It's Friday, But Sunday's Comin'

On Good Friday my five-year-old granddaughter Lauren and I created an Easter centerpiece for our table. As I hot glued sticks together to make crosses, she asked, “Gigi, why are you making three crosses? Jesus only needed one.” 

“On the day Jesus died,” I said, “two thieves were also crucified, one on Jesus' right, and one on his left. One man was prideful. He yelled at Jesus and made fun of him. ‘If you’re the Son of God like you say, why don’t you come down off this cross?’ 

“The other man was humble, and sorry for what he’d done. He believed Jesus was God’s Son, and he asked him to forgive him for his sin. He told the other man, ‘We’re being punished for our crimes, but this man has done nothing wrong. Jesus, will you remember me when you get to heaven?” 

“'Today,’ Jesus said, ‘you will be with me in paradise.’” 

Lauren's 3 Crosses, complete with a unicorn announcement
declaring, "He Is Risen! :)
Finishing the story, I pushed three crosses into the soil. “Whenever we see three crosses, we need to ask ourselves, ‘Am I the prideful man who made fun of Jesus? Or am I the humble man who asked Jesus to forgive him and take him to heaven one day?'” 

I love how working on this craft with my granddaughter gave us a natural opportunity to talk about Jesus’ death and how, one day, God will call us each into account with one piercing question, 

“What did you do with my Son?” 

We tucked moss around the crosses and placed a stone beside the opening to the empty tomb. 

“You know why I love this craft?” I asked Lauren. She shook her head. 

“Because we can see what it looked like on earth—the very sad day when Jesus died on the cross. But we can also see what was getting ready to happen—on the very happy day when Jesus rose from the dead. I think this is what they saw in heaven. 

And now, because we know history, this is what we see, too.” 

It’s Friday, but Sunday's comin'.

If you're reading by email, CLICK HERE to watch "It's Friday, but Sunday's a Comin'."

Happy Easter!

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Are We Guilty of Presumptuous Sins?

When you hear the word presumptuous, what comes to mind?

I think about the acquaintance who felt compelled to share her low opinion of homeschooling—in front of my homeschooled children. Or the house sitter who decided to reorganize my kitchen—without my permission. Presumptuous brings to mind rude house guests, meddling coworkers, and opinionated “experts.” 

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines presumptuous as “someone who shows little respect for others by doing things they have no right to do.” Psalm 19:13 uses the word presumptuous in an intriguing way: 

 “Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins;” David prayed. “Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression.” 

Presumptuous sins. 

David knew them well. Perhaps this is why he prayed so earnestly to be shielded from them. Fresh in his mind may have been the horrifying incident that occurred when he decided (without seeking the Lord) to transport the ark of God to Jerusalem. 

Although God had given the Israelites clear and detailed instruction about how to handle this symbol of God’s presence, David didn’t consult the Scriptures for guidance. Nor did he pray to God. He just thought up a plan, decided it was good, and barreled forward. The resulting calamity ended with one man dead and the rest of them scared to death. You can read more of this story in 1 Samuel 6. 

When the funeral was over and the last casserole dish washed and sent home, David pondered his hasty actions. He realized how presumptuous he had been to plan to do something for God without even talking with God. 

What if God had a different plan? (He did.) 

What if God wanted to use different people in his plan? (He did.) 

What if David was to have a lesser role, and God a greater one? (He was.) 

We get into trouble every time we assume God needs our help. 

It’s important to note that David's motives were good. He wanted to honor God by moving the ark to a place of respect. His plans went astray, however, when he didn’t include the Lord in them. If he had, the outcome might have been much different. This is an example of the sin of presumption.

 I’m often guilty of the same sin that plagued David. I hatch a plan, declare it brilliant, and set it in motion. Only later, when it fails (or succeeds at accomplishing something very different than what I’d intended) do I seek the Lord and realize my sin. I wonder how many disasters I’d avoid if I prayed with David, “Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins”? 

I remember a time when a friend of mine was struggling mightily. I knew I could make it better if I could go to her. To be there to hug and cry and pray. To speak truth and remind her God had a plan for her life. To convince her, by the power of my will and the strength of my personality, that she could trust him. 

