Thrive Devotionals

Mind The Gap

Isaiah 55: 8-9(ESV) For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.

If you were to find yourself in a London England subway you would see signs posted at every platform reminding passengers that there is a gap between the platform and the train, and that gap can be harmful if not carefully monitored. “Mind the Gap” is good advice in the subway and in our relationship with our Creator.

It is not a surprise to anyone that God’s ways are higher than our ways, His thoughts, higher than ours. Pretty simple, we are created, He is the Creator. Yet, being mindful of the gap can sometimes elude us as we reduce His capacity while enlarging our own.
Have you noticed how extravagant He is in answering your prayers? Do you find it exhilarating that His answers are always different than what you expected. Go ahead, make a list of all the ways He can meet that need you have been praying about, His answer won’t be on your list! He is the God of inexhaustible answers. Yet, we persist in our lists of solutions. Are you like the disciples who were astonished when Jesus took a couple fish and small loaves of bread, then fed 5000? They had a list, and it sure didn’t include a simple prayer of thanksgiving, then dividing the already meager meal among so many. Mind the gap! He is always able to out-pace your expectations and your list.

Have you noticed how He backs you up when you need Him most? Do you find it extraordinary that He truly never leaves you or forsakes you? Are you surprised by His presence and power or have you decided to do this thing on your own? Are you like Gideon, hiding so that you won’t have to take responsibility for that impossible thing? After all, you are able to say what Gideon did, “He hasn’t been around here for ages and ages, in fact, I think He may have turned His back on me.” Mind the gap! He is there right now, in your loss, surrounding your sorrow. There is a line in Psalm 139 that I think you should review. “You hem me in, behind and before. You put your mighty hand upon me. Such knowledge to too lofty, it is high, I cannot attain it.” Mind the gap, He is there with you working things out in ways that don’t match your list.
Have you noticed How extravagant is His love? Our’s is usually limited to what makes us happy and comfortable. Oh, it is true that marriage and parenthood can produce a love that is willing to go to the ends of the earth for someone in need. But have you considered the cross lately? Really considered the depth of love poured out even for those who do more than just reject that love, they war against it. Any cursory reading of the Gospels makes it clear that Jesus calls us to love as He does. Mind the gap! If He loves His enemies that intensely, we must re-examine our relationships with those who we generally choose to not love. After all, He did say, “Love those who hate you and despitefully abuse you.”

His ways are certainly not our ways, but we are called to imitate His ways. We are called to move into a world that hates the cross and all it represents. But if we Mind the Gap, then we will with confidence know that He is actively working to meet our needs, working to back us up when we need it most and, He is working to show the world His love through us. Then once they see His love demonstrated through us, then the world is ready to gaze upon the cross.

Father God, I fall so short so often, BUT, as I keep my eyes fixed on You, I seem to rise to the occasion. Father, fit in me a clear view of all You are and the extravagance of You Love, Presence and Resources. Help me Father be ready for this day. Amen. 

We have heard, now we see!

“As we have heard, so we have seen… “ Psalm 48:8a

There is a day coming soon when this statement will become reality for every person who has drawn a breath on this earth. No one gets out of this appointment of seeing the One who is the source of all life and all good. Even those who have rejected Jesus and those who shape God into the image of their own choosing, will see, with their own eyes, what they have treated as rumor or myth, or have reshaped to match what they call “my truth.” They have heard but have chosen not to see. On that day when they do see him face to face, they will realize, with crushing weight, the compensation of their choices. The choices we make here and now matter, and the choices that give or deny God permission to be God matter the most. Since he is the Sovereign Maker of all life, how is it possible for his creation to remake him who is sovereign into something that matches our desire? Tell me how it is possible to reduce God Almighty to some tin-god who does our bidding? I don’t understand it, but it is a most common thing that most people practice.
That Day of Seeing will be for all mankind, including those who have accepted Jesus and have pursued a relationship with God, acknowledging him in a way that makes him God Almighty. I believe this group of people will be just as crushed under the weight of seeing as the previous group I have described. Those who have received Jesus and pursued God will be crushed, but not with sorrow or anger, but with delight that is almost impossible to bear. But bear it they will, with even more than delight. I believe a new language, new words will be needed to describe seeing him who is the source of all life and good. Delight is too small a word for what awaits us.
I am convinced that in the here and now, God shields himself from us, not because of the sin we so easily carry, but because of the enormity of the de-light and fear we would experience in his presence. It would be our undoing!
But there will be a day when he has finished his work of preparing us for his presence. On that day we will be able to say with eyes wide opened…. As I have heard, so I have seen!

