Do We Want a King?

Crown and scepterI watched much of the coronation of King Charles III a few weeks ago. There was much pageantry, many hymns and lots of crazy hats. And it struck me that here in America there is no such reverence for any government official or any personage whatsoever. The concept of a supreme ruler with divinely appointed authority over all of their subjects is not just unheard of here, it is antithetical to our whole way of life. And that got me to thinking about God, our Heavenly King, and how we relate to Him.

God established His plan for the best form of government when he led the Hebrews out of Egypt. A leader who would speak directly to Him and for Him and judge issues as they came up was clearly best. Moses and Joshua led directly from God’s command, but once Joshua died, they began worshipping other gods. So, the Lord handed them over to their enemies and used the surrounding nations to test them, seeing whether they would walk in His ways as their ancestors did (Judges 2:22).

That’s when the judges came in: “Then the Lord raised up judges, who saved them out of the hands of these raiders.” Judges 2:16 But every time a judge died, Israel went astray again, returning to sinful practices and idolatry. It was a constant cycle of sin and deliverance.

Finally, Samuel, a Prophet and a Judge, led the people directly from the will of God. But the people were not satisfied. “…When they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the Lord. And the Lord told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king. As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you. Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will claim as his rights.” 1 Samuel 8:6-9. And so, they ended up with King Saul and all of his drama.

And then I pondered, why did Israel think the Messiah would be a king when God had told them so many times why He and Prophets & Judges were better? They really should have been prepared for God to lead them Himself. God is better than any king. He knows our needs, as individuals, as nations and as humanity itself. He knows exactly how to meet those needs, and only He has the power to arrange everything so that His plans are accomplished. God doesn’t need studies, testimony, arguments or votes. He sees the need, He hears the prayers, He meets the need, or else gives something better.

Now, through Christ, we can “… approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:16 The curtain of the Temple has been torn in two so that we no longer need a mediator between us and God. Instead of a King, we have a Father.

But like the ancient Hebrews, do WE want a king? Do we put distance and barriers between us and God? Altars, ceremonies, rituals, fancy language, and costumes can all put distance between us and God. And many prefer it that way. Catholics need priests to hear their Confession and administer Last Rites. And although we encourage Baptism, it is certainly not a prerequisite to coming before God’s throne of Grace. Really, a contrite and repentant heart full of faith is all that is necessary. Shiny shoes, curtseying or bowing will not win you an audience with the royal court -- just reverence and adoration from wherever you are is enough.

Perhaps standing alone before an awesome, all-powerful God may just be too scary. Maybe we, like the Hebrews, say, “For what mortal has ever heard the voice of the living God, …and survived? Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.” Deuteronomy 5:26-27. Maybe a personal, intimate God that knows all our secrets and loves us anyway is too close. Perhaps like C.S. Lewis imagined in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, communing with God is like meeting a lion –

"Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he -- quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr. Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”

He IS good. He IS the King. And He is our Father. We are His children: chosen, known and loved. Resist the desire to keep Him at a distance. Search your heart and let go of ideas, traditions and habits that push God away or keep Him in His throne room in Heaven. Instead, consciously open the door to your heart and let Him sit on the throne there without pretense.



The Faith of Mystery

Dragon Mystery of GodWhen we come to the end of logic and reason, we enter the realm of mystery. God IS mysterious. He’s unfathomable — largely unknowable. Ponder the Trinity for just a moment and you’ll see why it has been a stumbling block to so many over the centuries. To consider the creation of the universe takes imagination. To believe in God’s miracles and mighty marvels does not require scientific proof (for there is none) — it requires FAITH.

Faith is a rare commodity these days. In a digital age, with global positioning satellites and massive amounts of stored data, the unraveling of DNA, and Artificial Intelligence, we convince ourselves that we could know all there is to know. We pride ourselves on our charts, graphs and algorithms that quantify and describe every aspect of life.

Of course, scientists at the seam of the known and unknown are well aware that the quantum world is strange and unpredictable. It suggests multiple dimensions. Quantum entanglement has objects separated by vast distances acting in synch. Even today, they are discovering particles that may travel faster than light.

