Jehovah-nissi, The Lord My Banner

The first time I went through this study, I had a really hard time understanding what it meant for God to be my banner. But six years and three times through this book, it’s finally beginning to click because I’m living it. I’ve been living it.

The battle is constant.

My way or God’s way. While it may be a one-time decision to follow Christ and become a believer, it is a daily, moment-by-moment battle to surrender to his Lordship and walk in the Spirit.

In Exodus 17 we read about a battle between two people groups, the Israelites and the Amalekites.

Moses said to Joshua, “Choose some of our men and go out to fight the Amalekites. Tomorrow I will stand on top of the hill with the staff of God in my hands.”
So Joshua fought the Amalekites as Moses had ordered, and Moses, Aaron and Hur went to the top of the hill. As long as Moses held up his hands, the Israelites were winning… So Joshua overcame the Amalekite army with the sword… Moses built an altar and called it The Lord is my banner. – Exodus 17:8-15

If the Amalekites represent the flesh, then there are a few basic conclusions we can draw:

  • We must fight (vs 8)
  • We need a mediator with his arms held up (vs 11)
  • The flesh will lose by sword (vs 13)

Life experience as a believer will quickly reveal that a battle exists. The apostle Paul writes about this to the Romans. 

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God – through Jesus Christ our Lord. – Romans 7:15-25

Jesus is our mediator, and there is victory because his arms were held up. Stretched out. And nailed to a cross. He died, and three days later revealed his living self to hundreds of people. He won. And in him, we win too.

I’ve been nose-deep in the book of Ephesians lately, meditating on the truth of who I am in Christ, and the truth of the battles that we face. 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. – Ephesians 6:12

We are no match for this on our own. 

We need armor, and we need a weapon. Joshua defeated the Amalekites by sword, and the sword is the only weapon believers get. It’s the only weapon we need. We get the sword of the Spirit, “which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:17). The word of God is true. It is the ultimate truth, it is always true, and it forever will be true.

The battles may be tough, they may be frequent, and they may leave us feeling beat up at times. But no matter where we are at, our battles are not our identity. When we are in Christ, we are a new creation. We are his, we are robed, we are clean and we are loved. 

Stay near to the One who calls you his own. Stay near to the One who makes you new and loves you just because you are his. Let him be always your banner.

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But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. – 1 Corinthians 6:11

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! – 2 Corinthians 5:17

The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever. – Isaiah 40:8

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. – Hebrews 4:12

So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. Therefore, my dear friends, flee from idolatry. – 1 Corinthians 10:12-14

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Read: Ephesians. The whole book. It’s only 6 chapters and packed.

Specifically, read Ephesians 1:1 – 2:10. What does God say about who you are if you are in Christ?

Read Ephesians 6:10-20. What does God say about the battle? About your armor? About your weapon? What does he say will be true of you when the battle is done?

A Beautiful Easter

I wish I could communicate how beautiful God is.

But if I consider a beautiful piece of art, I would never attempt to describe it. I would just show you the art itself.

So how can I show who God is? Maybe the same way that he shows us who he is: through stories.

This blog is full of stories. 
It is full of stories of how God has worked in my life, and it is full of stories of what God has given us through his word.

It all hangs on the same thread. And it all points to one man. His name is Jesus. And he is so beautiful.

The Gospel is so beautiful.

As we enter into Easter weekend, I pray that the Gospel never ceases to amaze us, that it never ceases to bring us to our knees. I pray that it never becomes commonplace and that we are never causal about its implications.

God made the world, and it was good (Genesis 1). And just two chapters later, man sins and sets a precedent for all man after. (Genesis 2, Romans 3:23) Everyone has sinned and falls short of God’s glory. You. Me. Everyone.

And the gap where we fall short is not a short gap because the one we sin against is so great. He is Righteous. He is Holy. He is I Am.

And he is Just. And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22).

This is where it should end – our death, our punishment for our sins, our eternal debt to a great God.

