Are We There Yet?

Our daughter-in-law, Gwen, is creative, resourceful, thoughtful … and a really good Mom. So, when preparing for a thousand-mile family trip, she came up with some clever ways to help their two-year-old daughter not only endure the drives, but enjoy them as much as she could. Next to Abigail was a box teeming with her favorite books, and when she tired of them for a time, out came the stash of stickers, always fun. If the stickers also ran their course, there was a “cookie sheet and magnets” solution (which might have actually engrossed me for a time). It was a very compassionate thing Gwen did for a young child facing a long journey.

Sometimes in life we feel like a kid on a car ride. We want to become what we want to become, now; we want to achieve what we want to achieve, now; we want to arrive where we want to arrive, now. The actual journey we travel, however, and the speed at which we traverse it are anything but the straight-line, no-stops path to paradise we envisioned at the onset. We navigate twists and turns we never anticipated; we encounter detours and delays we never wanted. In charitable terms, we “take the scenic route,” and, eventually, something inside cries out in frustration, “Are we there yet? How much longer?”

God’s itinerary is always different than our own—far better, and far better for us. He turns our twists into humility, and steers our turns into hope. He builds perspective from our detours, and instills patience through our delays. In time, we “arrive,” not in a worldly sense, as in fame and fortune, but at a far more satisfying place—the kingdom of God, His fulfilling reign in our lives.

So, the apostle James says, “Be patient … stand firm … don’t grumble.” He compels us to consider those who have gone before us—the prophets who persevered to the end, and Job, who endured to restoration. God is in this journey with us, just as He was with them; He knows our trip can be arduous, frustrating, and painful at times, so He diverts our attention away from ourselves, and He sets our sites on the glory that lies ahead and toward the care of those who sojourn with us. For, says James, “The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.”

God, this journey is full of beauty at times, and painfully difficult at others. Draw me to yourself and in service to others today, that I might endure, they might flourish, and you would be glorified. Thank you for your compassion and care for me. In Christ, I pray. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in James 5:7-11.]

Rolling Stones

The story is told in Greek mythology of Sisyphus, a conniver so cunning that he bargained his way out of a punishing afterlife. When this master manipulator reneged on his promise to the gods, however, he was condemned to an eternal grind of complete futility and frustration—forever pushing a large boulder to the top of a hill, only for it to roll back to the bottom every time it reached its peak.

The experience of the Old Testament priests was similar in ways, though not nearly as burdensome and not at all meaningless. The writer of Hebrews explained it this way: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same religious sacrifices, which can never take away sins [emphases added]” (Hebrews 10:11). Day after day, again and again, yet without finality. On the surface, theirs seemed a futile undertaking, the stuff of tragedy, but in God’s grand plan it was not. For each daily ritual exposed the futility of every one of its predecessors as well as all yet to come, in effect silently and steadily proclaiming the universal need for one eternal mediator and one sufficient sacrifice.

Of course, Jesus fulfilled our desperate need as only He could. He came and lived a perfect life, offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, and He intercedes forever as our perfect priest. Our sins are gone, our punishment departed with them. We have no need to fear, no need to doubt, and every reason to live freely as the permanently purchased people of God. Yet from our position of safety, we soberly reflect on our days of striving outside of Christ, and we remember those who still do. Do you recall trying to be good enough for God through your own effort? Day after day, billions of people still set their shoulder to that boulder. Were there times when you just hoped your good deeds outnumbered your bad ones, so you might eventually prevail in an up-hill battle for righteousness? Again and again, so many still struggle to please God through their own sacrifices, only to see the weight of their wrongs come crashing down on them yet one more time.

For these and for all people, we have a great message of good news—our loving God has already done for us what we cannot do ourselves. Christ surrendered His life as our sacrifice, and He intercedes for us as our high priest. Our eternity does not loom as a boulder so crushingly rolling down upon us; it lives as a tombstone refreshingly rolled away before us. In this certainty, we thank our God, again and again; in this freedom, we share our hope, day after day.

God, your ways are wonderful and your love ever-fresh. Thank you for taking my punishment upon yourself, for delivering me from futility, for setting me free forever. Grace me to share your life with others, and grace others to find new life in you. Amen.

[Click here to read today’s Scripture in Hebrews 10:5-18.]

Savoring the Goodness of God

“Why do you call me good?” It is a compelling question; it’s what Jesus asked the rich young ruler who had addressed Him as, “good teacher.” Surely the eager seeker valued goodness, for he had embraced it, lived it, and now sought it still more. “Do not commit adultery.” Check. “Do not murder.” Check. “Do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and your mother.” Check, check, and check. “But what must I do…?” he implored. Such a good boy! (And rich, no less!)

Jesus’ response began at “first things, first,” as getting to the real heart of a matter was His pattern (and, in fact, still is). “Why do you call me good?” He asked, adding, “No one is good except God alone.” The moment was fleeting—it came and went in the course of a mere breath—but the eternal truth spoken in one divine exhale echoes throughout time, for Jesus pointed all humankind to true goodness, a goodness so great that our own, by comparison, is like a candle flame that flickers briefly and brightly to our eyes, yet casts a slight shadow in the presence of a more brilliant and eternal glow.

We appreciate goodness when we see it lived out around us in acts of compassion, dependability, generosity, and all of its many forms. They shine as calm in a chaotic world, as hope in an unfair world, as care in a selfish world. Yet the highest accolade we can offer to those who often do good in action is that their actions point to the God who always is good by nature. Hasn’t He shown himself to be the Good Shepherd, not leaving us to our wanderings, but rather pursuing us in them? When we still insist on our wandering, don’t we find Him to be the one who watches over us, even as we bear the consequences of our rebellion against Him? Isn’t He the one who calls us to raise our sites above the worldly fray that pits neighbor against neighbor and to look to Him who would unite us all within Himself? Who else but God could place in our heart a compassion for those we once held in unforgiveness, so that we offer in humility the same grace that gently but surely humbled us? And who else speaks a word so powerfully that it heals our soul with a balm that our minds could never concoct?

We appreciate, admire, and applaud the goodness that springs forth from humanity, for it genuinely warms us, but the goodness of God wells up inside us and spills over into praise and worship of Him who is goodness itself. Jesus is this God who has come in the flesh and returned again to the heavens. And this question He asked during His brief span on earth burns in us still today, “Why do you call me good?” So, today, prioritize some time to stop, consider, and answer this for yourself: Why do I call God good? Think of the ways you have experienced His goodness. As you do, like King David, let thanks and praise pour forth from your heart to God’s, “For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:5).

Click here to read today’s Scripture, Psalm 100.
Click here to read the story of Jesus and the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30.