Father God, hasten the Day when my faith shall be sight…and my delight!

It’s All In The Name

Isaiah 43:1 (ESV) But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

This is a passage of scripture I turn too often because I need to soak in all the grace and mercy found here. I need to be reminded just how far God in Jesus Christ has gone to secure for me a life not earned. I turn to this passage because I know just how far removed from God I am and I know how far he would need to reach to lift me out of the horrible pit that is often my home.

How far is his reach? To what limit is he willing to go? That is best answered in this one verse. When you see the name of Jacob and Israel spoken by God in a single sentence, you had better sit-up, take note, and perhaps shout for joy! This is significant…Jacob and Israel! You do realize, I hope, that those two names belong to the same person. Jacob is Israel and Israel is Jacob. Both names, one person, over-taken by One God who forms, names and redeems.

Jacob is the cheat, the deceiver and one who would take advantage given the right circumstances. Jacob is a name that described the one to whom it was given. Jacob is “heal-grasper” giving the picture that even though he was the second born he would do anything to be first. He would grasp for and secure what was not his through deception and underhanded means. I sometimes wonder if he became what his name meant because each time his mother or father called his name he was brought face to face with the reality of how they saw him. Sadly, if you are named, cheater, deceiver, usurper you will very likely live up to your name.

Israel, on the other hand, is one who strives with God, one who will rule like God. The point here is that Israel is one whose heart seeks after and is in alignment with God. This name and its reality is more than the “other side of the coin” for Jacob, the deceiver. It represents a man remade, redeemed and now resting in the hands of his creator. Israel is a new name given, not by parents or others, but by God himself.

What makes this passage so significant is God’s personal involvement in creating and forming this man. God did not create him to be a deceiver. He was born that way because of mankind’s general divorce from God. Breaking relationship always has consequences and severing relationship with God has repercussions that causes a brokenness in all of humanity. But according to this passage that brokenness does not keep God from being involved. He knows the Deceiver.

Does that give you any measure of hope? I know that it does for me. I know all too well all my brokenness. I am able to call to memory every miss-step, every sin, every time that I have chosen my own way over God’s. I know every hurt I have caused others and all I have done to bury those memories. I know that there is good in me, but I am also aware that deep in the recesses of who I am, there is a big problem that causes damage between myself and others. If you’re like me, then there is a temptation of say to yourself and others, “I may not be perfect, but I’m better than (you fill in the name here). That statement alone should give you a dose of reality. The comparison/self-justification game is always rooted in our own denial of who we truly are apart from God. This game of comparison and self-justification is a deception practiced by humanity since the first moment Adam and Eve claimed their independence from God. You may be good at times, but…just remember all those other times when you wanted others to get something less than the grace you believe is due you. We are broken. We are deceiver, cheat, usurper. We are Jacob! Yet, God is involved, he is aware, he is active, and he has formed us for more.

That is why this passage is so important to me, it clearly demonstrates that no matter how broken I may be, God has something better in mind for me. He is so actively involved, he has called me by name, he has redeemed me and he has made me his own as I do what Jacob did…surrender to his will. When I give up my struggle and my demand to have life on my terms I am then free to join God in his plans. Plans that go so far that I find a new identity in him. All that brokenness is covered over by his grace and mercies that reshape my identity to match what he had in mind for me all along. My self-deception melts away. My self-will is set aside when I chose to agree with God and live my life in relationship with him.

The One who’s name is the Lord God, Almighty, Sovereign over all creation, visible and invisible, has declared who I am and that I am his. I am redeemed. I am his and he is mine. No wonder I find such hope and solace in this verse. I am Jacob, and I am becoming Israel because the Sovereign God is personally involved with me.

Father, keep working on me!

The Soil of Eden

Genesis 2:3 (ESV) So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation.

Every vegetable gardener knows that the better the soil the better the crop. You can have all the sunlight you need and when you add water, things will just bloom. But if you put seeds in the right soil with the right amount of sunlight and water, miraculous things happen. Vegetables draw nourishment from the sun and soil and then they in turn nourish the gardener. It’s not rocket science, it’s rather simple and straight-forward, get the soil right, then stand back to watch the miracle happen.

The same principal should be applied to our life in Christ. God has intended that we flourish in the ground in which he has planted us. Get the soil right then stand back and watch miraculous things happen.

