Decisions, Decisions

Today’s BibleJournal is reposted from 2019, written by Holly Rae VanHoof

1 Kings 13-14, 2 Chronicals 12, Psalm 47, Titus 2

Talk about a pressure cooker… Rehoboam is following quite a legacy. He’s King David’s grandson, the man after God’s own heart that God promised to establish his kingdom through. And he’s the son of King Solomon, known for the unmatched amount of wisdom that God blessed him with. As Rehoboam becomes King himself, his very first order of business presents itself. The pressure is on.

1 Kings 12:1-20 outlines this start as King.

This feels a little bit like ‘one step forward, two steps back’. King Rehoboam takes his step forward by first seeking counsel in making the decision of lightening the workload and burden of the Israelites (requested of him by Jeroboam). Great idea to get advice, and especially to seek it from those with experience and history in the situation. And then he takes his first step back – not liking that advice and instead seeking out people that will validate his own desires. And then, he hastily makes the decision and announces it within three days, without praying and seeking direction from God.

King Rehoboam wanted to show his power and strength, mightier than his father or grandfather. He wanted to make his own name for himself, and so instead of building trust with the people by easing the already heavy burden, he increased it. It seems like a mixture of pride, immaturity, and haste all led to this decision.

This created the divide across the tribes that is still present today. The ten northern tribes separated and lived under the rule of Jeroboam, while King Rehoboam maintained Judah in the south. During his 17 years of reign, Judah lived in conflict and great sin (1 Kings 14:21-31).

What a great lesson in decision making and leading people. We all have to make hard decisions at times – whether it’s in the workplace, in our personal relationship, health situations, etc. I can look back at decisions made too quickly, without the right input, and without seeking God’s direction.  King Rehoboam had access to the same things we do: God’s guidance, wisdom from God followers, and history/scriptures. Think about all of the generations before him and lessons he would have learned.

Exodus 18:21 Choose trustworthy, God-fearing men from the people and appoint them over the people to help you

Leviticus 19:18 Love your neighbor as yourself

Psalm 27:14 Wait on the Lord, take heart and wait

It’s not always easy to wait to make a decision – sometimes we want to just move forward in a direction. Not all decisions need to be made today. Can more time in prayer or seeking more advice lead to a better decision and outcome? Or at least a decision made with more peace and confidence?

And then there are other decisions we have to make with little time to even think. We pray for direction, doors to open, and gather input and advice from the best sources in the moment. White knuckling our way through and praying it was the right choice.

I’m thinking back on decisions I’ve made recently, and where I gathered input and advice.

        • Do the people in my circle challenge my thinking?
        • Am I mostly surrounded by those that will validate and agree with me?
        • Who can I rely on for their experience and wisdom, that doesn’t have anything to gain or lose by the decision being made?
        • What pride or blind spots do I have that keeps me from asking for advice?

God knew the decisions Rehoboam was going to make, just like he knows each decision we have made and will make. He is faithful to give us wisdom if we seek it and ask. He is here to lead and guide us, and help us when we mess up and make the wrong decisions.

Psalm 146

Why do people have to die?
Where did cancer come from?
When you die, do you instantly go to heaven?
What does your body look like after you’ve been dead for a month? 
Explaining death to children is no small feat. It’s hard enough for adults to understand, and then putting it into terms and helping kids wrap their minds around it can be a challenge.
But the rich conversations grow our faith and draw us closer. Not to be cliche, but Jesus really is the Answer! Our next door neighbor, our teacher’s young daughter, friends and family members, are all being missed and also being celebrated as they enter eternity. Listening to our kids process these losses has been a huge encouragement to me in this season. We miss them, but they’re so happy to be with Jesus! 
Just as Jon shared yesterday about his Scottish Granny’s passing, we can celebrate the joy we had in these special relationships.  God creates amazing experiences and community for us! While death brings emotions of sadness, fear, and anxiety, it can also represent new life for eternity. When Jesus comforts Martha at the loss of Lazarus he says  “I am the resurrection and the life, those who believe in me, even though they die, they will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die”.
Psalms 146, our reading for today, gives us more insight into death:
      • This song starts out with praising the Lord, and ends with praising the Lord. Our lives can reflect this same beginning and end. (verse 2)
      • Keep our eyes on Jesus, our trust is in him, not people on this earth. He has a plan to complete His perfect will. (verse 3-4)
      • People on earth are blessed because of their hope in the Lord. (verse 5)
      • It’s God who created, loves, upholds each of us. When we miss his creation, we can still rely on him. (verse 6-8)
      • The Lord is eternal and is over all, forever and ever! (verse 10)