Nevertheless, modern man has removed mystery, magic, and the Divine from our everyday day experience. But much that is real in the world is beyond our comprehension. What’s needed is imagination, belief, FAITH. And that is where we meet Christ.

Christ IS the mystery of God. The New Living Translation of Colossians 2:2-3 puts it this way:

… I want them to have complete confidence that they understand God’s mysterious plan, which is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.

Who can grasp how the Holy Spirit ‘overshadowed’ Mary and created a being that was fully human AND fully Divine? Was God on earth and in Heaven at the same time? How can he reside in the hearts of millions simultaneously as the Holy Spirit? How is it that God can hear and answer the prayers of billions?

How can we comprehend the power that a praying, sinless man was able to call down from Heaven to drive out demons and heal the sick and disabled? If we have that same power, why aren’t we doing more healing services? Does understanding so much about the functioning of our bodies lessen the impact of miracle healings?

Is it possible to ever understand how Jesus died and by that death was able to free all souls from the penalty for sin? Can we fathom His sacrifice, his trip down to hell and paradise, the supernatural transactions that occurred in the Spirit realm that allowed death to be defeated? Can we know the incredible power released in the resurrection of His body three days later? How amazing it is that all this forgiveness, redemption and reconciliation are ours if only we sincerely believe?!

Any encounter with the Divine results in wonder: the fear and trust in God the Israelites felt after He parted the Red Sea, the awe and wonder of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors when she bore a son in her old age, the amazement of the people of Bethlehem when they heard the shepherds’ story, Mary’s treasuring and pondering of all that had happened to her, the amazement of the people when they heard Jesus’ teaching.

We should always approach God’s throne of grace with wonder, amazement, and awe. When we reach the limit of our understanding, the limit of what can be quantified, we step across the threshold into a place where Truth is understood with the heart and soul with no need for proof. When we take that step of faith into the mysterious unknown, we walk right into the outstretched arms of Jesus, right into the hand of the Father where no one can ever snatch us away.

God works in mysterious ways. Everything about Him is beyond our full understanding. In His love and grace, He has revealed Himself to us in the limited ways we can comprehend: the scripture, prayers, the wonder of creation, interactions with others, love. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12. What a glorious day that will be! Until then, embrace the mystery, get comfortable with the inexplicable, learn to thrive in the unknown and find rest in just trusting God.

Blessings of wonder,


In Memory

Upon My Knees levels color col enh BESTHe told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”

-Joshua 4:5-7

Memorials are good. They provide a real and tangible way to remember a person or event. They can be statues, battlefields, gravestones, special days, special items, photo albums, little shrines and more. As I’ve grown older and my memory dims, I’ve begun to wonder how much I actually remember and how much is the story I’ve told myself about a photo, event or person, or the combined memories of family and friends around those things.

Lord God Almighty was well aware of the ephemeral nature of memory, as well as the busyness of life and how they can combine to make us forgetful of even the things we REALLY WANT to remember. Throughout the Old and New Testament, God established memorials, symbols and feasts with special customs and told us to never stop remembering. But after Joshua erected the memorial by the Jordan, listen to ‘the rest of the story:’

After that generation [Joshua and his leaders] died, another generation grew up who did not acknowledge the Lord or remember the mighty things he had done for Israel. -Judges 2:10

Even with those stones, Israel soon forgot the mighty miracles God performed in Egypt and in the Wilderness and in the Promised Land. And before we get too critical of them, we should examine our own hearts and minds. What memorials do we keep for the mighty miracles God has performed in our own lives? I’m ashamed to admit how many answered prayers I’d forgotten until I re-read prayer journals, or found little papers stuffed in my Bible from when Pastor Bill told us to write down 3 big prayers that only God could answer. Spoiler alert: He did.