But instead, God willingly satisfies his own wrath himself. He steps in, he provides a sacrifice, and he bridges the gap for us. For us.

Jesus becomes sin on our behalf, dies the death that we deserve, and three days later rises from the grave and proves his victory.

This is the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Good News for all people. That while we mess things up, while we sin against a Holy and Beautiful God, we don’t have to bear our own punishment. And we don’t worship a God that can be defeated.

And. If that wasn’t enough, he also crowns us with the righteousness that he earned in living the perfect life we could never live. He takes our punishment, and he gives us his victory prize. And in him, we secure every spiritual blessing for all eternity (Ephesians 1).

Our job is to receive him. To believe in him. To call on his name and declare him as Lord.

And then, we worship, and we walk. We journey through this life soaking in the greatness of the Son and responding to him in faith. It’s not about perfection. That was already accomplished. It’s about praising his name and making him known. It’s about declaring his beauty and giving it away everywhere we can, any way we can. 

He is so beautiful. May his face be all we seek.

—–

One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. – Psalm 27:4

Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household. Acts 16:31 

Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. – John 1:12

We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. – Hebrews 10:10

—–

Additional resource: Does God have to punish sinners?

Worship: O Lord, You’re Beautiful

Related Posts: The Gospel
The Gospel of El Roi
Walking the Path

Adonai, Lord, Master

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. – Deuteronomy 6:4

I believed in God, went to church and read my Bible. And… that was about it. There was really nothing else that marked a difference between me, a Christian with the Holy Spirit of the living God inside, and a non-believer.

I went to an IF:Gathering conference one February weekend, and God put such a clear impression on my heart: was I in, or was I out? I was walking a fence between following Jesus and following my own desires, and now my fence had run out of posts. 

I remember saying “yes” to God that weekend. I was in. But I didn’t have a clue as to what my life was supposed to look like or what I was supposed to do next. I didn’t know the formality of his name, Adonai, but as I look back, that was exactly what I was saying “yes” to: Lord. His way, not my way. There was no more inbetween. Because there is only one God. And He is it. 

Before the commandments are given, God says, “I am the Lord your God.” He declares his Lordship over his people and goes on to say, “who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery” (Exodus 20:2).

And maybe that’s the part that we don’t give enough attention to: sin is enslaving. 

The Israelites would have never left Egypt on their own and they would have never stayed out on their own. They needed a mediator. God used Moses to rescue the Israelites and to intercede between them and himself, to remind them of who they were and whose they were, and to keep them from turning back.

And hundreds of years later God would send another mediator. For all people. To break the chains of spiritual slavery and set his people free. 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

Maybe it is hard to give certain areas of our lives over to the Lord, but the things that we hold on to will be the things that hold on to us. God is serious when he calls us to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mark 12:29-30). It is what we were made for, the reason we were created. And when we live in that purpose, we will taste freedom. 

Saying “yes” to God as Lord, Adonai, over every part of my life continues to shape and change me in ways I never could have imagined. It is not always easy. It actually is usually painful and outrageously difficult. But death is like that. “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:24-25). The irony is that when we die to the things of this world and instead surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we gain a life and identity that will last for all eternity.

This blog is full of stories of “yeses”, practical examples of ways that God can use simple obedience to change everything. I don’t write because I think my stories are so important, but I write to put God’s glory on display. I write to show his great and mighty work in the life of an average person, a stay-at-home mom who has no social media influence and no seminary degree. I write to show off how much better life is when we let this God, Adonai, be our Lord and be in his rightful position in our lives. He is so abundantly worthy. And it isn’t because he gives us wealth or health or big houses. He may or he may not. But what he does give and what he promises to anyone who receives him are gifts for all eternity. That in Christ Jesus we might be welcomed into the family of God. That we might know him and have life forever in his kingdom. That we might share in the inheritance of his Son. And that we might bear the fruit of his Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). 

