Avenues of Grace

Seeking the Lord with Eyes Wide Open

Archive for the category “Week 2”

Praying in Expectation: Psalms 3-5

You can download Wednesday’s reading HERE.

My pastor once told us that when we think of our relationship with God, it’s like sleeping with a comforter over us.  That comforter doesn’t change the temperature in the room; it changes the temperature around US.

David knew this, and above all, he knew that God was present and powerful.  He knew that his only hope, his only protection, and his only righteousness rested in God alone.  While the readings for today cover a number of different issues in David’s life (Absalom’s betrayal, David’s reputation, and a range of enemies that pursued him), one thing remains the same: David’s foundation is strong because he cries out to a living and very present God.

A couple of years ago, I began to feel very convicted about saying “Dear Jesus” when I pray. I guess I’d never really considered it before; I had started my prayers with those two words since I was a child. The problem is that I wasn’t writing a letter to a God who would read it eventually.  I was talking to a PRESENT, loving, and powerful God who was right there with me.  I would never look at my husband and say, “Dear Danny…” Why? Because he is standing right in front of me! How often do we forget that God is even more present than the people we see every day?  He is present not only in our world and our situations but also in our thoughts, our fears, our hopes, our trials, our everything.  He knows our inmost beings  (Ps. 139:13-14); He is ALWAYS with us (Psalm 139); and nothing can separate us from His love (Romans 8:39).

Why would we ever treat Him otherwise? Even in mortal danger, David prayed with passion to a God who answers, and he waited expectantly for God to move! Oh how our lives, our churches, and the Kingdom of God would change if when we prayed, we would also watch for how God would move rather than continuing to carry our burdens!

Heed the sound of my cry for help, my King and my God,
For to You I pray.
In the morning, O Lord, [c]You will hear my voice;
In the morning I will order my [d]prayer to You and eagerly watch.

Psalms 5:2-3

Today, I am reminding myself that I am NOT walking alone.  God is still God! He is still all-powerful, all-knowing, and ever-present! He knows every depth of my being; He knows every step that I will take; and He knows every thought and inclination of my heart…and He loves me.

Father, show me who You are. Open my eyes to your presence and empower me with boldness to pray to You in a way that recognizes Your glory and power rather than my own insecurity.  Thank you that when the world around me falls apart, you are constant, faithful, mighty, and always with me.

Choosing Your Side of the Wall: Joshua 6-10

You can download Tuesday’s reading HERE.

I’ll be honest. I’ve been stewing on this post for days. I wish I could tell you that what stood out most was Joshua and his men defeating all of their enemies and being victorious.  I wish my thoughts were that encouraging.  I wish that I didn’t read these chapters and cringe at the bloodshed within the pages, at the thought of countless men, women, and children dying. But that’s what stood out. That’s what seems to be imprinted on my memory– a very bleak picture of bloodshed and death.

And then comes the question that I have to admit to asking…why Lord?  Why did they ALL have to die?

It’s the same question that I remember facing in college.  I was working on my Master’s Degree, and I had a very, well, difficult professor. He deemed himself the “Fallen Priest” because he not only had a double doctorate in literature/history but also had a Master’s Degree in seminary, one that he obtained in his pursuit to prove the Bible wrong. Each time we had class, he would make sure to incorporate some remark, some way to scoff at Christians.  One day, I had enough and said something back to him.  He proceeded to tear me to shreds in front of the class and leave me speechless, not because I was at a loss for words, but because it became clear very quickly that his seminary education as an atheist proved to be more than I could compete with. I went home crying because I couldn’t believe that an atheist knew more about the Bible than me. But God allows everything for a reason, and amidst my tears of frustration, the Lord created in me a passion to immerse myself in His Word, a pursuit that will take the rest of my life.

So back to the question.  It’s an honest one, especially in our society where everyone wins, everyone gets a trophy, and everyone is accepted no matter what. So before I dive into this, I want to be clear: I am NOT an ear tickler.  This is not one of those warm, fuzzy-feeling kind of posts, so if that’s what you’re looking for, I’d suggest that you stop reading now.

I’ll start with this: We are NOT all God’s children.  There, I said it. I can feel your eyeballs bulging out of your head.  We hear that statement so often, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  The truth is that prior to salvation, we are enemies of God.  Yep, that’s right. Enemies.

  • Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. Psalms 51:5
  • and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest… Ephesians 2:3
  • For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.  Romans 5:10
  • And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach— Colossians 1:21-22

There we have it. NOT all God’s children…God’s enemies. In fact, Romans 8:8 tells us that “those who are in the flesh CANNOT please God.”

Tough words, I know.  But the story doesn’t end there.  God has given us free will; He has sent us His Son; and He offers salvation to ALL who believe (Romans 1:16).

But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were [i]born, not of [j]blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.   

John 1:12-13

In this world we have two types of people: enemies of God and children of God.  We are not entitled to the Kingdom of God simply because He created us.  The absolute ONLY way that we can become a child of God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6, Galatians 3:26).