Psalm 146 

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them,
who keeps faith forever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed,
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners;
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless,
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign forever,
your God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

Lord, you alone are to be praised. You are the eternal father who blesses us and loves us. Thank you for leaving us with your Word to comfort us and give us hope of an eternity with you. Your timing is always perfect. Amen


Today we wrap up the Ascent psalms, each a song that was sung by worshippers on their way to Jerusalem for a feast, festival, and fellowship at the temple. Psalm 134 is one of the more brief songs and leaves me wondering what the melody was like as they put one foot in front of another and trekked through their journey:

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lordwho stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place and bless the Lord! 

May the Lord bless you from Zion, he who made heaven and earth!

One thing I’m learning about the Lord is how everything he asks of us, ultimately benefits us. Can you think of anything in scripture that we are called to do that doesn’t ultimately grow us or protect us? Worshipping him is no different. This psalm instructs us to bless (worship) the Lord and lift up our hands to Him. Why would the God of the universe, creator of all things, care whether or not I praise Him?
This song affirms that when we worship and glorify the Lord, we are blessed in return. So how exactly does that work? My best guess is that the act of praising God for who he is and what he has done, will draw our hearts closer to him and further from this world. By focusing on God’s attributes and having a heart of gratitude, we are less likely to have a grumbling spirit. I’ve been challenged in my faith journey to spend more time in focused worship. Have you ever heard the acrostic P-R-A-Y to help guide your prayer time? Here’s a visual:
This really stuck with me – and pointed out that while I have so much to be grateful for, my worship was pretty routine and even mundane at times. I have found that when I spend intentional time praising God for who He is, it leads me to recognize even more of who He is in my every day life. For example, worshipping God for his faithfulness and focusing on that, helps me see other ways he has been faithful in my life.  As I praise Him, He becomes even bigger and more worthy of my praise. The things of earth grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace (Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, Helen Howarth Lemmel).
When life seems to be out of control, I can focus my prayer time on the P in PRAY and it will center me back to who He is, and what He has done. Not to mention, it’s a great reminder of what He will do. Glorifying God isn’t just for him – it blesses me at the same time!
 This past week we wrapped up the last day of school for my kiddos, 5th grade and 2nd grade! In-person learning has been a privilege and blessing and we have grown so much doing school during a pandemic. Educators, students, and parents made the most of this opportunity, and yet it was still very different. I was so excited that John’s second grade teacher decided to host her own classroom awards to recognize each student for something special. Like all the events this year, parents weren’t able to attend (social distancing, etc). Lucky for us, his sweet teacher offered us a zoom link to watch and participate. Sure, it’s not the same, but it’s better than nothing! These eight year olds were so excited for this special time on their last day.
 I looked at my watch, okay I have forty minutes to finish a project I was working on before this zoom.   S Q U I R R E L !  Something distracted me and before I knew it, I went from project to laundry to dishes – and completely spaced the zoom. FOR DIRTY DISHES! My heart sank when I realized it. After a year of not having parent volunteers in the classroom, field trips, and so many other things…this small classroom zoom was going to be a special way to “wrap up” the year. I couldn’t believe I missed the chance to celebrate these kids! I was so bummed out – as was John when he realized I wasn’t on the zoom. I missed what his teacher had to say, and wasn’t at home cheering him along.
 While celebrating my second grader’s achievements is quite different than lifting up our hands and glorifying God, this parallel struck me. How many times have I rushed through and missed a chance to celebrate God? Am I just as bummed when I’ve spent time talking to the Lord but don’t pause to recognize all he has done in my life? Don’t glorify him? Does my time talking with God center around me and my needs, wants, repentance, etc?
 John’s missed zoom pales in comparison… but the lost opportunity was still a blow. I was so mad at myself! Is each lost opportunity to recognize and praise God a bigger blow in my heart? If not, why?

