Twisted Branches

The Real Deal

Deuteronomy 32:4

A phony! A fake! These words chafe us, and so they should. We want the real deal—we want authenticity. Israel’s Golden Age was ruled by an authentic man of God—King David. What made David the real deal? David stood firmly on truth; his life radiated authenticity. His faith was built on the solid foundation of truth and his authentic faith flowed from that live spring. His authentic faith showed up in his worship and his reverence for scripture. These translated into attitudes and actions that moved his faith from theory into real life. His faith motivated everything from his military strategies to his governance to his work ethic and how he dealt with people.

None of us want to be known as a phony. Our lives can be just as authentic as David’s as we stand firmly on truth. Our worship must flow from authentic relationship with God. Though we cannot all become shepherds to seek solitude with God, we can give Him a portion of each day. We can seek intimacy with God through continued conversation all day—every day through prayer.

Something to Ponder
Are you the real deal? Would others call you a true worshipper? Does your faith impact your attitudes and actions? How is that showing up day to day?

Which Way Is Up?

Isaiah 33:6; Psalm 11:3

Up is now down! Down is now up! Right is now wrong and wrong is now right! That seems to be the prevailing wisdom of our culture. We know truth is our only firm foundation yet our souls cry out with the psalmist, “When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The culture in ancient Israel was no different. In the span of one generation, Israel’s Golden Age descended into chaos. Their national hero, King David was dead. The strength and stability that marked David’s reign evaporated. What was true—discarded; what was vile—celebrated! Sound familiar?!

When society is being turned upside down we too can reel in confusion. We can lose our footing, wash downstream into despair or cynicism–unless we stand on truth. Anger and anxiety easily run amok crashing our faith– unless we stand on truth. We don’t deny our emotions, we simply recognize them as unreliable guides for determining truth. Though unpopular, the truth is our only firm foundation. By securing our faith to the firm foundation of truth we can stand like a tower of strength in a world of swirling confusion.

Something to Ponder
Is your faith marked by stability?  Are you standing on truth? Are you allowing anxiety or cynicism to wreck your faith? Honest conversation with God is the way back to solid ground.

When Darkness Falls

Psalm 46:1-3, 10-11; Jeremiah 39

When the worst thing you can imagine has just happened to you, is God still in control? Is He still trustworthy? What can we do when the heavy darkness falls?

We choose God! That sounds like a “Pollyanna” answer, but far from it. It is the most difficult undertaking of a lifetime. Here’s how it plays out:

-We choose the truth of scripture not the quicksand of emotions. (Proverbs 3:5-6)

-We choose hope rather than despair by placing our focus on Him not the circumstances. (Psalm 27, Psalm 91)

-We choose on-going conversation with God not the stony silence of anger or anxiety. (Psalm 55:16-17)

When the painful questions spew from our bleeding souls, He neither chastises nor condemns. His answers may not be to our liking, but He patiently listens and responds. We will find Him faithful when we weep in the pouring rain just as when we dance in the sunshine. He is still on His throne. His lovingkindness is still extended. He is still working out His divine purpose—even in your most awful moments.

Something to Ponder
Has heavy darkness fallen over your soul or your life? What are your emotions screaming? What does God’s word say? What choice will you make? Will you trust in God or succumb to the quicksand of emotion? Will you stonewall in silence or begin the conversation with God-even if it’s messy?

From Charred Ruins to Streets With Dwellings

Isaiah 58:12; Lamentations 3:22-26

Jerusalem had burned, the Jews returned after seventy years of captivity. What remained of Jerusalem lay in charred ruins—a painful reminder of the task ahead. Those who returned with Zerubbabel and Ezra understood their exile as a consequence for disobeying God; they were anxious to start afresh, yet how?

First, they had to face the facts. What would be required? Dancing around the truth does no one any favors. They must also agree with God on how to make things right.  They must agree to the point that they stop doing the wrong thing and start doing the right thing. They must return to the truth, as walking away from truth will never end well. The only ones who’ve strayed beyond His reach are those who refuse to repent.

When we have come full circle and are back on track with God and others, restoration begins. By continued obedience and movement towards God, we will find ourselves in a new fresh place. We will be sweeter, more real people—unimpressed with ourselves and amazed by His grace.

Something to Ponder
Where are the “ruins” in your life in need of restoration? How bad is it? What does God say on the matter? Beginning again is as simple as turning around.

Stunning Grace

Lamentations 3:31-33; Isaiah 1:18, Jeremiah 52: 31-34

Where were you 37 years ago? Are the memories warm or dark and twisted? They were dark for Jehoiachin, one of the last kings of Judah. Jehoiachin and his family were dragged off to Babylon as captives. He was flung into a dungeon—where he remained for 37 years. One day, without warning, Jehoiachin’s dungeon creaked open; this emaciated, defeated king was drawn up into sunlight. How stunning that Evil-Merodach took away his prison rags, provided him with wholesome food, clean clothes—and dignity! What unexpected favor! What grace!

Just as God delivered Jehoiachin after hope dissipated, so He showed up for Israel after 400 years of silence. Israel’s faith descended into oppressive religion, the brutal boot of Rome was firmly on their neck, yet in the mud and sweat of Judean village life, He sent the long awaited Messiah! Their Deliverer had come! Emmanuel—God with us! His perfect life satisfied the demands of a holy God as His cross bridged the gap between imperfect humanity and Holy God. The curse was broken as the ransom was paid in holy blood! His resurrection triumphed over the curse of death making an open spectacle of the powers of darkness. He then ascended back to Heaven—the triumphant Warrior taking His rightful place at God’s right hand.

Something to Ponder
Where are you in this story of grace? Are you languishing in a dungeon of your own making? His grace is still held out in His nail-scarred Hands.