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

“Do not be afraid,” Samuel replied. “You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. Do not turn away after useless idols. They can do you no good, nor can they rescue you, because they are useless. For the sake of his great name the Lord will not reject his people, because the Lord was pleased to make you his own. As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right. But be sure to fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart; consider what great things he has done for you.” – 1 Samuel 12:20-24

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. – Hebrews 12:1-3

Read: Galatians. The whole thing. It’s only 6 chapters and just packed. 

Stepping in: Have you given your entire life to the Lord, Adonai? Spend some time in the word and in prayer over his character, ways you’ve seen God work in your life and areas that are difficult to surrender.


Related posts: What do I still lack?, a story from Matthew 19
Babylon, Part 2, a lesson from Jeremiah and sin as slavery

5 thoughts for if you feel discontent

My thoughts fired around something like this:

If only my kids would listen. If only my husband did everything I wanted him to do, when I wanted him to do it, without me having to ask. If only my baby slept. If only I slept… If only… if only…then. Then I would be content.

The opposing thought hit me like a ton of bricks – But would I really?

If I live dependent on my circumstances, will I ever really be content?

2 Corinthians 12:9 says, “But (the Lord) said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you…’”. 

If his grace is giving us something even when we don’t deserve it, then the height of his grace is Jesus. He is the ultimate gift that we could never earn or deserve. And he is enough.

But I know from experience that we can so innocently put our hope in things of this world – someone else’s behavior, sleep, an appointment, an opportunity, a conference, a getaway, a relationship… anything we look to with anticipation that “maybe this will be it.” 

But Jesus is all that is “it”. And when we are rooted and anchored in him, we can have a right perspective of everything else. 

So what does this mean? If you feel discontent or dissatisfied, here are some thoughts and scripture for practical application:

  1. The Gospel – again and again and again, the Gospel is always the answer. Jesus. He loves you all the way to the cross. And if anything about the Gospel ever seems commonplace, then there is a tremendous miss on our end. Take it to God. Ask Him – what are you missing if you aren’t entirely captivated by the Gospel?
  2. Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John 21:22) Especially in an age of social media where so much is publicly displayed, we can get so distracted by what is going on around us, what others have and what we don’t. Keep your eyes on Jesus. (Hebrews 12:1-3). And stay thankful. (Colossians 2:7, 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
  3. Don’t stay in the same spot. Life can be so hard, and it can be filled with so much blessing. And I think it also can be both at the same time. But regardless of season, keep growing. Keep spending time with God. Open up His Word. Ask him what he wants to show you. Talk with a friend, a mentor, someone who has been through the same thing. Like anything else God calls us to, he will make growth possible in every season. (2 Peter 3:18)
  4. Know who you are. I believe all sin and discontentment is rooted in identity. But if you put your faith in Jesus, you are made new (2 Corinthians 5:17) and have a solid foundation (Luke 6:46-49). And you are who He says you are. Study: Ephesians 1:1-14, Colossians 1:21-23, 2:6-15, 3:1-17
  5. Know who God is. It is the most important thing about us. Join me in this study, follow these posts and dive into the related scripture, open up the Bible and study it with people… however you get to know Him, but nothing else will matter if we don’t have a right view of God.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 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. 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. – ‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-9‬ ‭

GOD, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: “Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on me – The very thing you’ve been unwilling to do.” – Isaiah 30:15-17 MSG

El Shaddai, Lord Almighty, All Sufficient

My husband and I lived in Chicago for several years. I had an awesome wardrobe, beautiful shoes and purses, a great social life, and married to the greatest guy I ever met. I had everything I ever wanted. 

But something was still missing.

I was so unhappy and routinely felt empty. I remember thinking all the time, this just isn’t that great. All that was supposed to fill my life with meaning just didn’t measure up.

While it has definitely been a process, everything started to shift as God began to take up more space in my life. It began with the basics – attending church, praying and reading my Bible. And as I started turning from looking to things of the world to satisfy and instead turning to the All Sufficient One, I have gotten to know my El Shaddai.