So now let’s apply this concept to Joshua’s conquest. Joshua and his people served the One True God.  None of the other people groups did.

But they were massacred! God didn’t even give them a chance! (You know the thought crossed your mind, too.)

Here is where we let Scripture speak for Scripture.  Is God good? Yes. Is He sovereign? Yes. Is His desire to save the world? Yes. Would He just randomly decide to kill “innocent” people? NO.

  • Let’s take Sodom and Gomorrah for example.  Their sin was so great that the Lord chose to completely destroy the cities.  One could argue the same about the men, women, and children being destroyed there.  Abraham, terrified that the angels were going to destroy the cities, seemed to have the same question.  He asks the angels whether or not they will destroy the cities if there are any righteous people in them.  They promise to not destroy the cities if they can even find just TEN righteous people.  But they couldn’t. So Sodom and Gomorrah were completely destroyed. (Genesis 18)
  • Rahab likewise was from the town of Jericho, yet she wasn’t destroyed.  Her treason is not what saved her life.  Her belief and admission that the Israelites served the true God did, and it saved her family, too.

So why were those towns destroyed?  Because there was not one single person who would have chosen God, and in His sovereignty, He knew that.  He chose to destroy them because of their unbelief and also to fulfill his promise of giving the Israelites the Promised Land.

In the end, God’s people inherited a kingdom, and the enemies of God burned.  The same holds true for us today.  Joshua’s conquest is a picture of hope and a picture of destruction, but either way, it’s not a picture that we can ignore.  You see, the same principle applies for all of us: we will either choose Christ and have eternal life, or we will remain an enemy of God and sentence ourselves to destruction.  The walls of our lives will most certainly come down one day, but we get to make the choice of which side of the wall we will be on when it happens.

The Land of Nod: Genesis 4-7

You can download Monday’s reading HERE.

“By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained the testimony that he was righteous, God testifying [a]about his gifts, and through [b]faith, though he is dead, he still speaks.” Hebrews 11:4

Why did God favor Abel’s sacrifice over Cain’s? It wasn’t because of the material of the sacrifice; it was the attitude of Abel’s heart. Abel’s faith is what pleased God, and that faith resulted in God seeing him as righteous. Cain, on the other hand, seems to have offered an empty sacrifice, one that involved no faith at all.

The Lord gave him this warning:

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, [e]will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.” (Genesis 4:6-7)

But he did not master it, and his lack of faith allowed an open door for sin to take over his life.

Isn’t it so similar to us? How many times do we go through the motions of church only to find ourselves gripped by the devastation of sin? Sure, we aren’t murderers, but how often does sin take us so much farther than we ever intended to go? And to think of Cain and what he must’ve felt being cast out of the presence of God into the Land of Nod…(translated) the Land of “Wandering.” What else could there be outside of God’s presence? Aimless wandering without purpose…lostness.

I am BEGGING you. If you are just following the motions of church, please know that you were meant for so much more. Jesus loves you so much that He died for you. Yes, it’s real. Yes, it happened, and YES! He ROSE AGAIN! And He wants a relationship with you. He wants to give you abundant, eternal life…but you have to respond. You have to invite Him into your heart and fully surrender to Him in faith because the Land of Nod is still real, and without Him, there is still only wandering and eternal separation.

When Enough Is Enough: Romans 3-4

You can download Sunday’s reading HERE.

It’s not enough…it’s never enough.

Wake-work-meet needs- meet needs – meet needs- school pick-up- home- clean-dinner- dishes- laundry- mom- bedtime- bible- sleep- REPEAT.

Footholds…

Pictures—newsfeeds–advertisements—INFERIORITY—

Strongholds…

Not enough. Never, ever enough.

Defeated.

And then comes this still, small whisper…

You were never meant to be enough, because I was always enough.

 And His Words echo…

“Now to the one who works, his wage is not credited as a favor, but as what is due.” (v.4)

 I cannot win Your love. There is absolutely nothing that I could ever do to earn it. Your love compels me to work, but that work should only ever be to give You the glory that You are due. There could never be another purpose. I can’t make my own life right. I can’t straighten things out and then come to You. I can’t figure things out and then call on You. I can’t clean myself up and then walk through Your doors.  I can’t give You anything.  I can’t build Your Kingdom. I cannot save them. I can’t do anything except pour myself out at Your feet and watch You…

The Great I AM…

become everything that is needed in every single situation.

But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness (v.5)

Praise You, Father. You didn’t leave it up to me. Teach me to hear Your voice. Remind me of Your greatness so that my to-do list is truly an act of worship rather than a means of feeling accomplished. Forgive me, Father, for ever saying yes out of pride. Help me to rest in Your love and join You in Your work in the way that you invite me to. Father root me in Your Word so that I might discern Your will and follow Your ways all of my life. To You be the glory forever.

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