Last week, I got to sit under the teaching of a fantastic Christian leader. During a Q&A session, someone asked, “What concerns you about the next generation of leaders?” His answer was simple, but direct. “Everybody wants to be a rock star.”
So true. So convicting. And so unlike Jesus Christ, who “made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant”. (Philippians 2:7) So unlike John the Baptist, who knew that “He must become greater; I must become less.” (John 3:30) When I fret over declining blog stats…when I work too ambitiously to build the all-important author “platform”…I want my own fame, and not His. I want to be a rock star.
Psalm 138 says what’s most important: “You have exalted above all things your name and your word.” Above all things. Above my ego, above my ambition, even above my calling. God alone is the rock star. God’s name, not mine. God’s word, not mine.
God, be exalted. Raise your name and your word in me, and advance them through me. Let me desire nothing else. You must become greater; I must become less. You alone are above all things! Amen.
Today Andy showed me Eugene Peterson’s translation of Matthew 6:9-13, and we both loved it. The Lord’s prayer is so familiar that we sometimes miss it, but The Message made it fresh to me. Hope it does for you, too.
With a God like this loving you, you can pray very simply. Like this:
Our Father in heaven,
Reveal who you are.
Set the world right;
Do what’s best— as above, so below.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
You’re in charge!
You can do anything you want!
You’re ablaze in beauty!
Yes. Yes. Yes.
“You’re listening to lies again,” Andy told me last night. I’d been rehearsing a few fears and doubts, and he lovingly called me on it. He said I’d given the enemy free reign in my mind, instead of “taking every thought captive to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
He was right, as usual. I woke up this morning resolved to regain the ground I’d lost in the battlefield of my mind. It comes down to this: what do I know? Not what do I feel, and definitely not what do I assume. Those things rise and fall with my changing circumstances and fluctuating hormones. But what is true? What do I know?
I know whom I have believed…
I know You are faithful, God. I know You’re loving, and I know that You have my best in mind. I know You’ll meet every need. I know Your Spirit will empower me to do whatever You ask.
and am convinced…
Honestly, I haven’t been convinced lately. But today I’m fairly certain, anyway. Why does trust come so easily for others, but not for me? Convince me, God. Help me in my unbelief.
that He is able…
More than able. He who holds galaxies in orbit can certainly handle my problems. The Ancient of Days is more than qualified for my today and tomorrow.
to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.
Lord, I give You my two most precious possessions: my marriage and my kids. Protect Andy and me, God! How the enemy would love to destroy us, but too much is riding on this one. Let us only ever be thrilled by one another. And give Nathan, Anne and Molly hearts to love You and minds that believe. Let them obey and honor You always. Such treasures! I entrust them to You. Keep them for Your glory. Guard them.
I love You, God. I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that You are able to guard what I have entrusted to You for that day. Amen.
Word of God speak
Would You pour down like rain
Washing my eyes to see
(“Word of God Speak” by MercyMe)
When we moved to California, a friend who was also a Midwest-transplant warned, “The weather’s great, but after a few years, you’ll miss the seasons.” Now, nearly nine years later, I think she was right.
Well, partly right. I still don’t miss Indiana’s winters, but I do think about its brilliant, brisk autumns. And while I don’t miss Oklahoma’s humid summers, I often wish for a western Oklahoma spring storm.–The kind where the wind flattens the trees, and the thunder rattles the ground, and the rain falls so heavily that you have to talk loudly, even indoors. I miss the sound and smell of rain, and the wiped-clean look of the sky after the storm passes.
Sometimes you just need a good rain. A washing. A cleansing.
I have a friend who prays. She has a gift for it, really. She intercedes for people and listens to God like few women I’ve ever known. Recently she told me that Deuteronomy 32:2 came to her mind as she prayed for me:
Let my teaching fall like rain
and my words descend like dew,
like showers on new grass,
like abundant rain on tender plants.
Oh, how did she know? How could she know just how much I need rain…abundant rain…in my very soul? I suppose she didn’t know, but the very Spirit of God somehow impressed it upon her. “Amy, you need a refreshing, life-giving rain! Hear Me. Will you let My teaching fall on your heart? Let Me speak to you, child.”
Sometimes you just need a good rain. A washing. A cleansing. Rain on me, Lord.
Some days, I read the word FAITHFUL as a celebration. “Yes, God! You are so faithful! I see You at work everywhere.” Like last week, for example, when our church moved into its new building. Years of hopes and dreams finally came to fruition, and I found myself repeating again and again, “God is just so faithful!”
But other days…like today…I read FAITHFUL as a challenge. Or even a question. Faithful? Are You really, God? Because today I don’t see how You’re working things together for my good. Frankly You seem to have gone missing, Lord, and left me here in tears. Today I rubbed my finger across that word–FAITHFUL–and wondered whether or not You are.
I don’t understand You, Father. Not one bit.
But You are faithful. My unanswered questions and rapidly changing emotions don’t alter Your character. You are faithful!
