One Name

Today’s reading is Psalm 54.

In whom or in what do you trust? In whom or what do you put your faith and hope in?

Last year brought us arguably the most hyper partisan election in U.S. history with each side claiming the other would end democracy as we know if the other won. With the election result nearly a 50/50 split, half the country was really happy with the outcome and half the country was really disappointed.  Unfortunately, most who voted looked at their candidate to solve our country’s problems and also many to fix their own problems and to rescue them so to speak.

If you did not put your hope and trust in one of these leaders, or even if you did, we can likely find ourselves putting our hope or trust in other political figures, leaders, athletes, or celebrities. We can also find ourselves putting our hope and trust in our careers, money or belongings, or even our spouses, parents, or children looking to them to solve our problems. Sadly, most of us we form our identity or measure our self-worth based on our career, our money or belongings, or relationships. The problem is we end up finding out politicians do not solve all our problems, careers end unexpectedly or due to retirement, money does not bring happiness and can run out no matter the amount, and relationships can end due to death or falter no matter how good of a job we do to nourish them because we are all sinful humans who make mistakes. All these things are futile and end.

As I read Psalm 54, what kept coming to my mind was….one name.

“God save me by your name

and vindicate me by your might.”

Psalm 54:1

Life is short..even if we live 90 to 100 years. There is only one thing we should really fear and that is death. There is only one name that can save us from death and give us eternal life through His sacrifice on the cross. In only Him should we put our hope and trust.

“It is better to take refuge in the

Lord

than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the

Lord

than to trust in princes.”

Psalm 118:8-9

Ross Blumhorst wrote in a Bible Journal post back in January, “God is always right, we never have to guess if He is right or wrong, and you that makes me rejoice-how thankful I am that there’s something in this crazy world I can always know to be true!” Wow..powerful words that are so true. Thank you, Ross. I posted this quote to my social media and my Mom reminded me of this great verse.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”
Hebrews 13:8

Thanks, Mom. How great it is to know this in our messed up world?!

Earlier I asked the questions, in whom or in what do you trust? In whom do you put your faith and hope in?

We should strive to constantly remember the words of David here in Psalm 54.

“Behold, God is my helper;

the Lord is the upholder of my

life. “
Psalm 54:4

“For He has delivered me from

every trouble…”

Psalm 54:7

Let us then respond as David does…

“..I will give thank to your

Name O Lord, for it is

good.”

Psalm 54:6

By only one name are we saved. Only one name should we call on and put our faith, hope, and trust in. By only one name should we form our identity. And only in one name should we give our thanks, glory, and praise. That name is Jesus.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ypXUd_vGmI

 

 

Keeping It Real

Today’s reading Psalm 42.

I have to admit I struggled a little bit to understand exactly what the psalmist was saying here, as it seemed like he was contradicting himself. Come to find out after reading studying up a bit more, he is.

In fact, I bet as we read this more closely we can all greatly relate to the psalmist struggle.

In Psalm 42:3, he says…

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

In Psalm 42:5, he says…

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?….”

Again, in Psalm 42:9….

“Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

Lastly, in Psalm 42:11…

Why are you cast down, O my soul, why are you in turmoil within me?

Can’t we all relate to complaining to God about our circumstances? There are times in our life, or even just certain areas of our life over longer periods (or even our whole life), where things just don’t seem to go our way. When we ask God, “Why?” We cry out to God, “Can’t one thing just go my way? Where are you when I need you? I’m doing everything I think you want, but I just can’t seem to catch a break! Are you still there, God? Do you really love and care about me?” And worse yet, sometimes you feel like there may be others that are happy about your challenges and problems as the psalmist describes in his situation (Psalm 42:3,10.)

Then, in his next breaths he seems to be praising God though…

Here in the 2nd part of Psalm 42:5…

“Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation, and my God.”

In the 2nd part of Psalm 42:11….

Hope in my God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

He talks about in Psalm 42:4 how he would lead the procession to praise God, and then in Psalm 42:6 he remembers past successes God has helped him. Do you remember Psalm 42:9 where he complains from above? Well, he actually calls God, “my rock” in 42:9 before doing so.