I hope you understand that we are created to live in a relationship and partnership with God Almighty. He has birthed us by his Spirit into the family business of expanding the Kingdom and making him known throughout the planet. This partnership thing cannot be overstated. The truth that puts us in the family business of expanding the Kingdom is no small task, and it is not some punny dream to make you feel better on Sunday. We are birthed into this world for this opportunity and when we are birthed a second time into the Kingdom, it is far more than a second chance or a ticket to Heaven. We have been redeemed, bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ, and we have been birthed into a family that has one business plan; expand the Kingdom of God Almighty. We are to know him and make him known. We are to enlarge his name, and we are to enlarge to the boarders of his spiritual kingdom as we are nourished in the Soil of Eden.

So, just what is this soil of Eden? It might be good for you to take a moment and review the actual words of scripture. Take just a moment to read and review Genesis 1:26 to 2:3. God creates mankind and gives him authority to expand the Garden. The exact language usually includes dominion and fill the earth in most Bible translations. These words show us God’s original design and mandate for mankind; “Take this Garden you live in, the one in which I walk with you; expand it, enlarge it, make my Garden fill all the earth.” God’s first act with mankind was to give work-orders, to partner with him in this new family business of kingdom expansion. I’ll bet Adam was ready to get to work. The place he lived was perfect in every possible way. Perfect in beauty, perfect in serenity, perfect in relationship, perfect with abundance and perfect with the very presence of God Almighty. Who would not want to expand the boarders of that place? Then once God had given the work mandate and the partnership was formed, God planted Adam in Eden’s Soil, rest!

Yes, rest is the soil in which we find our greatest nourishment. We are created for work, this partnership with God thing, so work comes naturally to us, but rest, …real rest in Christ, that’s something that we don’t so easily grasp. I hope that you are as arrested by this Bible passage and imagery as I am. God creates, and he declares it good. He bends on his knee to personally get involved, no spoken words that have brought forth galaxies, plants, fishes, birds, or animals. This time he bends over, scoops up some dust and forms it, getting his hands dirty. Then he breathes in the man, followed by the work-order of expanding what was good and perfect. He gives the order to have dominion and expand because that breath of life carried some of himself into our lungs. He works, so we work. But then he shows Adam the most nursing soil in Eden, rest. The work-order was immediately followed by the command to step back from work for the single purpose of connecting with his Creator in relationship.

The same is true for us. Have you noticed that that whole creation narrative is filled with rest from the first day until the last; “it was evening and morning, the first day…” It was evening and morning, the second, and third and fourth, and so on, until the full day for rest, renewal, and relationship, was made. Evenings are synonymous with rest and mornings are the time we tend to get back to work. So throughout Eden there was a rhythm, a cycle for rest, followed by work, then rest. The entire cycle is sanctified in the soil of Eden, a full day that is dedicated to rest, renewal, and relationship. We are made for work, expansion, creativity, but the Lord God Almighty knows our need and so built into all that we are made to do, a pause. This pause, called rest, is not about unplugging to simply check-out from everything. Rest has relationship at its core. Have you not read that God, the Creator, walked and talked with Adam in the cool of the day. I wonder what they talked about. I can’t help but wonder if Adam craved that part of the day. I wonder how restful and renewing that hour was for Adam.

Slow down here, because there is a more spectacular truth at work here, this rest, this renewal, and relationship hour was God’s idea. It was in his heart before Adam took a single breath. And he has the same thing in mind for you and me. Rest in and with Christ is the soil that nourishes us. Again, I will say that rest is not a checking-out, but a checking-in. Anyone can push the pause button on work, but to intentionally pause for reconnection with the One in whom we find our true purpose, is true rest found by a precious few. The question you must answer is; will you be one of the precious few who commune with God in Jesus Christ? Will you be one who chooses rest with purpose? Will you be nourished by the soil of Eden, rest in Christ and with Christ?

First Things First

John 20:17 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

Occasionally I come across a passage of scripture that causes me to sit back in my chair, scratch my head, and wonder; what in the world is going on here? Why is this included in the text? Did he really say that?
This passage has always left me unsettled, wanting more in the way of explanation. It just seems so odd, so inconstant with who I understand Jesus to be. Don’t cling to me because…I haven’t ascended?