And so, if we can so easily forget the miraculous acts of our loving God, how much more likely are we to forget the acts of sacrifice made by everyday heroes? May is actually the month for celebrating many groups of selfless people: Firefighter’s Day, Nurses Day, Teacher Appreciation Day, Military Spouse Appreciation Day, Mother’s Day, Peace Officer and Law Enforcement Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, and of course, Memorial Day which began as Decoration Day, a day to decorate the graves of fallen Civil War soldiers with flowers. Today Memorial Day honors the memories of all those in the Armed Forces who gave ‘the last full measure of their devotion’ in serving our country. We lay wreaths at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just to be sure we don’t forget even one such precious sacrifice.

Memorial Day is a good time to be very intentional in remembering God’s amazing providence and provision for this country throughout our history. It’s a great time to think about what we mean when we say God Bless America, and about how He has, and how He continues to. It’s the perfect time to hang the American Flag, our star-spangled banner, and think or talk about what IT means, and how the sacrifices of our Revolutionary Patriots are sewn right into it in the form of thirteen red stripes. It’s a time to soberly consider all the wars and conflicts our country has been in - some for good and righteous reasons, some for not so righteous reasons – and consider what we will pray for, stand up for, vote for, and perhaps fight for in the future.

Some things ARE worth dying for. Jesus certainly thought so. Our nurses and teachers give of themselves to heal and teach us. Jesus gave himself up to heal and teach our souls. Our firefighters and peace officers die rescuing physical lives, Jesus died to rescue our eternal lives. Our Armed Forces personnel die protecting and ensuring freedom. Jesus died to give us freedom from sin and death.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for the sacrifices of all those willing to die so that we might live and be free. Please put your mighty hedge of protection around all those currently in harm’s way, keep your hand of mercy upon them and guide them in your righteousness. Send comfort and Your peace which surpasses our understanding to the families and loved ones of all those who have made the supreme sacrifice in military and public service. In the name of the One who sacrificed everything for me, Amen.



Comfort in a Mother's Arms

A Mother's ArmsAs one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you.
-Isaiah 66:13

It’s said that when wounded soldiers cry out on the battlefield, they call for their mothers. I think this must be because the first and longest job of a mother is to comfort her child – first with food, warmth and touch, later more with a listening ear and advice. And of course, there are plenty of Band-Aids, warm blankets, story books, and bowls of chicken soup in between.

Comforting others is one way to be Christlike. I struggle with Christlikeness because I just don’t feel worthy or able to be anything like Christ at all. And of course, in our natural, fleshly self we can’t. But with the help of the Holy Spirit living within us, we are able to begin exhibiting the love, joy, peace, patience and comfort that Jesus lived out every day. You see, God is in the comfort business:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. -2 Corinthians 1:3-4

One way God comforts us is through provision. He knows what we need, and He will provide for us exactly when we need it. Just like a good mother, God doesn’t so much want to make us comfortABLE, as He wants to be with as we go through the inevitable tough times and comfort us in our distress. When we look back, we should be able to see that God didn’t always give us everything we wanted, but He gave us everything we needed, and His love was always there to fill in the gaps.

Another way God comforts us is by listening and giving advice. Through prayer we can unburden all our cares and troubles on God and He will respond by reminding us of scripture, sermons or stories, or having our paths cross with someone who’s been there or is a comforting presence.  

And God comforts us with His promises. He has promised never to leave us or forsake us. He has promised that if we believe in Jesus, we will gain eternal life and inherit Heaven as a child of God. He has promised to work all things for good for those who love Him. He has promised a clean slate and new mercies every morning. He has promised to be faithful in completing the good work He has begun in you…and so much more!

And isn’t that what all good mothers do? They give themselves up for us. They make the time, they expend the effort, they show up, and they sacrifice their desires out of love for us, to give us comfort in a world that often doesn’t seem to care.

