A Refuge

philip-yancey-quote-wise-godThe refuge of God’s wings isn’t for us to hide and avoid but to claim God’s presence and provision.

We see many examples of covering in the Bible, including the cherubim of the ark of the covenant, Passover blood in Exodus, and of course, Christ Himself. But that covering isn’t for us to hide under because of fear. God’s covering is protection but not a protection of the threats of the world. We are still vulnerable to sickness, trauma, injustice, and death. God’s covering doesn’t take those earthly experiences away. God’s covering gives us the courage to boldly live despite the impact those things have on our lives.

Instead of shielding us from something, God’s covering opens our eyes and hearts to glimpse the possibilities that can grow out of any circumstance. It takes away fear of what can happen and assures us of who we can trust even when what we don’t want to happen does.

Let’s not skew God’s covering into something that serves our own purpose and comfort but doesn’t reflect who He is.

The Certainty of May

3d629f051c3e26c9439d924319531411We toss around the word “may” with hope, uncertainty, or cynicism. We mention it as a qualifier. Yes, something is possible, but it may or may not happen.

Perhaps we get it wrong. “May” is less about us and more about the certainties of God. We can claim God’s provision and allowance as we approach Him.

May the Lord be praised! He has given rest to His people Israel according to all He has said. Not one of all the good promises He made through His servant Moses has failed. May the Lord our God be with us as He was with our ancestors. May He not abandon us or leave us so that He causes us to be devoted to Him, to walk in all His ways, and to keep His commands, statutes, and ordinances, which He commanded our ancestors. May my words I have made my petition with before the Lord be near the Lord our God day and night, so that He may uphold His servant’s cause and the cause of His people Israel, as each day requires. (1 Kings 8:56-59, emphasis added)

With God’s “may,” we always have hope and sometimes uncertainty, but never cynicism.

Anything’s Possible

d3bfa5a91d148369ed18666b858bb361People may say, “You can’t be in this position because of…,” but God can elevate any of us despite what we (or our parents) have done.

Jephthah the Gileadite was a great warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute, and Gilead was his father. Gilead’s wife bore him sons, and when they grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You will have no inheritance in our father’s house, because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob. Then some lawless men joined Jephthah and traveled with him.

Some time later, the Ammonites fought against Israel. When the Ammonites made war with Israel, the elders of Gilead went to get Jephthah from the land of Tob.  They said to him, “Come, be our commander, and let’s fight against the Ammonites.”

Jephthah replied to the elders of Gilead, “Didn’t you hate me and drive me from my father’s house? Why then have you come to me now when you’re in trouble?”

They answered Jephthah, “Since that’s true, we now turn to you. Come with us, fight the Ammonites, and you will become leader of all the inhabitants of Gilead.”

So Jephthah said to them, “If you are bringing me back to fight the Ammonites and the Lord gives them to me, I will be your leader.”

The elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord is our witness if we don’t do as you say.” So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead. The people put him over themselves as leader and commander, and Jephthah repeated all his terms in the presence of the Lord at Mizpah.
(Judges 11:1-11)

“I Wish…”: A Sign of Insufficiency or Hope?

glassPeople use “I wish…” in different ways. Thinking primarily of the instances people use it when they state what they wish someone else would do, such as, “I wish she would have…,” “I wish he could just see that…,” or “I wish she didn’t think…,” I often think the person making the statement is pointing out her own dissatisfaction or disappointment about the other person. It seems most heartfelt and intense when the “he” or “she” involved is a loved one, someone close. It irritates me at times, because I assume the person can’t see the possibilities and hope of the situation…and of the person involved.

But I might be wrong. (It happens on a regular basis.)

It might be that the depth of the relationship makes us sensitive to knowing the possibilities and longing for more for the person we love. It might have more hope infused into it than I choose to recognize. Still, the way we phrase our wishes for others reflects either a positive or negative perspective. But what if we ask ourselves, “What is it I truly long for in this situation, for this person?”

Maybe I’m just being too positive. Maybe some people truly use the “I wish” phrase to point out what they wish others would change because they only see the downfalls. To them, the glass is half empty. To some, half is never going to be enough. For others, half holds the potential for more. Hope eclipses dissatisfaction.

Regardless of our own perspectives, we need to consider how we communicate to others. We need to filter our messages to make sure that we are encouraging and challenging others. We can’t simply communicate in ways that we want to receive something, because when we’re sending the message, we’re not the receiver. We have to consider how he or she will receive it.

Would we rather communicate insufficiency or hope? Sometimes, the two go together. After all, we need to see our insufficiency to humbly grasp the possibility of hope. Sometimes. Other times, we need a glimmer of hope to open our eyes to the reality of dissatisfaction and disappointment.