Sunday Ascent

Cereal all down the front of the nice shirt – the only one ready and clean. The dog’s surprise accident right as you need to walk out the door. Breaking up a bickering argument between siblings. Every red light. Agh, the realization you forgot your wallet at home. Slamming on your breaks, spilling coffee, to avoid the vehicle that just cut you off 3 blocks away. Ding – a notification on your phone that you click on and learn bad news.
Does anyone else’s Sunday mornings ever feel like this? When Paul tells the church in Ephesus to be aware of the wiles of the devil, he’s not joking! Satan seems to pull out all the stops on the sabbath and throw us off physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It really does take the full armor of God to get out the door, and a mental reset on that walk into the building. The times I’ve had to ask my family and God for forgiveness for losing my patience on the drive in: E N D L E S S. Anyone else with me?
Our crazed trek into town and “up” Towanda Barnes Road to get to church hardly feels like what David is talking about in Psalms 122. This actual ascent to Jerusalem to come together and worship is one of joy, anticipation, and desire. They’re excited to worship together and pray for peace. There are fifteen psalms written about this Ascent, each laced with a contagious desire to be together. They were climbing physical elevation to get to Jerusalem, which was no small feat. But they did it with joy, together singing all of these psalms.
In the spring of 2020, the instant loss of physically gathering for church was really felt. It was another blow and change we were dealing with. Then as summer came it seemed like a lot of us had almost gotten used to this form of church. And don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful we had virtual church and everything made available to us to try to bring community into our families and homes. But… It’s definitely not the same.
Like everything pandemic related, we all had a difference experience. I talked to some people who liked doing it at home as a family and avoiding the wiles of Satan on those crazy Sunday mornings. I talked to others who felt really lost and out of sync not having that physical community. Some were torn – really missing the normalcy of church but not ready to come back yet.
So, does it matter?
As employees everywhere are showing how they’re able to do their job from home, it might be easy or tempting to make the leap that we can continue church at home as well.
From the beginning of humanity, God put in our heart a desire for community. He knew it wasn’t good for us to be alone, and provided a way for this physical gathering. All throughout the scriptures we can find examples of believers coming together, worshipping together, learning together and encouraging each other. And yes, there were seasons of improvising – like when Paul was in jail, he was sending off snail mail. But, oh how his heart desired to be back together with fellow Christ-followers!
I believe it does matter. I believe we were designed to come together, pray together, worship together, learn together. There’s something about the physical presence of being joined with a body of believers. It’s not about the bricks and mortar, but about the fellowship. The first time back to in-person church was an amazing experience. My heart was overflowing and I didn’t realize how big the impact would be. I hope I never take for granted the opportunity to gather – especially when brothers and sisters around the world do not have this privilege. And how much of this opportunity is actually a responsibility? What maturing of my faith does God have for me, that’s possible through church community? And how would the Lord want to use me if I were present?
Here are some themes that inspired me this week to make our Ascent an anticipated event:
Jesus went to church regularly and participated. Luke 4:16 What an example for us!
Stir up each others hearts, don’t neglect meeting together. Hebrews 10:24-25 Be encouraged and be an encourager!
We are all different parts, but come together to form one body. 1 Corinthians 12:12 We all have a designed role!
Gather together in Jesus name when issues come up. Matthew 18:15-20 He guides us through troubles together! 

Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?

Our journal entry today brings us to Psalm 110 – the most quoted scripture in the New Testament. Jesus and the disciples used this passage to bring forward a question that had to be answered. It had to be answered by the Pharisees, and it has to be answered by our generation today. Most importantly, it must be answered by each of us as individuals.
Who do you believe Jesus to be? 
This psalm records a conversation David overheard between God and Jesus – if you have a bible with study notes, you might find in the margin that “The Lord says to my Lord” is translated in Hebrew as “Yahweh (God) says to Adoni (Messiah/Jesus)”. David’s account of this is later used through scripture, to solidify Jesus the Messiah as sitting at the right hand of the father (a position of strength and power).
During Jesus’ ministry, the Pharisees had been denying him as the Messiah, questioning him, and trying to trip him up. Jesus challenged them with this question of “how is the Messiah both the root of David, but also his Lord?” as referenced in the psalm.
C.S. Lewis puts it this way in his book Mere Christianity:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Answering this question has been coined the Trilemma – is Jesus a liar, a lunatic, or lord? This is the single most important question you are faced with and must answer. Who exactly is Jesus? Is he who he claims to be?
Check out the Pharisees’ response in Matthew 22:46… as the young kids say today: MIC. DROP.
How does the identity of Christ the Messiah stop you in your tracks? Does the bigness of who He is and his position on the throne, bring you to silence?