He is enough. And he is better. So much better.

The first time God reveals himself as El Shaddai is in Genesis 17:1-2.
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, “I am God Almighty (El-Shaddai); walk before me and be blameless. I will confirm my covenant between me and you and will greatly increase your numbers.” 

God had already promised to make Abram into a great nation (Genesis 12) and already promised Abram would have a son and descendents more numerous than the stars in the sky (Genesis 15). Abram had already slept with his wife’s maidservant, Hagar, and already had a son through her (Genesis 16). And now, God appears to Abram again, at the age of 99, and promises that he will have a son with his wife Sarai. 

And that son, whom they would name Isaac, would be the son through whom the entire promise would be fulfilled. 

Except Abram (renamed Abraham) and Isaac weren’t the height of the promise. They were a vessel by which God would foreshadow the real One whom it was all about. 

When God introduced himself as El-Shaddai and told Abram to walk before him and be blameless (Genesis 17:1), there was really only one way that would be possible – if someone else would walk before Abram. 

The only way that myself or anyone could ever walk before God without blame is if someone else without blame walked before us. And one thing I have learned about God is that if he gives a command, he will make a way. And that is exactly what he did through another son of promise. 

His son. Jesus. 

Our blame, our sin, our shame, it all is lifted off us and nailed to the cross when Jesus takes it upon himself and is crucified. He is the way that we may walk before God without blame. 

And when we trust in the words of the Lord and have faith, believe what he says and what he did, then we become a part of Abraham’s family too. We become part of God’s family.

Genesis 17 goes on to say, “I will establish my covenant as an everlasting covenant between me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you… I will be their God.” (verses 7-8)

And when the new heaven and the new earth are revealed, God uses the same language:
“Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.” (Revelation 21:3)

From Genesis to Revelation, God is God. He is our God. 

Ironically, knowing the Lord as my El Shaddai has made everything else taste so much sweeter. I can enjoy hobbies, my husband, and time with people even more because I’m not dependent on those things the way I had been. While change doesn’t happen overnight, and a relationship with the Lord is never flawless, standing on the Word is a foundation that holds steady. He has all the might and all the power, and he is sufficient on his own to keep all his promises. He is all we need, because all we need is Him. 

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Galatians 3:6-9
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announce the gospel in advance to  Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

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Read: Genesis 17:1-8

Stepping in: How many times does God use “I”? What does this passage show you about El Shaddai?
What is Abram’s response to who God says he is? What is your response?

Journeying further: How has God shown himself as El Shaddai in your life? What is a promise of God that you struggle to trust and wait for? How can this passage be an encouragement and an anchor in your life?

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Additional Resources
– Great sermon by David Platt about the sufficiency of Christ
– Short video on covenants, a helpful illustration of God’s ability to fulfill his promises independent of human behavior

Join me in this study!

Part 2, The Gospel of El Roi

Generations after God saw Hagar and showed up in her life, he saw a whole nation of people and showed up in theirs.

At Mount Horeb, God appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush:

The Lord said, “I have seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey…” – Exodus 3:7-8

God saw. He heard. He was concerned. So he came down, he rescued, and he brought his people somewhere good.

This is the gospel.

God saw us, not just in our sin but in our slavery to sin: the thing we can’t ever stop thinking about, the goal we build our whole lives around, the job we can’t take a break from, the attention we seek and crave and do anything we can to get. He saw it all. He sees it all. But not just as a big mass, instead, he sees each person, individually. He sees me, he sees you. And he hears our cries, toward him or toward anyone or anything that might help. He hears us, one by one by one. And it concerns him. He cares so much that he came down. Jesus. Fully human, fully God, out of heaven and into the world he created. And he took our place. Not just broadly, but individually, for each one of us. He became the sin that enslaves us, that we might walk free. He endured our death, that we might live. That any person who would just believe that His death counted for them, they would be brought in. They would be redeemed. They would be rescued. And because the One who died did not stay in the grave, he promises to escort each and every one of his children who confess his name to somewhere good. Somewhere beautiful. To a kingdom that will never perish, spoil or fade.