The psalmist is facing the struggle I believe nearly all of us face where we are going through tough times, yet we try to still praise God but our heart is just not in it sometimes they way it should be. When we try to say we know God is in control, and He’s got us…yet maybe we wonder or doubt. He’s trying talk himself into coming back to what He knows to be true. He’s trying to remind himself that God loves him. God has him and to trust Him. God is in control. And God has a plan and His will is perfect.

The psalmist is as some would say, ‘keeping it real,” with how many of us feel or have felt at times. Are you feeling this way right now? If so, I would encourage you to check out Romans 8. If you’re in a good spot in your walk with the Lord currently, put a bookmark in Romans 8 because you may want to come back to it in the future. I would love to unpack this more but that’s just too much for today, and I really think these few verses say all that really needs to be said anyway.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with graciously give us all things?

Romans 8:31-32

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?…

Romans 8:35

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who love us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:37-39

A Thrill of Hope

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14

I wonder how this landed on people seven hundred years before Christ came. We may accept this prophecy as known and believed today, but based on the responses in scriptures, they didn’t seem to. God With Us?  Could they imagine it or understand it?

When you zoom out from this moment with God, King Azah, and the prophet Isaiah, the landscape is heavy. Isaiah served as a prophet to the people of Judah and during the reign of four different kings. This time period experienced war  after war, and all the while Isaiah counseled the kings to trust only in the Lord. Wait on the Lord. But his advice fell on deaf ears resulting in defeats, captivity, and exile.

All the while, the people had turned away from God – their hearts weren’t in it. Interesting enough, they were still going to the temple and making sacrifices for their rebellion. They knew they weren’t following the Lord, but rather than truly repent and change, they tried to quick-fix their sins with worthless sacrifices. These sin and hypocrisy cycles continued for decades!

You know what I love about God and how he used Isaiah? In the midst of all of the disobedience from the kings and leaders of the nation, to the disobedience to the everyday people – at every level they had turned their backs on the Lord – but he remained. He still continued to give them hope. He didn’t leave them. He provided prophets to point the people back to himself. The thrill of hope is woven all through the book of Isaiah!

Isaiah is truly an amazing foretelling of Jesus. God used this one prophet to share so much hope and truth about our Messiah. The need of a savior was apparent, and Jesus Christ is our perfect provision!

        • The coming of Christ is announced in Isaiah 40:3-5
        • The virgin birth of Christ is foretold in Isaiah 7:14
        • The Good News through Christ is positioned in Isaiah 61:1
        • Christ’s death and sacrifice for our sins is outlined in Isaiah 52-53
        • Christ’s return and reign in Isaiah 60:2-3

These are just a few of the many recorded and fulfilled prophesies from Isaiah about the life and ministry of Christ.

When we zoom back in to what is happening specifically in Isaiah 7, we find King Azah too rebellious and too proud to ask God, or “test God”, even though God commanded him to. God wanted to have his whole heart and be fully trusted. Even after King Azah’s excuse to not ask God, God still offers him a sign of the future to come. A future of hope and salvation through Jesus. If the people would just trust the Lord and have faith! Today we can do exactly that. We can trust. We can follow the Lord. We can let go of our empty sacrifices and rely solely on the saving grace of Jesus.

As we continue looking toward the birth of Jesus, we can trust the one who sent him. He wants us to believe. He sent Jesus so He can be with us again. I’m praying that we all experience the thrill of the hope we have in Christ!

Unchanging

Do you believe people can change? Sometimes change is a good thing. It can mean leaving our past sinful ways and bad habits behind us. When we begin to follow our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ that is a change which is good…really good. It’s been said that baptism is the outward display of an inward change (or decision) to follow and trust Jesus. However, change can be a bad thing. Sometimes people go in the wrong direction and begin to chase their worldly and sinful desires. You often hear it said with broken marriages…”He/She changed. They are not the person they were when I married them.”

Right now with an election upcoming, we see the topic of change come up a lot. Not just in the area of whether or not they can create a positive change if elected or re-elected, but have they changed their stance on certain topics. We can find past things they have said on topics that they now say something totally different within not just a matter of years..but a matter of months, weeks and even days. We also wonder if they have changed as a person. Being that we are all sinful humans that have made mistakes, every candidate has said or done things in their personal life that are not good. The question is…who are they today? Are these past words or actions a representation of who they are today? They will say no. Truly..only God knows for sure. Sometimes it’s exhausting to try to figure out not only who a political candidate really is…but sadly even sometimes who our friends and family really are. The fact is..we are all sinners in need of a Savior.

