Distress Call

In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears. Psalm 18:6

It’s the unexpected things that send us reeling. Extraordinary circumstances that reach into an ordinary day and make it anything but.

Like when a few hives decide they won’t respond to Benadryl. Or steroid shots. Or IV antihistamines.

And you watch those few hives cover every ounce of your child and set his skin on fire. And he develops a fever. And he swells so much it takes two nurses and two technicians thirty minutes to find a place on his body where they can insert a needle to draw blood.

And you hear a doctor say words like, “He may have Steven Johnson’s Syndrome, which is very rare but very aggressive. If that’s what this is, we’ll be sending him out to Hopkins or Hershey.”

When a mother hears words like that, tears burn and threaten to fall. But they don’t. At least not right away. Because those eyes need to look into the eyes of her son and let him know it will be okay.

But when she slips into an empty room in the ER and shuts the door, that’s another story. There strength crumbles, and she gasps for oxygen.

At least that’s what I did. I cried out to my heavenly Father, begging for His breath.

The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. Job 33:4

God has such beautiful ways of providing, dear one.

Like sending a friend and prayer partner to wrap me in her arms and let me know I am loved. And that I wasn’t fighting for my child alone.

She held my hands in that ER prayer closet and together we ran to the throne of grace. Hearts merged and tears fell while prayers reached heaven on behalf of my son.

And heaven moved.

My heavenly Father answered with an amazing sense of peace. I felt it wash over me and settle. Fear had no place in that room. Only power. Love. And a mind at peace.

I told the destroyer he would not have my son. And he didn’t.

Few things shake a parent like watching a child suffer. We work hard to prevent it. And when it comes, we’d do anything to bring it to an end.

But that isn’t what God did, beloved.

God surrendered Jesus—His only begotten Son—to suffering. Why? So that He could redeem ours.

Yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. Isaiah 53:10 NIV

Unfathomable. Ridiculous. True.

God chose suffering for Jesus. Willingly. His love for us compelled Him. His love for Jesus didn’t stop Him.

He knew it would not end in death. No. Jesus’ suffering would result in glory.


And ours.

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for that unimaginable choice. Because Jesus’ suffering released the power of resurrection life.

For you. For me. For my son.

And regardless of how things appear or even how they play out in this life, death can’t win.

Because Jesus already won.

And sometimes we get to witness His resurrection power right here in the midst of our suffering. Like when doctors can’t explain what’s happening, but you know. Because you ran to the throne of grace and watched heaven win.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Enter His Courts with Praise!

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4 ESV

Most of us long to experience God’s presence and power. We just don’t usually choose the path required to get there.

What is that path?

Psalm 100:4 reveals it plainly. We enter His gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. If we want close proximity to God, we need gratitude. Sincere thanksgiving and praise for His provision must regularly erupt from our hearts and echo from our lips.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. Colossians 2:6-7 NIV

Our lives are supposed to overflow with thanksgiving. Not once a year, but every day. Beloved, gratitude marks a life rooted in Christ. Built in Him. Strengthened in Him. Lived in Him.

What we choose to offer Him, however, usually resembles grumbling. Not gratitude.

Let’s face it. We aren’t naturally grateful people.

We have to teach our children to say, “Thank you.” They come out of the womb believing they have a right to everything. You’ll hear one word rising above a scuffle of angry toddlers. “Mine.”

If it isn’t theirs, they think it ought to be.

Yes, dear one. Appreciation must be taught. And some of us still struggle to learn it.

We’re self-centered, after all. And that inclination fixes our eyes firmly on blessings we desire instead of praising God for the ones He’s already provided.

Then we end up feeling like Job.

“Therefore I will not restrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.” Job 7:11

We give voice to our discontent. We think on it continuously. Our hearts become hard.

Beloved, grumbling and complaining emerge from a bitter soul. And bitterness occurs when we believe God should do things differently.

Yet we love to indulge our bitterness. We believe we have a right to it, after all. But Hebrews 12:15 reveals a great danger in clinging to it.

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Bitterness defiles many. I’d hate to think that my own bitterness would defile my family. My husband. My children.

