choice

Everything In-between {ex29:19-20}

exodus-devotion-everything-in-between-poem.png

In the end,
what You will have of me is
all
or
nothing.

There is no in-between.

Either I will be consecrated
head to toe,
my entire being
holy ground,
or
I will be a vast, open
wasteland—
a demonic haunt.

There is no in-between.

For You
(the indwelling universe-God)
will not be relegated to
a shelf
a building or
a weekly (better-not-be-longer-than-an-hour) visit.

You will either dwell
in the midst
or
You will be completely
banished from the land.

There is no in-between.

You are uninterested
in negotiation
or compromise.

Come, then,
and take no prisoners—
except me, that is.
Captivate me
head to toe
and all that's
in-between.

Come, Divine Intruder:
Make me
holy ground.

 

God is a team leader.

God is a team leader.

Nehemiah 3

Several times in our journey so far through the Old Testament, we have witnessed God’s love of community. Since love is relational, it is always seeking community. Of course, it’s important to keep in mind that the type of community God wants is only found in the mutual unity of a group of individuals. (These days, when some think of community, they tend to think of a community as a single organism that is more important than an individual. But true community begins with the individual.)

God's protection isn't universal.

God's protection isn't universal.

Ezra 9

In this chapter of Ezra, we encounter an idea that weaves its way throughout the Old Testament: "Blessings" for those who obey the Lord, and "punishment" for those who do not. In this case, Ezra is lamenting the discovery of further disobedience by the exiles. "I am too ashamed and disgraced, my God, to lift up my face to you, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens. From the days of our ancestors until now, our guilt has been great. Because of our sins, we and our kings and our priests have been subjected to the sword and captivity, to pillage and humiliation at the hand of foreign kings, as it is today." (vs 6-7)

God believes in the separation of powers.

God believes in the separation of powers.

2 Chronicles 26

If you were educated as a child in America, one of the first things you learned about our form of government is that it is based on a separation of powers. Divided into three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—each one has independent powers and areas of responsibility so that (in theory) no one branch has more power than the others. Although many have attempted throughout history to use one branch to usurp the authority of the others, the founders of our country envisioned a system where no person or group of people would hold absolute power.

God makes deception impossible.

God makes deception impossible.

2 Chronicles 18

Ahhhh, back to one of my favorite stories in the whole Bible. Micaiah, the prophet with the hot mouth. But as I read the story once again, something new jumped out at me. The dialogue between the two kings was very interesting, particularly the things said by Ahab king of Israel.

God's gifts can be squandered.

God's gifts can be squandered.

2 Chronicles 10

Today’s chapter reminded me somewhat of the story of the Prodigal Son—you know, the foolish boy who squandered the riches of his father’s estate. And since we looked yesterday at what an outrageous giver God is, I thought it might be prudent to add a P.S. today—that all of God’s gifts come with freedom. That means, if we are foolish enough, we can squander them all. What God gives, He doesn’t force us to keep or use wisely. We are free to do with His gifts what we want.

God is the best choice.

God is the best choice.

1 Chronicles 21

Even after David repented of his sin involving Bathsheba and Uriah, he was still struggling with the issue of being in control as king. Thus, though he knew he shouldn’t do it, he asked Joab to take a census of the army. Joab was disgusted by the request, but did it anyway. For some reason, David apparently wasn’t ready to place his full trust back in the Lord, and he wanted to make sure he could "walk softly and carry a big army" ...just in case.

God lets go.

God lets go.

1 Chronicles 10

Well, we made it through the genealogies. Now on to something a bit easier—or so I thought. As someone who is educated in the principles of journalism, I have to say that I encountered a bit of a problem in chapter 10 regarding the death of Saul. There are two seemingly-different accounts of his death within a few paragraphs of each other!

God is not a grandfather.

God is not a grandfather.

1 Chronicles 7

The more you read these genealogies, the closer you examine them, the more you will discover that there are certain, shall we say, discrepancies in them. This isn’t necessarily a problem, and neither is it necessarily surprising—considering that most all of these genealogies were passed down through oral tradition. Could you keep nearly four thousand years of genealogy straight without a computerized family tree?

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

God doesn't restrict His representatives' freedom.

2 Kings 10

The new king of the Northern Kingdom, Jehu, had been specifically commissioned by God for a special purpose: "You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the Lord’s servants shed by Jezebel." (2 Kings 9:7) And, as we saw in the last chapter, Jehu set out to do his job with zeal.