The good news is…the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are unchanging as James 1:17 tells us.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

James 1:17

When we read His Word, we can see that He is the one…and only one…that never changes. He is only one who is perfect, blameless, and holy. He has kept every promise and always will. He was great from the start of Creation (before actually), and He will continue to be great until He comes again and for eternity. Every one of His words has and will come to pass. He is the one “candidate” we can trust and follow who will never ever fail us. Mark your Bible and read this before every election. It is a reminder that the One who is really in control and who we should put our hope in has never run for a public office.

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

Psalm 118:8-9

No matter how “good” someone might be…they are not perfect. They have messed up and will again. They cannot be unchanging. Only He can. Let us trust and truly follow and worship Him and only Him, and remember this not only on election day, but today and every day for the rest our lives. Let us thank Him for giving His life on the cross that through the shedding of His perfect blood and belief in Him, we are now also made blameless and will spend eternity with Him.

This God-His way is perfect; the Word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.

Psalm 17:30

Savior

The question is often asked, “What would you do if you only had 6 months to live?” Most people talk about spending more time with family and going and doing things they’ve always wanted to do…checking things off the so called “bucket list.” Let’s change the question slightly to say, “What would you do if you knew the world was going to end in 6 months and Jesus would return?” While most of us may say we would do some of the same things as if we knew we personally would only live 6 months, I would hope some of us would also say we would tell other others about our Savior in Jesus which is our word to describe him today. As we discussed in our small group this week, we often don’t want to think about what will happen to others if they don’t know Him. If we do think about it we often just think they won’t go to Heaven and maybe not even think of the alternative or just think of Hell as a dark place. While I won’t go into any details here, the Bible tells us many times Hell is more than just a dark place and somewhere we shouldn’t want anyone to go.

We see really good examples in John 4:1-42 with the Samaritan women at the well telling others about Jesus saying “come and see” and then in Acts 13 when Paul and Barnabas were in Antioch the rulers of the synagogue asked if they had any words of encouragement, and they had the bravery to tell the story of who Jesus was through referencing the Old Testament scriptures Jews knew by saying, “Of this man’s offspring God has brought to Israel a Savior, Jesus, as He promised.” in Acts 13:23.

As has been the focus of some of many recent posts, we are living in really crazy times right now. When people observe how you are reacting to all of this what are they thinking? Are they seeing peace in your heart that God has perfect plan and is in control? Or are they hearing you complain? Are they hearing you are worried and anxious? Are they even hearing you say something like, “If (fill in the blank) gets elected/re-elected it’s going to get really bad, and I’m not sure what will happen to our country and world!” While we are all imperfect humans and can be guilty of this (I know I am), we really need to think about the personal trust we have in God and then in turn the impact our thoughts and words and ultimately actions have on both believers and especially non-believers speaking with and observing us. Charles Stanley said, “Basically, there are two paths you can walk: faith or fear. It’s impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God.” What is the condition of your heart? What is the level of trust and hope you have in Jesus for the future?

Paul’s relationship and trust in Jesus was such that he could confidently say in 1 Timothy 4:10, “For this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.” Despite how hopeless our life, this country, or the world looks due to sin…we should all strive to be able to say the same. When we do, we will not only be able to confidently tell others about our Savior and that if they seek Him too it will not only bring peace to their heart today, but it will also affect where they will spend eternity. Many will begin to even ask how and why you are so calm and confident despite your personal challenging circumstances or despite the turmoil of the current times.

Once the woman at the well went back to tell others, they came and saw Jesus. And they said in John 4:42, “…..It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world. People will start to observe and begin to “see” God in their lives. Knowing our Savior will not only change the hope they have on this side of eternity, but it will change where they spend the other side of eternity.

Revelation 21:4 says…

“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

 

My prayer today is that you take a few minutes to listen to this song and have the hope that Aaron Shust describes, as well as share that hope you have in our Savior with others….