Sounds of Praise







Psalm 98 is full of actions – BIG ACTIONS – for us to worship the Lord. Depending on your faith background and traditions, the word worship brings different thoughts, feelings, visuals, and sounds to mind. A quick search on google brought the following images. Do any of these resonate with your on worship experiences?

My own faith journey has brought me through seasons of personal worship that was emotional, solemn, loud, and exuberant. And corporate worship that ranged from strictly acapella to full on rock band worship. And I have grown to understand, love and appreciate each season.

What’s so great about the body of Christ is that we are all unique and come with different gifts, desires, and preferences. And the Lord gives us awesome examples of this in scripture.

In the past year, our 7 year old has been dubbed “The Whistler”. He is always whistling a tune. Loudly whistling. To any song that is on his heart. High pitch, low pitch, fast or slow. His breath control is amazing. It’s mostly fun and sweet to hear the constant melody in our home (I’m talking CONSTANT), but I admit that at times it can be ear-piercing and I just desire quiet. I’ve been praying about that and my response 🙂  I was also concerned of the disruption it may create at school – but he quickly reminded me that he can’t whistle when he is wearing a mask. His teacher dodged a bullet there! All that to say – the joy in his heart really is contagious! The whistling brings a lightness and softness to our home. The Lord has changed my heart to embrace his whistling and remember it as his form of worship.

This past weekend, the cub scouts had a campout, and there were a few that got caught up in song, dance, and instruments. While a passerby may have thought these untrained budding musicians were just making a racket – my heart swelled. They were making merry! I teared up at the simplicity of their joy and the music they were creating. God created us to worship – not just for him, but for us! How good is worship for our soul!

As I studied Psalm 98 the past couple of weeks, each time I tried to read it as a challenge to my own worship that day. What am I grateful for right now, that brings me to clapping? What’s a new song I can learn and sing to the Lord? When was the last time I shouted a praise out to God?

Sing to the Lord a new song,
for he has done marvelous things;
his right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
The Lord has made his salvation known
and revealed his righteousness to the nations.
He has remembered his love
and his faithfulness to Israel;
all the ends of the earth have seen
the salvation of our God.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth,
burst into jubilant song with music;
make music to the Lord with the harp,
with the harp and the sound of singing,
with trumpets and the blast of the ram’s horn—
shout for joy before the Lord, the King.

Let the sea roar, and everything in it,
the world, and all who live in it.
Let the rivers clap their hands,
let the mountains sing together for joy;
let them sing before the Lord,
for he comes to judge the earth.
He will judge the world in righteousness
and the peoples with equity.

Did you catch some of the things that bring about these praise actions?

      • Salvation (verse 1)
      • Loving (verse 3)
      • Faithfulness (verse 3)
      • Righteousness (verse 9)
      • Equity & Judgement (verse 9)

What are you praising God for today?

Praise = Peace

Gratitude, meditation, spiritual practice… trending ideas and buzz words that are all rooted in the Word, and not at all new concepts in the early church or with Christ followers today. So what exactly does the Bible say about gratitude, and how do we apply it today?

A frequently quoted scripture can be found in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, where he encourages them to be anxious for nothing, but in everything give thanks. Paul tells them this is because God is at hand (Philippians 4:5). Meaning, because the Lord is working on our behalf, because He is near to us, we do not have to worry. Instead, through prayer and thanksgiving we approach God with our needs, and His peace will fill our minds.

What a powerful encouragement! Because God is working, our act of thanksgiving not only glorifies the Father, but it covers us in peace! The act of gratitude comes back and blesses US!

As we’ve spent the past few months journeying through the Psalms, have you noticed the theme of David’s heart of gratitude? So much praise and worship for who God is, what He has done, and what He will do in the future. Our Psalm today (Chapter 86) carries this same message, and I’m drawn specifically to verse 12.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship before you, O Lord,
and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
that I may walk in your truth;
unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

With my whole heart. What would that look like in my life? Do I surrender my whole heart, my entire being, when I practice gratitude? Am I able to fully devote my praise to the Lord? Or is my thanksgiving a half-hearted routine muttering of niceties? Have my thank you’s become mannerly and procedural, lacking zeal and true joy? Are they genuine or are the obligatory at times? Does the splendor of His creation or the undeserved grace I experience ever get old? 

Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts, details her experience and learning of gratitude in the small and everyday, and the joy it brings. She shares that through the expression of gratitude for the life we already have, we come to know how wildly loved we are by God. This is part of the joy process that brings overwhelming peace.

I believe the Bible gives us formulas like this to unlock the fullness that God has for us. David shows us all through the Psalms how he was afraid, he was pleading for shelter, seeking forgiveness, and at the same time, he would break out in song and prayers of gratitude. David knew that when he wanted peace, he gave God praise.

Here’s something we can be grateful for – a God that instructs us! Not only is He the source of overwhelming peace and joy – He tells us how to get it! A heart wholly grateful for who He is and what He has done.

Lord, thank you for the steps to experience your peace. You are an amazing provider! I ask you to help me surrender any parts of my heart that aren’t fully praising you. Show me the little corners I might be holding back or allowing to be distracted, or want to control. You alone can bring full joy and peace! Amen



From Pleading to Praise

Grief. Lament. Agony. Anger.

Maybe you’ve had life experiences with similar emotions. Maybe even recently you’ve cried out to the Lord with your deep hurts, walking him through the timeline of your pain. Like a reminder for the all-knowing God. But there’s something about talking through it all line by line, and saying it out loud to him that helps us process. I know it does for me.

In Psalms 74, the first half of the chapter is a lament of the destruction against the temple of Jerusalem and their city being conquered. It’s almost as if rehearsing the litany of grievances will rile up the Lord to action – revenge even. Revenge that we like to call “justice”. And when we are wronged, isn’t that what we want? Recognition and validation from God that this just isn’t okay, and he will do something about it.

Whether I am crying out to him from a place in my heart with pure intentions, or a place with ugliness and self-righteousness – either one, the Lord can handle it. He doesn’t want us to wait and come to him when our hearts are perfectly “right” and aligned… He wants us to come to him when we are still in the middle of the grief and the mess. When the emotions are raw and rambling, and filled with “oh, and another thing”!!  I love this real example of Asaph in verses 1-11, crying out and processing his grief and anger WITH God. Can you see some of your own pleas in these verses?

And then when you continue through this chapter, you see a turning of his heart. In verses 12-23 you see the focus moving from the wrongs committed against Jerusalem and God, and instead the focus is all about God’s power. What God can do and what he has done in the past. Asaph concludes this psalm by resting in his hope that God has the power and track record to wisely handle their enemies, in the way and timing that’s best.

God can use our lamenting and pleading and turn it into a remembrance and time of praise. He wants us to come wherever we are and cast our cares on Him. He’s big enough, wise enough, patient enough, to handle our sorrow and grief.

Whether your situation is 5 minutes old or from 5 decades ago, go through your heart’s play-by-play with the Lord.

I Believe: Testimonies

The faith of three amazing women really blessed me – humbled me, really – this past week as our paths crossed and they spent time with me.

Their lives couldn’t be more different – but in each one I saw a living example from our scripture today, mirroring David’s heart in Psalm 62. 

My friend’s body has been attacked by cancer for years now, each new diagnosis bringing another physical challenge to tackle. She has absolute confidence in God’s ability to heal her completely, and balances that with putting her trust in his perfect will for her life. As she stands in the waiting of the latest round of test results, plans her own funeral, and all the while lugging around her oxygen – her soul and eternity rests in the Lord.

Truly my soul finds rest in God;
    my salvation comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
    he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.

A second friend, abused over decades, found strength in the Lord to speak out and seek protection. Protection for herself, and protection for others. This has come at a great cost to her and her family, both emotionally and physically. Every day she fights to bring darkness into light, despite the repercussions it brings.

How long will you assault me?
    Would all of you throw me down—
    this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
Surely they intend to topple me
    from my lofty place;
    they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
    but in their hearts they curse.

