can do it!”
In Exodus 3, Moses was speaking to God through the burning bush and, when told that he would deliver Israel from Egypt, he protested, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” The Lord did not answer with how Moses was plenty qualified but instead gave an infinitely better answer: “But I will be with you.”
So I comforted my son with 2 Corinthians 12:7-10. To keep Paul from being conceited, God gave him “a thorn in the flesh.” We can’t be certain what that “thorn” was; the ESV study Bible suggests it could be physical ailment, resilient sin, spiritual warfare. Regardless, there was a nagging difficulty that Paul was unable to shake. When Paul asked God to remove the thorn and He didn’t, the Lord told him “My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.” Later Paul concludes “For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
Obviously a new child in the family is not "a thorn in the flesh", but the concept of humbling dependency on God still applies. I explained to Stephen that if we are in a place where we don’t see our need for God, we are not in a good place. It’s good to feel like we can’t handle what we’ve been given so that we lean on Him. Self-sufficiency slithers in quietly but its bite is vicious and venomous. From Adam and Eve's failure to believe God was right about everything to Pharaoh's stone-hearted rejection of God's authority to Solomon's wandering from wisdom to idolatry to Simon Peter's passionate refusal that he would ever deny Christ, we see that whenever someone stops seeing their need for the Lord (even if they were aware of their need for Him in the past), they fall. Hard.
Fast forward a day or so and it’s November 6th. My midwife and I had arranged that she would break my water and I’d get this baby out. That morning I woke with insomnia at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I had a panic attack a few hours later and had no idea how I was going to be a good mom to three children when I still didn't feel equipped in the ways I needed to be. But the LORD comforted me with those words to Moses in Exodus 3: "But I will be with you." I didn't feel that He was with me but the Bible gives me every reason to believe that He is.
After my midwife broke my water, labor took much longer than expected and I was growing impatient. When the contractions started becoming more intense, I was no gung-ho birth hero, but instead I just kept looking at Peter and my friends Lauren, Rachel, and Rebekah, and saying “Guys, I can't do this...” In between contractions, I would lean back against Peter in silence and non-eloquently beg God to just get me through this.
When it was time for a contraction I would lean forward and my friends would rub cold cloths on my neck and face and hold my hands while Peter massaged my back. I’ve seen awesome videos of moms who just sat by themselves in their birth tubs and breathed their babies out, but I was not that woman. I had three or four people holding me for every single contraction.
Eventually I started pushing until it finally felt like something was being accomplished. Eventually I felt Evangeline’s head and I knew it was almost time to meet my baby. Peter was right in my face, reminding me of truth. And then, one last glorious push, and she came!
She was immediately placed in my arms and I was so overjoyed. I mean, I was absolutely delighted. Of course I loved the arrival of my other two children, but this birth was even sweeter than the others because I felt so carried. I knew this was all just grace. The Lord carried me. He got me through every single contraction, and He used the very tangible hands of my friends and husband to hold me through it all. And that multiplied my joy in seeing that this baby had come into the world with so much help.
The first week home was very difficult and I didn’t bounce back as quickly as I thought I would. There were some issues with nursing and again I’ve found myself needing to pause constantly and just ask the Lord to get me through just one more feeding. And He has (including the times when I needed to just give her a bottle of formula.) Throughout this year when I’ve had big emotional struggles and I wasn’t sure how I would get through one more night, I did. The Lord brought me through it.
I’m reminded of Psalm 3:5: “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me.” David was fleeing from his enemies, so every night was indeed a question of survival, but he was aware that when he did wake up, it was because the Lord protected him throughout the night and kept him breathing in the morning. He trusted God on a night-by-night basis.
In 1 Chronicles 29 when David was leading Israel in bringing offerings to the Lord for the building of His temple, he prayed: “But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from you, and of your own have we given you.” Even any obedience I’m able to muster is still from the Lord. Also, any knowledge I have of God is a gift from Him; as Paul strongly puts it in 1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?”
Virtually all modern voices reject humility as strength. Self-love is hailed as virtue. But it’s a devastating mindset contrary to the words of Jesus, who told us we must come to Him humbly, needy like children. In Deuteronomy 1:31, Moses likens God’s leading of Israel out of Egypt to be “as a man carries his son.” God isn’t some egomaniac dictator wishing to brainwash and break His people until we get Stockholm Syndrome and feel like we need him. Instead, He actually is the all-powerful, all-sufficient, and ever-near God who is far more aware of our frailty than we are and, in kindness, He offers His covering and strength.
Don’t be like the Jews who were so offended by Christ and His call to believe in Him that they accused Him of having a demon. They were flailing about in accusations because they did not want to hear that the only way to salvation is to throw our arms around the neck of Christ, completely disregarding our filthy-rags righteousness and clothing ourselves instead in His perfect righteousness. As Tim Keller has pointed out, no one studies historical figures like Queen Elizabeth and gets flaming mad. Atheists hate a God that they claim doesn’t even exist because it’s so offensive to the prideful human mind that God would dare presume that His creation needs Him completely.
May we desperately embrace our Savior Jesus, to get us through emotional difficulty and painful childbirth and doing the dishes and parenting our children and going to work and loving our neighbors. May we trust Him to be our mediator to God today and forever. May we trust Him to carry us all the way to our glorious future Home.
When we are weak, then we are strong.
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude, and raising four little people ages 1,3, and 5, and not-yet-born. I like lime green and Coke icees, and I wear my Crocs until they melt. (Florida problems.)
Quick links to some of my posts:
Articles I've Written on Other Sites:
Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today