 

My Salvation

How do you describe God? What words do you usually use? Deliverer, comforter, loving, just, redeemer, etc. There are endless words that can be used to describe God. Throughout all of Scripture, we are constantly learning more about the character of God. God is described in so many different ways, but what truly makes us believe and have hope in Him is that He is our salvation.

What does it mean that God is our salvation?

In Exodus 15:2, we see that Moses describes God as his salvation, “The LORD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him”. Moses and all the Israelites have just been saved from the Egyptians. The Israelites, since the time of Abraham, believed in God as their Creator, but now, they are coming to a different understanding of Him, he has now become their hope and freedom from slavery. The Israelites have been delivered from 400 years of slavery. They know that God is for them, and is willing to save them! Moses is rejoicing and trusting that God is the only hope that He has.

In God, we have hope, and we are saved from our enemies. For the Israelites, their enemies were the Egyptians. Our enemies look a little different today. Sometimes we face physical enemies, but more than likely, we are facing “the enemy” through sin. Depression, anxiety, racial tensions, poverty, lust, etc. These are the tactics that Satan uses to try and lead us astray. Since we can say that God is our salvation, we have hope from sin!

Jesus Christ is our salvation and hope! In John 3:16, we see that Jesus says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. God loves us so much that He gave His only Son to die a horrific death, so that we may be saved from our enemy and sin! God is our salvation through Jesus Christ!

In our salvation through Jesus Christ, we have confidence in being worthy of freedom from our enemies and sin! Psalm 27:1 says, The LORD is my light and my salvation; who shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”. We are not only saved through Jesus, but we are made into a new creation. God protects us in our salvation and promises that He will be with us forever.

Jesus Christ is our salvation. He is the only one that can free us from the bondage of sin. The salvation that Jesus provides is eternal. It gives us hope for the future. This salvation that Jesus grants us is to be shared with everyone. How are you sharing this joyous message today? I encourage you to lean into understanding the Gospel message more, so that way you can continue conversations in your daily life around the salvation that Jesus gives us.

Our Peace

Our world has changed over the past few months. Currently, we are dealing with social and racial issues that are splitting the country apart. COVID-19 has changed the economic, physical, and emotional tides of the country. Each day, in the United States, we hear on the news about everything that is going wrong in the world around us.

Many of our families live in fear and dismay over the COVID-19 pandemic and all the other concerns going on. Each one of us is shaken and made to rely on something in their lives for hope and peace.

During all the uncertainty, I keep listening to Christians and Non-Christians’ uncertainty of what the future could be. Each one of us depends on some type of faith. I believe that during all this time, that Christians should portray a peace that passes understanding.

Ephesians 2:14 is our verse today. It says, “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility”. Paul is speaking to the Ephesian church and is addressing the disagreements within the church. He addresses this issue by saying that, Jesus is our only true peace, and He is the only thing that can solve all their issues going on. Also, in Christ Jesus, we are made brothers and sisters in Christ. Therefore, as brothers and sisters, we must represent the sacrifice that Christ has made for us and rally together around that.

How does this disagreement that the church in Ephesians helps us understand peace?

Dictionary.com defines peace as “a state of mutual harmony between people or groups, especially in personal relations:”. As stated above, we can see that we are far from peace in this country and world. There is only one way to obtain true peace, by putting your hope and faith in Christ Jesus for your salvation. Jesus says in John 16:33, “I have said these things to you that in me you have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world”. Our peace is found in Jesus!

Each day we fight, disagree, backstab, and worry all out of the fear of the future. We are looking for some type of utopian society. Because of sin, that isn’t possible, but with Christ, we do have a peace that will surpass all understanding. See Jesus paid for our sin on a cross to provide us the peace in our hearts that we yearn for. The peace that Jesus provides, is the understanding that we have a Savior and God, who loves us so much that the Father sacrificed the Son to pay for all the sin in our lives so that we can live with Christ in eternity.

In the current season of life that we are all living, Christians need to unify under one banner, the cross of Jesus Christ. I encourage each of you to keep your hope in Jesus Christ. Life isn’t easy and there will always be some amount of uncertainty. However, when we are able to band together as believers, we gifted with the Holy Spirit that strengthens us. In Galatians 3:28, Paul says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” There is no distinction that Jesus makes.