I desired good things, but I presumptuously assumed I was the only person who could make them happen. In God’s good providence, circumstances, distance, and money kept me from coming to her rescue. My inability to minister in person forced me to do what I should have been doing all along—asking God to meet her needs and quiet her heart. 

“Lord, I can’t be there, but you can,” I prayed. “Speak to her heart. Comfort her. Show her in some tangible way that you love her, you’ll provide for her, and you have a good plan for her life. Protect her, Lord. Show yourself real to her today.” 

Only later did I learn how God answered my prayer. In his mercy, he sent a sensitive soul across her path and gave the woman holy boldness to reach out to her. “She came out of nowhere,” my friend said. “She was kind and caring. I think God sent her to remind me that he's aware of my struggles, and he cares.” 

Every time I think of this story, I remember that God doesn’t need me. That’s not to say he doesn’t want to use me—but in his time and in his way. God didn’t need David to organize the ark’s relocation to Jerusalem, but he used him—after he sought God’s face, searched God’s Word, and submitted his plans to the much-wiser, all-knowing God. 

Every day we face choices. Do I act or do I pray? If God wants me to act, what should I do, and how should I do it? If I am to pray, what specifically should I pray for? Most times, God will call us to act and to pray. Only by seeking God’s will in prayer, in the Scriptures, and through wise counsel will we be able to determine what our part in God’s work is. 

I’m learning to apply this three-step method of seeking God’s direction. I hope it will keep me from presumptuous sins. Like David, I have no desire to be known as “someone who shows little respect for others (or God) by doing things they have no right to do.” 

 How about you? In what area do you struggle most with surrendering to God and seeking his way instead of your own? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts. If you’re reading by email, click HERE to visit Hungry for God online and leave a comment. 

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Sucker Punched on Palm Sunday

I never expected to be sucker punched on Palm Sunday. 

There I was, minding my own business, reading three simple verses in the book of Matthew. Palm Sunday verses. 

“Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me. 

"'And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say, "The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them’” (Matthew 21:1-3). 

In commentary notes, I discovered that owning a colt in Bible days was today’s equivalent of owning a car or maybe a work truck. A colt (a young horse or donkey) was probably the most valuable thing a person could own. It was their transportation, their beast of burden, and their means of earning a living. Many families were so poor they couldn’t afford to buy or support an animal. 

When Jesus asked to use someone’s colt, he was asking to use something very valuable. Yet we see in this passage, because “the Lord ha(d) need of them,” the unnamed owner agreed without question. If Jesus needed them, that was reason enough to say yes immediately and generously. 

I’ve probably read this passage a hundred times, but I’ve never truly understood the implications of the third verse. Until today, when it sucker punched me in my spiritual gut. 

As the echoes of Jesus’ instructions to his disciples resounded in my spirit, I heard Jesus whisper a heart-stopping question: If I asked to use something of yours, how willing would you be to say yes? Immediately? No questions asked? 

If I asked for your car. Or your house. Or some money—a lot of money—would you let me use it? 

What if I asked for a chunk of your time? Or asked you to inconvenience yourself to serve someone else, would you do it? Cheerfully? Right away? 

Most of the time, I’m willing to serve the Lord when it suits me. If it’s convenient, relatively easy, and not-too-sacrificial. But what about when it costs me something? 

Like a significant amount of time, money, or effort? When those I serve aren’t appreciative or easy to love? When I have to yield my rights and privileges and honor someone else’s instead? 

All of a sudden, the warm gooey feelings evaporate, and serving God isn’t so fun anymore. One man said we all want to serve God—until someone treats us like a servant. 

I suspect it cost the owner of the donkey something to loan it to Jesus that Sunday. Maybe he missed a day’s work because he couldn’t use his beast of burden. Or had to walk everywhere instead of ride. Maybe he had to plow his field by hand because he didn’t have an animal to hook his plow to. 

Despite the cost, he responded yes immediately, “because the Lord had need of it.” 

This man knew all he had belonged to God. “What do you have that you did not receive?” Paul reminds us in First Corinthians 4:7. If it wasn’t for the gracious and generous hand of God, we’d have nothing. 

Instead, he blesses us with time, resources, and abilities—not for our own use only, but to bless others and advance God’s kingdom. 