Lastly, a friend that was once weighed down by addictions of this world is overcoming! She has spent the last few years rebuilding and restoring relationships, at the same time she faces the earthly consequences of her past choices. Hard consequences – that most people would be bitter about and question why they still have to face them even though they are repentant and forgiven. But not her. She has the best attitude and she even said to me, “people may judge me but I can’t worry about that – I just have to focus on what God knows about me”. I think this is exactly what David is saying in verse 7:

Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God[c];
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

As I read through this passage again this week, each of their testimonies came alive through this passage. These women all put their trust in the Lord, and each day they get up and fight another day. Their strength and perseverance can only be explained by an in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit. They each testify that it’s God working in them, and not anything they can boast about. And they also each admit their own moments of fear, things they’re working on, etc. Their roads aren’t always perfect – but they are met with a perfect God who walks with them, even at their lowest. At a time when they could hole up and let the enemy weigh them down, they’re choosing to follow Jesus. To stand. To speak. To share.

Thank you Lord, for giving us Psalm 62, and you perfect timing for these testimonies this week. I pray you will continue to strengthen and be a shelter for each of these daughters of yours, and they will know how loved and chosen they are. I pray for healing, protection, and peace for each of them. Thank you for these  overcomers – because of Jesus’ blood and their testimony of your work in their life, just as Revelation 12:11 says! Amen. 

I Believe: Obedience > Sacrifice

Have you heard the phrase “obedience over sacrifice” before? When I first heard this term – I didn’t know what exactly it was referring to, and almost twenty years later, the Lord is still using it to teach me.

Back then, a mentor was encouraging me to let go of my works as a way to earn salvation. Through prayer and study, he was able to help me more fully understand, that the perfect sacrifice was already completed for me on Calvary. None of my striving was going to be enough – Jesus was enough, and the only sacrifice acceptable.

I’m sure this mentor saw some questionable patterns in my life and identified some growth opportunities.

Logically I knew that God didn’t work like a bank account, adding up our deposits (sacrifices and works) and comparing them to our withdrawals (sin), and look for a positive balance in order for us to earn heaven. While I knew this mentally, some of my behavior would indicate I had bought into this theology found in the world. “Just be a good person”, “Do more good than harm in your life”… those all sound positive and pleasant enough. But that’s not what we are called to as Christ followers.

God’s kingdom is set up completely opposite of that.

From the beginning, when sacrifices were made for our sins, shortly thereafter, the people started abusing it. Empty sacrifices without a heart change.

Then God gave us Jesus, who made the ultimate sacrifice for each of us. By believing this and accepting this gift, we let go of the constant attempts to obtain salvation by our own doing.

Our reading today in Psalms 50 is God’s response to sinners that are stuck in the cycle of sin and sacrifice. Those that are making sacrifices in vain and using the best of their flocks as a free pass to sin. As you read through this chapter, you can see where God wants our hearts – in a state of gratitude. He wanted the people to have a grateful spirit and let that be their sacrifice. Go through the heart change – which is much more challenging than giving up an animal. And while we might not be picking out a sheep each week, I’m sure there are similar practices or things we give up that we treat as sacrifices, similar to David’s time.

And these practices or holy habits can be great expressions of our faith, when our heart is right. God is calling us to let go of our “sin band-aids and justifications” of giving more, serving more, being more… he can see right through it.

In 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel tells Saul, The Lord delights more when we obey his voice than he does in burnt offerings and sacrifices.

If you’ve ever had to follow through with a tough consequence given to your own kids, you just wish they would have obeyed from the start. You’d rather see them making wise choices, than watch them lose their phone for a week. You’d rather them experience an “ah ha moment” of heart change, than lose out on time with friends.

In Paul’s letter to the church of Ephesus (Eph 2:8-9), he explains that we are saved because of our faith in Jesus, and NOT because of any of our own works or actions. This salvation is a gift from God, and we can’t earn it – and none of us have any reason to boast.

One last scripture I will share related to this topic – in God’s perfect timing, the Bible App’s daily scripture popped on my phone this week:

To do justice and judgement is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice. Proverbs 21:3.

This was such an awesome study for me this week! I know there are areas I still hold on to my “easy out” with sacrifices. Maybe not overtly, but deep down there are thoughts and even “well at least I…” or trade offs I will make with myself, to try to soften the blow to my own sin. But you know the only thing that actually does that? Jesus. Relationship with him. Drawing us to heart change and complete gratitude for what he did on Calvary.