Our peace is stronger together as Christians. I encourage you, now is the time to reach out to Christians and Non-Christians, that you know you disagree with on topics. Pray with them, share the Gospel with non-Christians and Christians alike, share a meal together, and overall be together and unify under Christ Jesus, who provides a peace that passes all understanding.

Pasture

Pasture. What a peaceful concept. God calls himself our Pasture, in Jeremiah’s prophesy of Judah being reunited after the fall of Babylon. God’s people were led astray, away from their true Pasture, the Lord, and they had been devoured. Unprotected. Without hope. The Babylonians even gave that as the justification for the plundering and devastation – you were the ones that were led astray by your own leaders and abandoned your Pasture, your true habitation.

But God.

Despite our wandering away from his hope-filled pasture, He comes and rescues us. Again and again.

And his pasture is beautiful. It’s wonderful. It’s sanctifying. He wants to protect us, care for us, give us hope. His pasture is so comforting because he is with us!

And yet, we wander.  Like the old hymn depicts, “prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love”.

Where do you wander?

I recently celebrated a birthday, which brought some really sweet well wishes from people that spanned different seasons of life. It was fun (and humbling!) to go back in time and think through how the Lord has been my Deliverer. My Pasture.

In my teens, I wandered right into parties and relationships I had no business being part of. I remember thinking “I will just go for a little bit”. Or, “I will just go and make good choices”. Riiiiiiiight. And the Lord had so much more for me! He had sweet fellowship and integrity for me, when I was choosing the opposite.

In my twenties, when I was so focused on starting my career and saving money, I would wander into coveting the next job. I found myself thinking about the next opportunity, instead of focusing on the one right in front of me. Who did God have for me to love? Who did I not invest in, during the seasons I was looking at the next rung on the ladder, instead of the people around me?

My thirties… oh the decade of spending too much time in the wrong pasture of worry and words. But the Lord is so faithful to call me back. To show me that He’s got a plan. Stay in his pasture of hope, stop wandering over to Worry Hill. And the words… I learned some lessons with words in my thirties, and how to avoid the pastures of gossip, and steer clear of pastures that create fire coming from my mouth. God is my Pasture, full of words that are true, lovely, and pure.

As I spend time in my forties, I know my heart will have moments of wandering, and I know our faithful God will draw me back. I’m focusing on “staying in my own lane” as one of my faith mentors has encouraged. God’s pasture is such a joyful, restful place to be, why would I ever get distracted, lost, or wander? Here’s to letting go of my “fix-it” tendencies and trading them for following the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

What about you, where do you wander?  Is he calling you back to his Pasture today?

 

1. Jeremiah 50:7 
2. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing, Robert Robinson, 1758

Let It Go

Today’s reading is Exodus 1:1-2:10 with the focus being on Moses’ parents.

We don’t know much about Moses father other than that he was from the tribe of Levi from the 12 tribes of Israel (Jacob), so we will focus on his Israelite mother which we will call his birth mother and his Egyptian mother which we will call his adopted mother.

To set the context for our discussion we want to quickly review that Joseph has passed and the current Egyptian Pharaoh was fearful of the Israelites due to the number of them and thought they may side with another enemy of Egypt in the future, so out of fear he enslaved them. He also ordered that any male babies be killed at birth. Moses’ mom hid him for three months until she could hide him no more, then she let him go on the Nile in a basket. Although we don’t know Moses’ mom’s name, we know how highly God thought of the bravery of her actions and her trust in God to protect him because her actions are referenced in what some call the chapter of faith all-stars in Hebrews 11 which mentions some of the Bible’s biggest heroes who exhibited great trust in God through their actions.

“By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.”  

Hebrews 11:23

Moses’ sister followed her baby brother Moses down the Nile and saw that he was found by Pharaoh’s daughter. She took a very brave step as well to follow him and then approach Pharoah’s daughter and ask her if she wanted her to find an Israelite mother to nurse the baby to which she agreed. Unbeknownst to the Pharaoh’s daughter, Moses’ sister directed her to Moses’ birthmother who nursed him and stayed with him for a period of time. Although she could have maybe tried to escape with him wanting to keep him, and who could blame her being his true mother, she likely realized his opportunity to have the best life possible was to give him back to Pharaoh’s daughter to become his adopted mom. She put her son’s needs in front of her own, and most importantly, trusted that if she gave him away God would take care of and provide for him. She was willing to let go of that which she loved so greatly, her son, and give Him to God, not so different than the way Abraham was willing to let go of and sacrifice Isaac.