What an odd thing to say to one who has supported you, followed you, even provided for you. I think this passage has been so difficult for me because I have always looked at it from earth’s perspective. We do that you know. Without realizing what we are doing, we impose our own assumptions, our perspective, our own hopes and preferences on scripture so that we get the passage to say what we want, what makes the most sense to our finite minds. Most of the time we need to step back and breathe a prayer asking for Holy Spirit-inspired clarity. We need to hear the Lord himself speak so that the confusing passages have a Heaven to Earth perspective rather than the other way around.

From earth’s perspective, this passage feels like Jesus is saying; “Don’t touch me because you might get something on me that would keep me from ascending.” Or. “Don’t touch me, I’m still being glorified and if you touch me, you might get singed.” Or some silly thing like that.

But, from heaven’s perspective, it would feel much different. You see, I know that when I see him in person I will run to him and I will cling to him! There is no doubt about this, I am, after all, the Bride of Christ, and brides cling to their groom because we are made for intimacy. Running to Jesus and clinging to him is a natural response for every believer because when we see him for who he is, we will see clearly who we were before he redeemed us.

So, I’ve come to understand that Jesus was simply saying to Mary, “Don’t get things out of order Mary. Oh, we will cling to each other, but not yet. First things first, now is the time to speak to others about me. Then, once I have ascended and we meet next…the clinging is so on! For now, my lovely bride, prepare for the honeymoon. Go and tell my brethren what you have experienced.
So she did.

And so will I.

Father God, Help me keep my priorities straight in Jesus. May my eyes be fixed on him, the author and finisher of my faith. Keep me centered in your grace and the mercies that are new for me today, while I love others with the same grace and mercy you have lavished on me. Prepare me for the Day when I see Jesus face to face. Cause me to hunger and thirst for that Day while helping me keep First things First while I remain here. Amen.

A Life Not Earned

Titus 3:3-7 (ESV)
For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and
pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he
saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs
according to the hope of eternal life.

“Once foolish, disobedient, led astray and a slave to various passions and pleasures…”-that, my friend, is an accurate description of not only me but every person I have ever met. These are not kind words, or easy words to receive, yet they are accurate words. There is something misshaped, contorted at our core. The longer you live, the more accurate your perspective of the human condition, and the more you are willing to honestly assess your own life. I, for one, know that these words are true. I accept them, even in our culture that would have me believe that everyone is, in their nature, basically good. The assumption is that, at the base of the human spirit, there is a foundation that is good, but culture, religion, and personal choice have distorted that goodness into something less than good. But scripture shouts another truth! We are foolish, denying God is God. We are disobedient, demanding our own way. And we are led astray, slaves, to various passions and pleasures. It’s enough to make you want to throw up your hands in frustration, wondering if there really is any hope for any of us. Thankfully, that is
not the end of the story. We may have a contorted core, but Someone has intervened. This intervention seems to me to be the most startling and hard to accept part of the Gospel for most people, even some Christians, who work so hard to earn their place in grace. We are created with a drive in us to do, to work, to accomplish, so it is easy for us to lean toward working out our salvation and to own the comfort we find in our life. God is good, but look at what I have contributed! The real truth found here is that while we may have great intentions, and while we may contribute to the working out of our salvation, mercy and grace have gone beyond our need to drop us squarely in a life we have not earned. Every sunrise, every sunset, and every breath and heart-beat are given, not earned. Every morsel of sustenance, every shelter in a storm, and every friend in a time of trouble are gifts given. Every thought that draws us into prayer, and every word spoken to you, and by you, that are meant for good, are given, not earned. Every time you bow in submission, feeling the nearness of Him who is the Source, this is a gift, unearned.

I have a life I did not earn; it was given by the One who is Unchanging, Inexhaustible, and Holy. In fact, all the words needed to describe Him and how He works could not possibly fit in all the books ever written. It is He who has decreed by His own word that all that crud at the core
of my contorted heart no longer owns me. I am His and He is mine! Tell me, please tell me, how I have earned that! I have a life I have not earned. You have a life that you have not earned. Hallelujah! God be praised for His far-reaching gifts! Bless Him, it begins here and now, but
follows me throughout eternity. I ask, once again, how have I earned that? I haven’t.

Mine is a Life Unearned.

Father God, as I interact with others, and as I do the work you have gifted me to do, cause me to remember that all that I am and all that I have is an unearned gift.
Help me treat others and their gifts as “from You.” Never, never, let me lose sight of the fact that my life is unearned, and so too is theirs. Help me treat everyone and everything that comes into my life as an unearned, sacred gift from You.


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