Think for just a moment what it would be like to watch Jesus’ triumphant entrance into Jerusalem and know it was your donkey that carried him. 

What a privilege. What an honor. What a joy. 

This week, as we follow Jesus’ footsteps on the way to the cross, I encourage you to ask God, “What do I have that you can use? What are you asking me to release to you so you can use it in your kingdom?” 

If he reveals something to you, say yes immediately. Surrender it to him joyfully and generously. Then watch and see how he uses it. Even if you don’t see results right away, you can trust God will use your sacrifices to accomplish his will and his work in the world. 

“Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.” 

If you'd like to watch the video post that led me to this passage, click HERE. Thanks, Jean Wilund, for setting me up for the punch :)

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Bombs or Balms? How to Use our Words for Restoration, not Retribution

Some days it’s hard to believe I craft words for a living. During moments of weakness, carelessness, or selfishness, I stick my wordsmith foot into my undisciplined mouth and produce sentences that wound those around me. I might share an unfiltered observation, an unwanted piece of advice, or an unkind criticism. Sometimes I speak in anger or self-defense, intentionally hurting those who have hurt me. 

How I manage to spit out such words around my size 9 foot, I’ll never know, but I do. And I always regret it. Sometimes as soon as the words leave my mouth. Other times not until later, when the debris field clears, and I can see what’s left in the aftermath of my word bomb. 

“Life and death are in the power of the tongue,” Proverbs 18:21 says. More than anything, I want my words—every single one of them—to bring life to those who hear them. 

If you share this desire, we can learn from a woman in the Bible named Abigail. 

Abigail's life wasnt' easy. Married to a surly, foul-mouthed, selfish man named Nabal (which, in God’s divine sense of humor, means “fool”). I don’t know what size sandal Nabal wore, but I suspect it was a size 14EEE, because one day he stuck his big foot in his big mouth in a really big way. 

David and his band of warriors had generously guarded Nabal’s flocks and herds, providing protection from animal and human predators. When the time came to reward David with bounty from the harvest, however, Nabal developed amnesia. He denied David’s request for food, heaped insults on him, and sent his men away in disgrace. 

Enter Abigail. 

When she heard about the exchange between Nabal and David’s men, she knew no self-respecting warrior would endure such treatment. Her household was in danger. She must act quickly. 

First she gathered food—lots of it—and sent it on ahead. 

Then she prepared herself. She leaped onto her donkey and tore out to meet David, thinking, thinking, thinking while she rode. I suspect Abigail had become a master communicator while living with cantankerous Nabal all those years. She’d learned how to deflect his anger during his drunken rages and present her requests with humility and respect, honoring him as her husband despite his behavior. 

All the lessons she’d learned about successful communication swirled in her head as she prepared to meet the man who had pledged to destroy the household of Nabal. 

“So it was, as she rode on the donkey, that she went down under cover of the hill; and there were David and his men, coming down toward her, and she met them.” 

Dismounting from her donkey and prostrating herself before David, she began her eloquent plea. “Please let your maidservant speak in your ears, and hear the words of your maidservant.” 

She acknowledged Nabal’s offense toward David. She accepted partial responsibility for failing to meet the needs of his men. She asked his forgiveness, challenging him to overlook Nabal’s sin. 

Then she spoke God’s blessing over him. In this blessing we see evidence of Abigail’s skill as a godly communicator. 

“… the lives of your enemies He shall sling out, as from the pocket of a sling” (v. 29). 

I don’t know if Abigail had heard of David’s history as a shepherd, or if the Lord put the words in her mouth, but like the stone that felled Goliath, they struck the mark. By referring to a sling similar to the one David had used so long ago in his battle against the Philistine enemy, she pierced David’s heart. 

When she reminded him of his victory against his past enemy, she reinforced God’s promise – that he would one day triumph over all who opposed him and take his place as the next king of Israel. He needn’t smear his integrity with petty skirmishes against foolish men. God had greater things planned for him. 

By choosing her words carefully, Abigail deflected David’s anger, earned his respect, and saved Nabal’s household. And although she didn’t know it at the time, she also secured her own future. (You can read about the interesting and romantic turn of events only God could orchestrate in 1 Samuel 25.) 