Let’s remember God holds the glass and knows exactly how full or empty it is. Let’s not hang a sign that declares we’re in the life assessment business. We don’t know how all the pieces are going to fit together.

He does.

And His wishes for us are way beyond what we can imagine. He sees our insufficiencies, but He also sees our possibilities. And He is the source of all hope.


Despite the Dark Cloud

©2015 PurePurpose.org

I sat on the beach the first full morning of vacation. It wasn’t as warm as I expected. In fact, it was cloudy, windy, borderline chilly (although it would have seemed balmy, even steamy, if I had been home in central Illinois). Despite the feel, it was beautiful. I was able to sit outside, bare feet in the sand, no coat. The waves lapped the shoreline. The trees gently rustled. The birds chirped. The sun intermittently shined despite the looming cloud.

I had a choice. I could focus on the dark cloud and chilly breeze or the sunshine and warmth. It’s a choice I have to make every day…multiple times every day. I can focus on the inconveniences or blessings. My choice doesn’t mean I ignore reality. A cloud can hang, but it’s not the only thing in the sky.

I looked at the cloud and felt the chill, then I changed my focus. I felt warmth. I saw a peek of sun. I thought of someone close to me who chooses to look at the sun every day despite the looming cloud. It’s a dark, depressing cloud, but the sun peeks through. Even when it doesn’t, the sun is still there. It doesn’t go away.

What dark cloud is looming over you? Keep it in the context of the entire sky. Do you know someone with a dark cloud in his or her life? Acknowledge it but don’t focus on it. Talk about other things, too. A dark cloud doesn’t define his or her life…or yours.

Soak up the peeks of sun, listen to the waves, see the big picture. The sky is vast. So are the possibilities, not just for tomorrow but for right now.

Exploring the Familiar

©2015 PurePurpose.org
©2015 PurePurpose.org

The moment I stepped through the gates of the Old City in Jerusalem, I breathed a sigh of contentment. It felt familiar. I had walked in and out of various gates as often as possible several years before. Some streets and turns seemed as if I’d traveled them many more times than I had. I can easily get from one quarter to another. I can take a few shortcuts. Yet there is so much I don’t know. There are many streets I haven’t taken. As much as I have explored, it is a small fraction of the total possibilities.

There are adventures in the familiar.

It is in our routines that we can neglect to see the opportunities around us. We can miss the details we pass because of our focus on the destination ahead. It’s important to know where we’re going, but each step along the journey is essential. We can’t get to the destination without taking each step. If we aren’t intentional about each step, we miss out.

One of the beauties of Old Jerusalem is the side streets and passageways. I glance to the left and right and wonder: Who lives there? What are they thinking? What do they need? What has happened here? What will happen in the future? I look at the light shining on one wall and casting shadows under the archways or roof beams. The scene always changes.

So do I.

So do you.

Change with each step you take today. Explore the familiar. You’re not just here to bide the time as it passes. You cannot get back a single moment or step. Live well.

Time to Move

you-are-stuck-141When Jesus saw the man and knew that he had been sick for such a long time, Jesus asked him, “Do you want to be well?”

The sick man answered, “Sir, there is no one to help me get into the pool when the water starts moving. While I am coming to the water, someone else always gets in before me.”

Then Jesus said, “Stand up. Pick up your mat and walk.” And immediately the man was well; he picked up his mat and began to walk. John 5:6-9

We can sit right beside the source of our healing or growth and not access it. We might think we can’t. We focus on the limits instead of the possibilities. The man beside the water had an excellent location for healing but was still sick. He didn’t know how to access healing. He thought his limitations would stop him from accessing the water and healing. Then he encountered Jesus, who has no limits.

God doesn’t exist within our limits. To him, all things are possible, but all things aren’t probable. He is not limited, but he has limits because he sets them himself. He will not do everything even though he can because he knows the best choice and timing for every situation and person. Our unlimited God responds within the limits of what is pure, true and noble. He will never do anything outside of his character. Of that we can be certain.

When have you let perceived limits stop you or hold you back?

When has God shown you a limit that led to growth?

We don’t always get our way. It’s a good thing, because we’d be spoiled brats. God sometimes allows us to get a taste or glimpse of what we think we want. We can do this his way or choose our own way…and eventually get back to his way because we (hopefully) realize our way was inferior from the beginning. His way is best. He knows the best limits to set although the possibilities for him are limitless.

Live It. Jot a list of every area in which you currently feel limited. Cross off anything on the list over which you believe God has no control. Circle everything else, and spend time in prayer, intentionally giving each one to God, trusting him to set the best limits for you in each area. Step out in faith, trusting his timing and provision.