A whole lot of years after the Exodus there was a young college girl. And God saw her. He saw her misery and heard her crying out because of her slavery to sin, to fear, to emotions. 

Where are you, Lord? When will you fix this?

The response was so clear, it was almost audible, “I already have.” 

He saw me. He spoke to me. I didn’t get it all right after that, and I don’t even get it all right now. But there was an anchor that dropped that has stood steady and firm no matter what my pull. Because it is finished. The payment has been made in full.

It counted for me.

And it counts, individually, for each person who chooses to receive it.

Get to know this God. 

He is El Roi, and he is the God who sees you. He hears you. He cares about you. And he came down to take your place, that you might be rescued. Let him bring you somewhere good.

——-

Read: Exodus 3

Stepping in: What stands out to you from this passage? What do you learn about God? Is there anything in your life that God saw but didn’t step in the way you wish he had? Talk to him about it.

Watch: This video is a touching visual of what it cost to bring us in, Story of Love

El Roi, The God Who Sees

He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 
Psalm 121:3-4

His name is El Roi, and he is the God who sees. 

If I was to pick one name of God that has most shaped my faith, it would be El Roi. I think it is the most significant, most intimate characteristic of God that enables me to trust that He is everything else he says he is. 

Because God sees us individually. 

The first time God is introduced as El Roi is towards a single woman, Hagar. It isn’t when a whole nation is facing persecution or in a context where a large number of people are involved. In Genesis chapter 16, Hagar has been used, and she has been mistreated. She runs away into the desert, and God finds her there and speaks to her. Just her.

The text doesn’t specify, but I’m certain that it changes her. Because when God has found me alone in the desert and spoken just to me, it has changed me too.

The moments in my life where God has shown me that he sees me have given me a fullness of life that is unlike anything else and a hope to persevere through situations when things don’t work out like I expect.

Get to know this God. 

Talk to him. Read his Word. Listen. He is sure to change your life.

Talk: Specifically, you can pray things like:
God, show me that you see me.
God, show me how you see me.
God, show me what you see.

Read: Genesis 16
What do you learn about Hagar? What about her and her situation resonates with you? Pray, what might God be teaching you through this text? 

Psalm 121
What do you learn about God? How can this Psalm bring you comfort when you consider El Roi, the God who sees?

Listen: What is God saying to you? Continue in prayer and continue in the Word, and continue to listen. He will speak.

Additional resource – Outside of the Bible itself, a book that has significantly influenced my walk with the Lord and my relationship with El Roi is Unseen, by Sara Hagerty.

Join me in this study!

God Most High, El Elyon

I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please. – Isaiah 46:9-10

Years ago, I used to think God was up in Heaven, sitting by, essentially inactive as Satan ruled the world. I didn’t know him as El Elyon, God Most High. For he is active, and he is present. He is Sovereign and rules over all things and over all powers.

In the book of Job, Satan had been roaming the earth and approached God:
The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied… “You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.”
The Lord said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:8-12)

Some might take a passage like this and conclude that God is, therefore, evil. God gives permission for Satan to destroy everything of Jobs. Job ends up losing servants, livestock, his children, and even his health after Satan has another encounter with God (Job 2:6).

And Job cries out with the same question that we cry out with today, “Why?”

Job never got an answer from God as to why he endured all the suffering and loss, but he did hear from God. And in God’s response, God declared his sovereignty. He reminded Job that he is Lord over all, that he is the One who controls all things and whom all creation reports to. And when we cry out El Elyon, God Most High, we will get a response, too. Because we have access to God. The gap between the created and the Creator has been bridged. 