Oh, that we would become like Abigail. 

With God’s help, we can. We can prayerfully seek God’s wisdom, search for just the right words to best communicate our message to that particular individual, and speak humbly, keeping in mind the goal of restoration, not retribution. 

Instead of opening our mouths and blurting out the first thing that comes to mind, we can intentionally choose our words and responses to bring life and healing to those we are speaking. By doing so, we not only honor the one to whom we’re speaking, we honor the Lord. 

If you sometimes struggle with your words, invite God to set a watch over your lips. Pray, search, and speak words of life, not death into the ears of those around you. Like Abigail, use your words for restoration, not retribution. 

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Never Underestimate the Power of Encouragement

Your friend is in trouble. Big trouble. I’m not talking thrown-in-jail kind of trouble, although that certainly could be the case. I’m talking about life circumstance trouble. Maybe she’s struggling through cancer treatment, trying to stay strong in a fractured marriage, or battling depression. Or perhaps she’s unemployed, hopeless, or desperate. 

Even from a distance her situation seems too broken to fix. You don’t have a clue how to ease her pain. You’re powerless to change anything, and you fear that if you try to say or do something, you might trivialize her struggle. The last thing you want to do is add sorrow upon sorrow. Because you don’t know what to do, you don't do anything. 

Which is probably the worst thing any of us can do. 

The book of First Samuel describes the biblical equivalent of one of the scenarios above. Chapter 23 opens with David running from the maniacal King Saul. Although David has conducted himself toward Saul with loyalty, courage, and integrity, Saul has treated David as an enemy. Time after time Saul mustered his army and marched out to destroy David and his followers. Although David had multiple opportunities to kill Saul, he chose not to, recognizing that Saul was God’s anointed king over Israel as long as the Lord allowed.

But David was growing weary. 

Always on the run. Separated from his family. Responsible for the men who followed him. Struggling to feed everyone. Exhausted from battle. Discouraged from persecution. Doubting God’s call on his life and wondering what’s next, David described himself in Psalm 63 as being “in the wilderness.”

Then Jonathan. 

Jonathan, the son of Saul, but the best friend of David. A righteous, God-fearing man, Jonathan balanced the weight of his lineage with the weight of his integrity. Although he remained loyal to his father until they died together in battle, he remained a committed friend of David until death also parted them. 

During one of the darkest times of David’s life, Jonathan went to him. In the wilderness. Defying his father. Disregarding his inability to change anything about David’s circumstances. Bringing nothing with him but his faith and his friendship, Jonathan entered into David’s pain and eased his sorrow. 

“Then Jonathan, Saul's son, arose and went to David in the woods and strengthened his hand in God” (1 Samuel 23:16). 

This is what he did: 

“And he said to him, ‘Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Even my father Saul knows that’” (v. 17). 

Jonathan reminded David of God’s promises. Years earlier Samuel had prophesied that David would one day be king over Israel. But it hadn’t happened yet. In the waiting years, when the path seemed to lead in the opposite direction, David may have found it easy to lose sight of God’s promises. This is why God sent Jonathan. 

When a friend is struggling, stooped under the weight of circumstances and isolated in the wilderness of trial, it’s easy for them to lose sight of God’s promises. We can remind them. 

When their dreams are dying, we can remind them that no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2). 

When they’re battling an illness and unsure of the outcome, we can remind them though they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they need not fear, for God is with them (Psalm 23:4). 

When they’re struggling with a broken marriage, a prodigal child, or a hopeless situation, we can remind them that nothing is too hard for God (Luke 1:37). 

Then we can pledge our loyalty and friendship, vowing to walk beside them through their trial. 

“So the two of them made a covenant before the LORD” (v. 18). 

Jonathan’s visit didn’t change David’s circumstances. Scripture tells us, “David stayed in the woods, and Jonathan went to his own house” (v. 18). But by entering into David’s pain, reminding him of God’s promises, and renewing their friendship, he “strengthened his hand in God.” 

What a gift to someone who is struggling. 

Now it’s your turn. Who in your life needs a friend like Jonathan? 

Be that friend today. 

Are you hungry for God, but starving for time? 
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