How often do we hold too tight to the people, circumstances, and things in our life, instead of giving them to God with faith, fully trusting Him?

Hebrews 11, which we referenced earlier, starts with the following….

“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Hebrews 11:1

We must ask and trust in God without doubting…

“But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”

James 1:6-8

This also defines faith has having no doubt whatsoever.

By the outcome of Moses’ life being protected, and with God doing amazing things with him similar to God doing big things with Isaac after Abraham let go, I would have to be lead to believe that his mom asked God with big faith and full trust to protect him and to do big things with him for God’s glory. That is exactly what God did.

Take some time to reflect today, what do you need to let loose of and fully give to God with faith and without doubting? My guess is that when you do let go, your desires will come true. But even if not, one thing is certain…you will have a peace that passes understanding by trusting in Him and His perfect plan for your life and circumstances….whatever the outcome is.

“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for the good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

Romans 8:28

The Plans He Has

“For thus says the Lord: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place.  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfareand not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the Lord, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.

Jeremiah 29:10-14

Well hello Bible Journal readers, another Monday is upon us! How are you feeling? I think of you and pray for you at the beginning of each week. I hope that you are finding joy and some peace in this holiday season. In these final days of the year, we have the opportunity to share a verse or two with you that is close to our heart. Jeremiah 29:11 has always been a foundational piece of the word for our family. I wrote these words on a small piece of paper the night before our son had a very important brain MRI in 2011. That small scrap of paper has been there ever since. We rely on these words to remind us that God will indeed fulfill his promises, that he has plans for us that are good and that he doesn’t ever harm us.

I had to go back to that little scrap of paper this week for the first time in a long time. A friend of ours died very suddenly in a place that was not his home and in a way that brought more questions than will ever be answers. It’s been a long time since I have questioned in the “but why God” sort of way. Honestly, I thought I was more mature in my faith journey than that, but this event changed things. This extinguished life without a why brought on unexpected waves of grief and anger. Have you ever had a rock bottom moment like that in your faith journey? I rolled it around in my mind looking for the grace or maybe a hint of mercy in the situation, but I couldn’t see it. I came back to my foundational verse, Jeremiah 29:11 and I got even more angry. There is no hope or future for our friend so what is the plan?When it came time to write today, I went back to my Bible, flipping pages looking for inspiration and came back to Jeremiah. For the first time in a very long time I began at the beginning:

“These are the words of the letter that Jeremiah the prophet sent from Jerusalem to the surviving elders of the exiles, and to the priests, the prophets, and all the people, whom Nebuchadnezzar had taken into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Jeremiah 29:1

 These are the words. The words of the letter. The letter sent to the exiles. So, before the exiles got this letter they were just exiles. In fact, I noticed for the very first time in the ten years that I have been frequently this page of my Bible that the name of this chapter is, “Jeremiah’s Letter to the Exiles” All along it’s been really helpful and comforting to read that part about God’s plan for hope and a future but I sort of missed the point. Without a period of exile, we can’t experience the hope and the future. Without the separation or exile from that which we hold dear, we can’t truly know Him. Shoot, I forgot that being a Christian does not guarantee that we’ll be protected from really hard things. It doesn’t mean that we’ll have an easy life without the broken parts. It does mean that when the really hard things happen that we will know to seek Him. And when we seek Him, He finds us. He finds us in the darkest dark when all we have left is to cling to Him with our whole heart. There may never be answers but there will berestoration.

If I’m writing to you today, I hope you find comfort and hope in this message. I hope you see that all Christ followers have a bottom of the barrel “whyGod” moment. We are all in exile some of the time. As Christmas draws near, I hope you’ll go to Him with all your heart. Pour out your hopes to Him and ask Him to intercede with good in your life. If you are approaching this holiday with trepidation because you are broken, go to Him. If you are reading this and you are not sure if He has a plan for you, go to Him and ask.

Have a great week!