While God certainly allowed Satan to destroy things in Job’s life for a certain amount of time and under certain limitations, God did not stretch out his hand and harm anything of Job’s himself. But he did stretch out his hand and lay out his wrath and judgement on his son. 

On the cross, Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.” (Luke 23:46)

Except when Jesus committed his spirit to the hands of his father he was crushed. He took the punishment for our sin, the hand of God’s wrath, that we might take the hand of his leading and counsel. 

God Most High is not a distant power of arrogant force. He is a God of supreme authority and complete control, and who is also so compassionate and so loving that though it cost him everything, he would come down and restore the relationship between himself and his people.

There is no one like this God, El Elyon. There is no religion like the Good News of Jesus Christ. And there is no understanding of ours that will ever grasp the greatness and majesty of this King, God Most High.

He is our God and our Savior, and we can trust the One who holds all things together because he has proved his love towards us.

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:5

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. – Job 42:3

As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. – Isaiah 55:9

I call on you, O God, for you will answer me; give ear to me and hear my prayer. Show the wonder of your great love, you who save by your right hand those who take refuge in you from their foes. – Psalm 17:6-7

—–

Would you discredit my justice? – Job 40:8a 

This verse really hit home for me as I wrestled with God’s sovereignty and the injustice in this world. It seems so unfair. I was discrediting God’s justice. While God is Sovereign and in complete control, he is also Just and entirely fair. Sin will not go unpunished.

—–

As I went through scripture and took note of specifics that God is sovereign over, I made a list. God is Lord over:

  • Everything that happens, all worldly and personal events (Daniel 4:34-35, Isaiah 14:24, 27, Isaiah 46:9-11)
  • Seasons and time (Daniel 2:20-23)
  • Kings, leaders, rulers, presidents (Daniel 2:20-23)
  • Weather (Isaiah 5:5-7)
  • Safety (Isaiah 5:5-7)
  • Hearts (Isaiah 5:5-7, Mark 4:3-9, Ezekiel 36:26-27)
  • Life, death, conception (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 1:5-6, Revelation 1:18)
  • Wealth and poverty (1 Samuel 2:6-10)
  • Status and fame (1 Samuel 2:6-10)
  • Achievements (1 Samuel 2:6-10)
  • Light and darkness (Isaiah 45:6-7)
  • Peace and chaos (Isaiah 45:6-7)

Take some time to go through these verses. What is God teaching you about himself? Talk to him about it. What is easy to accept, what is hard to accept? What do you try to maintain control over? Ask God to reveal why and to help you trust him in that area.

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Join me in this study!

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I love questions/comments/feedback – leave a comment or send a message if I can pray for you or dig deeper into something!

Worship in the Wilderness

I think part of the reason that I struggled to care about being created for God’s glory was because God didn’t seem near. I hadn’t been hearing his voice. I felt spiritually dry.

I was reading through the Psalms, a bit aimlessly, when I read, “O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted; you will strengthen their heart,” (Psalm 10:17 ESV).

He promises to strengthen our hearts. 

Throughout scripture, God also promises to answer us and to be with us. He promises to unstop deaf ears and to unveil blinded eyes. And he promises to give us water.

Behold, I am doing a new thing… I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert… for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.
-Isaiah 43:18-21

We are created to bring him praise. 

Praise was what God wanted from the Israelites who were slaves in Egypt thousands of years ago. God commanded Pharoah, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me in the wilderness,” (Exodus 7:16). In the wilderness! God wanted them to worship Him in the desert, in the dryness. He wanted their worship before they ever reached the promised land. 

The night before Pharaoh finally let the people go, God instructed the Israelites to take a bunch of hyssop, dip it into the blood of the lamb and brush the top and sides of their door frames. And the destroyer was promised to pass over their home and spare the life of the first born. And it happened as God had said. (Exodus 12)

Many years later when the Lamb of God hung dying on the cross, he said “I thirst” (John 19:28). But he didn’t receive any water. Instead, wine vinegar was soaked with a sponge and lifted up to him with that same hyssop plant. “When he had received the drink, Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30).