Now think about it. We can be Christlike by comforting people in the same ways. We have been blessed with abundance, and we can open our hands to share with friends or the needy. We can come alongside people going through a difficult season and walk with them through it. We can allow our children to endure some uncomfortable situations, making them confident that our love will always be there for them. We can be a listening ear, a sounding board, and an impartial advice giver, reminding our friends and loved ones of uplifting scripture and encouraging them with our stories of God’s comfort. And we can be people who keep promises. We can put our relationships first, be a friend in any weather, uphold our marriage vows, really show up for people, and be persons of integrity who say what they mean and do what they say. We can be willing to sacrifice our time, money, convenience and emotions to comfort others with the same comfort we have received from God.

PRAYER: Father, give me Your eyes and Your heart to recognize people who need comfort and encouragement and show me ways to be a comforter to them just as the Holy Comforter comforts me. Amen.

Tidings of comfort and joy,


Strength and Dignity

Strength and Dignity BETTERNBESTShe is clothed with strength and dignity;
    she can laugh at the days to come.
She speaks with wisdom,
    and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household
    and does not eat the bread of idleness.
Her children arise and call her blessed;
-Proverbs 31:25-28

Motherhood is easily idealized. Mary, Jesus’ mother has been elevated to near deity. Mother and Child has been the theme for countless works of art. Instagram and Pinterest are filled with images of motherhood, family crafts and homemaking.

But the reality is much more messy, chaotic, frustrating and sometimes heartbreaking. Many are thrust into motherhood unprepared, while others yearn desperately to be mothers but are denied. Even for the Moms who planned and prepared, motherhood often throws curve balls: your perfect child has a physical or learning disability, addiction or illness; the little princess you dreamed of is a pants wearing tom-boy, the football star you expected is more interested in art, or vice versa! I was amazed at the questions I had to field by kindergarten age. Kids just tend to surprise you and stretch you out of your comfort zone.

Kids are often more unpredictable, loud, emotional and comfortable with chaos than us adults. And then they can be curious, affectionate, helpful and amazing - often with tiny hands still covered in chocolate. Motherhood is rewarding, but it comes with fear as well: am I doing it right, will they be safe, will they make friends, will they do well in school, will they be happy, will they love God, will I be able to help them with Algebra, will they hate me one day?

I was thinking of several young mothers I know when I drew the above illustration. I tried to capture the sense of chaos and confusion that I often experienced as a mom. Full of strength and dignity is NOT how I felt during that period of life! I spoke with wisdom and faithful instruction in the mom-mobile, but usually with goldfish crackers or French fries flying past me, and someone kicking the back of my seat.

Eventually I discovered Philippians 4:4-9 and I used it as a recipe for peace in the midst of chaos ever since.

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Step One: Rejoice in the Lord. Pause and remember that God is in control. Consider the many blessings in your life despite the current situation. I used to think of a few ways the situation could be worse and that helped me be grateful for what it was.

Step Two: Gentleness. This one is tricky, but don’t lose your cool. My kids liked to ‘push my buttons’ to get a reaction, and I found myself counting to 10 (20, 30, 50) before I responded angrily or out of proportion to the situation. Motherhood teaches grace under pressure like nothing else.

Step Three: Remember you are not alone! God is right there in the middle of it with you! The Lord is near. He puts up with humanity like a patient Father, and He’ll help you as well.

Step Four: Let go of worry and anxiety and give it to God. Cast all your cares on Him. Pray, ask, give thanks and trust that God will take care of it.

Step Five: Let that blessed Peace of God guard your heart and mind. If you can find that peaceful calm in the eye of the storm of life you’re in, you will be able to find patience and wisdom to face the issues with discernment and not just react emotionally.

Step Six: Fill your head with all the good stuff. Don’t dwell on the challenges, fears, or Satan’s lies. Swat them away like gnats and focus on the positive possibilities.

Step Seven: Live out your faith. Christian parenting is especially hard because sometimes it feels like you have an audience waiting for you to slip up so the finger-pointing can begin. It’s okay. We live and learn – in our faith and in our parenting. But strive every day for the fruits of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Our ultimate goal is to raise kids who love Jesus and follow hard after Him.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there: younger or older, mothers-in-law or mothers-in-love, women who raised or mentored others’ kids, anyone who has given their heart to a child asking nothing in return – blessed are you among women.