But that verse reveals another frightening effect. Bitterness keeps us from God’s grace. We fall short of it. And grace, dear one, is what we’re desperate for.

You see, grace merges the favor of God with life’s circumstances.

 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Beloved, we find power in Christ’s presence. Help for our needs. In His throne room, we find grace.

But we must approach His throne with the right heart.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! Psalm 100:4

A grateful heart opens the gate to the courts of the God of grace. It draws us into the presence of the Giver because it sees what He provides. And it’s grateful.

What do you need to thank God for, beloved? Do you bless Him continually for His provision? Or do you more often focus on your lack?

Bitterness robs you of grace, dear one. Don’t let the enemy steal one more blessing God longs to give. Let’s enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Let’s invite Him to fill our hearts with gratitude for all that He is and all that He gives.

When we choose gratitude, beloved, we choose grace.

The Best of Intentions

And the people said to Joshua, “The Lord our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” Joshua 24:24 ESV

I believe the people of Israel meant it when they said it. In that glorious moment as they stood together ready to claim His promises, they fully intended to live by God’s commands.

But Israel had one huge, consistent problem. They didn’t do it. Over and over they promised obedience to God but didn’t follow through.

Can you relate, dear one? Do you ever notice that our intentions often remain just that? Very often they become nothing more than things we intended to do.

Especially when it comes to our commitment to God.

Either in moments of sudden clarity or from hopeless desperation, we make God all kinds of promises. And when the words leave our lips, we usually mean them. We have every intention of following through on our commitment. The trouble is, we often don’t.

Within the safety of our church walls, we readily take a stand and commit ourselves to our King. It gets a little harder, however, when we walk out the door and have to stand strong in the world.

Israel knows all about that struggle. Time after time, the people stood together and promised their allegiance to God. And time after time, their resolve quickly faded as their hearts wandered from Him toward their own foolish desires.

Their entry into their Promised Land marked one of those times. After dividing the land between the clans and sending them off to possess it, Joshua, their leader, spoke these words.

“Now therefore fear the LORD and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness . . . choose this day whom you will serve . . . But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” Joshua 24:14-15

The people answered Joshua’s challenge,

“Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods.” Verse 16

Then after recounting the ways God had proven His faithfulness, they responded together,

“We also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” Verse 18

Joshua knew their promise would be easier said than done. He had, after all, spent forty years with them in the desert witnessing their lack of faith over and over again.

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

 But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

 Joshua 24:19-21, emphasis mine

And they did. Half-heartedly. And their partial obedience led to more and more compromise. They soon found themselves picking up the practices of the surrounding nations rather than following the Word of the God who had delivered them.

Sound familiar? Do you follow the Lord wholeheartedly, dear one? Or do you pick and choose what’s most convenient, allowing what everyone else is doing to dictate the rest?

Beloved, partial obedience brings about serious consequences. Within one generation of entering the Promised Land, Israel found itself harassed and impoverished in the very land God had given them to possess.

I fear that’s what’s happened to the church in our day. Our commitments to walk in God’s will have remained merely good intentions, left at the altar of God. And so hypocrisy looms large in our midst and the church reflects only a shadow of the glory it’s meant to reveal.

Perhaps it’s time we recognize what the Israelites failed to understand. You and I aren’t capable of remaining faithful to God. Faithfulness is a gift of His Spirit, a characteristic of our God of grace. We need Him to make us faithful.

And that’s why we’ve had so much trouble. We’ve tried to go about living for God without approaching Him to do life with Him.

Beloved, if we don’t recognize our desperate need of Him and daily approach His throne of grace, we will fall. Just like we’ve been doing. Just like the Israelites did.

But we have a way to change that.

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. Hebrews 4:16

You see, once the Israelites had proven they couldn’t keep the covenant they made with God, He made a new one, sealed with the blood of His Son. Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross enabled Him to do something for us that the Israelites lacked.

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 8:10

Jesus made a way to stop the cycle of defeat and change us from the inside out. He desires to write His Word upon our hearts so that He can enable us to keep it. We just need to come into His presence and ask Him to do it.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. Jude 1:24-25, emphasis mine