When the Heart Becomes a Black Hole {ex11}

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

Photo © Unsplash/Ed Robertson

by the time
God announced
the plague
on the firstborn
for the /second/ time
didn't Pharaoh know
God could and
would
do exactly
what He said

after the
blood
frogs
gnats
flies
dead livestock
boils
hail
locusts and
darkness
was there anything left
more dark
than Pharaoh's heart

how dark does it have to get
to not understand
that your opponent
controls
the very elements

-all of them-

didn't Pharaoh know
that if God said
his son was going to die
he would /in fact/
be planning a funeral
if he didn't
change course

why wouldn't you change course

in ancient egypt
the only person more important
than the firstborn son of the Pharaoh
was Pharaoh himself

why wouldn't you change course

is there anything
in this world
more powerful
than the human heart

is there anything
more capable
of being more implacable
than the heart
bent on rebellion

is there anything
more wild and dangerous
than the freedom to choose
and the power
it imparts

the power to
so harden ourselves
to truth
that /in the end/
we could sacrifice
what is most important
to us

and be ourselves
swallowed up by
allconsuming
darkness

 

All Hail {ex9:23}

Photo © Brian Gary

Photo © Brian Gary

A monstrous storm of hail
fell
such as Egypt had never seen before
and hasn’t seen since.

It smashed trees.
It smashed crops.
It smashed people and flocks.
It smashed everything it touched.

But the one thing it didn’t smash
was Pharaoh's implacable heart,
that dense little rock
beating in his chest.

God could undo Egypt,
but He couldn’t undo the king.

All hail the power
we’ve been given
to fortify or destroy
our own personal dynasties.

 

God gives us what we want.

God gives us what we want.

1 SAMUEL 28

Several years ago, Rob Bell wrote a book called Love Wins. It generated a lot of controversy by posing the question of whether or not there is an eternal hell. But the chapter I was most intrigued by was one that asked the question, Does God get what God wants? Bell didn’t provide an absolute answer, but he seemed to insinuate that (since God wants everyone to come to a knowledge of salvation) if everyone wasn’t saved, God wasn’t “great” enough to get what He wants. (At least, that’s what I understood him to be saying.)

God is not a legalist.

God is not a legalist.

1 SAMUEL 4

I found something in this chapter very interesting. It opens with the Israelites going to war against the Philistines. It didn’t go well. Thousands of Israelites were killed in the battle, and when they got back home, they wondered why they had met with such defeat. As a result, they decided that they would carry the Ark of the Covenant into battle with them the next time.

God does not overpower us.

God does not overpower us.

JUDGES 18

Judges 18 begins with a mantra that will repeat through the last several chapters of the book: "In those days Israel had no king." As you will discover (if you don’t already know what’s ahead in the next few chapters), this isn’t a good declaration. This isn’t a statement of freedom. Rather, it’s a statement of spiritual slavery. Israel had no king, no spiritual leadership, no direction, no moral compass. Everybody just did whatever they saw fit... and that always makes for a very scary scene.

God saves individuals.

God saves individuals.

JUDGES 9

Have you ever heard of collective salvation? It is how some people believe the human race is saved—not individually, but collectively; not personally, but as a community. If one is lost, all are lost. If one is saved, all are saved. I suppose it’s a nice idea, but I think it would be hard to make the case that God looks at us as one, big communal organism and not as individuals. Certainly, He wants everyone to be saved, but He’s not the only one who gets a say.

God has no grandchildren.

God has no grandchildren.

JUDGES 2

This text shocked me: "After that whole generation had been gathered to their ancestors, another generation grew up who knew neither the Lord nor what he had done for Israel." (vs 10)  What?! God finally had a generation of Israelites that He could take into the Promised Land.... and it only took one generation to unravel it all. Unbelievable.

God wants us to choose.

God wants us to choose.

JOSHUA 24

Here we find Joshua’s famous words to the Israelites: "Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord." (vs 14-15)

God lets us call the shots.

God lets us call the shots.

JOSHUA 9

I’m continually surprised by God as we comb our way through the Old Testament. I mean, who’s calling the shots, here? Didn’t God specifically say that the Israelites were not to make treaties with the people of Canaan? (Yes, He did, in Deuteronomy 7:2.) He told them not to have anything to do with them so they wouldn’t be in danger of picking up their idolatrous practices.