So Lord, now let me read the rock again. But this time, let me read it as a confession–as a declaration of my trust and belief in You:
FAITHFUL…Thus far the Lord has helped me. (1 Samuel 7:12)
FAITHFUL…You will never leave me nor forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:8)
FAITHFUL…If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself. (2 Timothy 2:15)
FAITHFUL…Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope; because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. (Lamentations 3:21-23)
Indeed, Lord, great is Your faithfulness! I can rest and hope and live and laugh only because You are FAITHFUL. Let me never forget. Amen.
(This post was originally published in June, 2008, and as a devotion I wrote for the staff of our church’s Vacation Bible School.)
When Anne learned her numbers “all the way” to 100, I listened to her count proudly many times a day. Over the dinner table, during car rides, at bedtime. “1, 2, 3, 4…” I’d smile politely and feign interest at first, but somewhere around 14, I’d quit listening until her triumphant “100!”
One day after counting, Anne asked, “Is 100 the highest number? I mean, is 100 infinity?”
I explained that numbers go on forever. Infinity means it never ends. Counting never stops. (Thankfully, though, Anne still couldn’t go beyond 100.)
Her childlike question made me smile. 100 is nothing compared to infinity.
It’s the same with God.
Think about His greatness—His power and wisdom and grace. Mind-blowingly huge. And when you’ve reached the height of your comprehension, you’ve only scratched the surface. Merely counted to 100, next to an infinite God.
The story of Moses is the story of a God who blows the lid off the box of His people’s expectations and understanding. The burning bush, the plagues, the exodus from Egypt and the arrival in the promised land…over and over again, God performed wonders for Moses and the Israelites. And His wonders were always for the good of His people; God used His infinite power for their benefit—to save them and set them free.
What in your life’s story seems impossible? Finances? Relationships? Health? Whatever the obstacle, He is big enough. The same God who worked wonders for Moses still works wonders on behalf of His children today. He still wants to save and set free.
“Who…is like you, O Lord? Who is like you–majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?” (Exodus 15:11)
Indeed, no one matches Him. No one else even comes close.
I don’t know…
…who my kids will become someday.
…when God will answer my prayer, or why He delays.
…how all my bills will be paid.
…what tomorrow holds.
So many things I don’t know.
On days like these, it’s good to hang on to what I do know.
I KNOW whom I have believed, and am convinced that HE IS ABLE to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.
Near the college Andy and I attended, a sign from a local business advertised, “Clean Fill Dirt”. Every single time we passed by, I made a (not-so-funny) comment.
“Clean dirt? How can dirt be clean?”
“Well is it clean, or is it dirty?”
“Dirt for germaphobes. Even their dirt is clean.”
Like I said, not one bit funny, but I amused myself.
I remembered that sign recently when I read Luke 8–the Parable of the Sower. Jesus compares God’s word to seed, and our hearts to soil. Good soil, Jesus says, is free from rocks and thorns. In other words…clean dirt.
I’ve been rocky soil before. There was a time when I loved God, but I didn’t nourish myself with the water of His word. As a result, I withered. I came to God for comfort or excitement, but not a life-giving relationship. With such shallow roots, a plant can’t live long, and it certainly can’t bear fruit.
These days, my heart-soil has two huge thorns growing in it: pride and laziness. I’m proud when I don’t consider others better than myself, or when I fight for my rights rather than laying them down (Philippians 2:3-7). I’m lazy when I choose what is comfortable and safe over what God told me to do. Laziness, then, is just disobedience in disguise. Jesus said that a good crop comes through perseverance…not laziness. (Luke 8:15; Galatians 6:9)
God, make me good soil! Make my heart the perfect place for Your word to produce a crop “a hundred times more than was sown.” (Luke 8:8) Will You give me deep roots, and clean out these thorns, Father? More than anything else, I want to be clean dirt.
Not loving enough.
Not bold enough.
Not organized enough.
Not relaxed enough.
(Not skinny enough.)
The enemy shames me, robs me of abundance,
Whispers to my heart, “Not enough.”
But You’re more than enough.
Ample grace, power perfected in weakness.
You make the ugly not-enoughs
a chance for grace to show up even more.
When I am weak, then
I am strong.
You are sufficient, when
I am not enough.
I tried to sing this hymn the other day, but got stuck on the words. I pulled out my old hymnbook for help.
Incidentally, I stole that hymnbook from the church I attended as a child. What kind of person steals hymnbooks?
But thievery aside, these are powerful lyrics, taken right from scripture. The third stanza practically jumped off the page at me. I have friends who are going through deep waters lately. How good to know He will never, no never, no never forsake.
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He has said,
To you, who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Fear not, I am with you, O be not dismayed,
For I am your God and will still give you aid;
I’ll strengthen you, help you, and cause you to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.
When through fiery trials your pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be your supply;
The flame shall not hurt you; I only design
Your dross to consume, and your gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.