His thirst for our relief. His blood for our life. 

I found myself convicted, thinking, I don’t want to be the wayward Christian who only follows Jesus and only cares about his glory when things are going my way and prayers are being answered how I asked. I am a servant of the Lord, and I will praise him in the desert, because my God will provide water. 

He already has provided Living Water, and he has spared my life. 

Sometimes I wonder if one of the ways we can best bring glory to our Creator Elohim is by worshipping him in the desert. By thanking him for what he has done and praising him for who he is. By expecting him to fulfill his promises and trusting that he will satisfy our thirst. For in Christ, we are guaranteed to not dry up. 

When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys… that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
-Isaiah 41:17-20


Read: What are some things that God says about water?
Psalm 1:3
Isaiah 55:1, Isaiah 58:11
Jeremiah 17:7-8
Matthew 13:6-8
John 4:13-14, John 7:37-39
Revelation 21:6

How does this impact the way you walk through the desert seasons of life? The way you view God? The way you view yourself?


Interested in knowing more? Join the study with me! 

Creator Elohim

“Everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made,” Isaiah 43:7. God is Elohim, Creator. He made man in his image and for his glory.

As I studied God’s name Elohim this last week, all I could think was, why do I care about God’s glory when his road is marked with so much suffering?

What if I want my own glory? 

I started journaling some prayers and poured over the words of Isaiah. I was reminded of one of my favorite verses, “I am the Lord; that is my name! I will not give my glory to another or my praise to idols,” (Isaiah 42:8).

I’ve lived for my own glory. I’ve lived for the idols of affirmation and applause. And they did not measure up. Even when the attention came, it was so fleeting and so unsatisfying. The ground I walked on was unsteady and unsure, and I was so unhappy.

But when I surrendered the praise to the One whom glory is due, the One whom I was created to bring glory to, it unearthed a joy, a freedom and a stability I never would have believed possible, entirely independent of my circumstances. 

While I don’t have an answer for all the suffering and injustice in this world, what I do have is something that every one of us can count on: God’s promises. 

For Isaiah also says, “I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand,” (Isaiah 41:9-10).

God promises to be with us. He promises to strengthen us. He promises to help us. 

And we can count on his promises because of Jesus. He took our place. 

While Jesus hung on the cross, he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). God the Father, Creator Elohim, abandoned his son in place of abandoning his creation. So “all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,” (John 1:12). 

When we choose to put our faith in Jesus, his punishment on the cross counts for us. And because God is just, he will not punish us again. 

Suffering is not punishment. It is an opportunity to display God’s glory, the glory we were made to bear.

My glory is temporary and unsatisfying. And earthly suffering is temporary, too. It is temporary, and it is purposeful. When we live for the glory of our Creator Elohim, the God who formed us and made us, the glory will be beautiful, and it will last forever. And we will not walk through any of it alone.

“Now if we are children, then we are heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory. I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:17-18

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or face – kept in heaven for you… now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold… may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Peter 1:3-7

“But now, this is what the Lord says – he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mind. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.’”
Isaiah 43:1-3

Read: Isaiah – all of it, the whole book is so beautiful. Specifically, you can pour over chapters 40-43. What is God showing you about what you were created for? What words or concepts do you see repeated? What is God showing you about his name Elohim?

In a summary I wrote on this name of God years ago, I said:
We can love ourselves because God created us purposefully. Are we going to criticize his work? He does not make mistakes.

Maybe you can’t even think about bringing glory to God, because you don’t believe that you have any purpose. What do the words of Isaiah teach instead? 

Read Ephesians 1:3-14 and 1 Peter 2:9-10. What does God say is true about you? Spend some time in prayer over these verses.

What about discipline? Doesn’t God discipline those he loves? (Hebrews 12:6) I found this article to be super insightful on the Biblical difference between punishment and discipline.