As yourself

I’m autistic. That word means a lot of things to a lot of people. To many in Western culture, Dustin Hoffman in Rainman comes to mind. A savant. Perhaps others may think of one who lacks speech, fine motor skills, and the ability to care for oneself. Autism is a spectrum for a reason. It’s kind of a catch-all for many neuro-diversities that don’t fall into any other specific category.

What does this have to do with the Bible and, more specifically, the Gospel of John? More than you may think.

If you know me or have been keeping up with my intermittent posts, you may understand that my journey over the last several years has focused largely on identity. Who is Jesus? Who is God? Who am I in relation to Him? How do I fit? What does this all mean to me?

I thought I’d been doing a pretty good job of figuring things out, but recently some new revelations have dropped some major pieces into place. Pieces I didn’t even know existed.

Let’s backtrack. My autism diagnosis isn’t an “official” one coming from a psychologist, it came through my counsellor who has a focus in dealing with those on the autism spectrum. To many, that means it’s not valid. It’s not a “thing” because I’m high functioning and able to live on my own. But saying I’m not autistic is like telling someone with an invisible disease that it’s not a “thing” because you may not be able to see the outward effects of it. I don’t need someone to validate what I know about myself.

I recently discovered and listened to a book on neuro-diversity in women (Divergent Mind: Thriving in a World That Wasn’t Designed for You by Jenara Nerenberg—read it). I cried. And I almost never cry. Ask my family. Of a list of 77 challenges women with autism deal with, I checked every single one. Some I was well aware of. Others I didn’t even realise other people struggled with. And I love that the author refrains from calling diversities “disorders”. Whether talking about autism, ADHD, highly sensitive people, synesthesia, or a plethora of other divergencies, she called them just that, divergencies from the societal norm. Challenges in some cases. Even gifts. Gifts!

As I was trying to explain to my small group some of what I’ve been learning, my leader looked at me (as much as one can over a Zoom call) and said, “You’re learning to love yourself.”

Holy cow.

In my study through John and the life of Jesus, love has always been a major focus. It has to be. God loves us so much, He came down to earth in the form of Jesus to sacrifice Himself so that we could rejoin the communion of the Godhead. Jesus showed infinite love for those He came in contact with. He preached love. He told us to love.

So I give you now a new commandment: Love each other just as much as I have loved you.

John 13:34 (TPT)

But there’s more.

And there is something more important to God than all the sacrifices and burnt offerings: it’s the commandment to constantly love God with every passion of your heart, with your every thought, and with all your strength—and to love your neighbor in the same way as you love yourself.

Mark 12:33 (TPT)

Look at that last part. Read it again. And again.

We talk about loving people all the time. We talk about God’s love for us all the time. But how often do you hear preachers and teachers talking about loving yourself? Really. Think about it.

I’m not really known as a compassionate person. I’m an introvert. I don’t enjoy being in large groups of people. It’s not that I don’t care about people, I just have difficulty expressing it. So a part of my journey has been asking God to show me how to love others. And thanks to my small group leader, I got my answer in a very unexpected way.

Growing up, I don’t know how many times I thought—and even asked out loud—what’s wrong with me? Friendships were difficult. School was torture. I didn’t know I was hyper-sensitive and my reactions to over-stimulation often came out in anger and aggression toward my family. I didn’t understand what was going on inside my head and often had little or no control over the outward reaction.

Knowing what I know now changes how I view my adolescence and I hope those who were around me then can see it, too. It doesn’t excuse everything, but I sure shines a light on it.

Now, as I study neuro-diversity in conjunction with the Bible, a new world has opened up for me. I’m not broken. I’m not less-than. There is nothing wrong with me. What psychology has labelled a “disorder” also offers gifts to those on the spectrum. I see patterns that others don’t. I can hold on to information that most would instantly forget. I can learn pretty much anything if I have a mind to do it—and be good at it. I can stand back from a situation and observe and see things that those in it will never be able to recognise.

It turns out I’m not the only divergent in the family. My mom is a synesthete—multiple senses work in tandem, like when she hears a word, her visual cortex is also at work presenting her with a clear picture of that word (did you know that Thursday is dark green?). Emotional and physical empathy are also present. Most people think it’s weird because most synesthetes keep quiet about what they see, feel, and understand. But I think it’s pretty awesome. It’s not weird. It’s not a disfunction. It’s a gift. Neuro-typicals will never know what it’s like to hear a number and see it, smell it, feel it, all at the same time.

So back to the question of what all of this has to do with the Bible. God. Jesus.

Jesus commanded us to not only love one another as He loved us, but to love one another as we love ourselves. For me, that means accepting the fact that I’m not like everyone else. My brain really does work differently. That’s not a bad thing. Not at all! The more I learn about my own condition and others, the more I can see the miracle in it. I’m truly learning not only to understand and recognise things about myself, I’m learning to love myself in a way I was never able to before.

When I asked God to help me love others, He’s instead teaching me how to love myself. The more I accept and celebrate who He has made me to be, the more compassion I find I have for others. I’m not less. I’m not more. I’m just different. And I’m learning to not just be okay with it. I’m learning to love it.

It is Finished

How many people like me have read through the account of Jesus’ final days and hours thinking that the pinnacle of it all was the empty tomb, the resurrection?

To my surprise, it wasn’t.

Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

john 19:30 (NASB)

The climax of the salvation story sits at the moment where Jesus uses His last breath to utter one last phrase. It is finished. Noah Webster said the word finished meant that something was polished to the highest degree of excellence. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance gives several definitions that at face value seem to be at odds with one another:

Kalah (Hb. 3615): to be complete, at an end, finished, accomplished, or spent

Kaleh (Hb 3616): a failing

Kalah (Hb 3617): completion, complete destruction, consumption, annihilation

Kallah (Hb 3618): daughter-in-law, bride

Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance

To see each of these definitions together might cause some confusion until we start to put them in the context of the entire story of our redemption.

In a cursory reading, we can see the first definition (3615) without issue. Jesus said, “It is finished,” so it’s done. Whatever it is that He was hoping to accomplish was accomplished.

We can get stuck on that second one (3616). How does failing come into play while Jesus is on the cross? If you believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that He came to earth to make a way for humanity to return to a communion with the Father then of course we don’t want to consider the possibility of failure. But I don’t believe it was Jesus’ failure this term would allude to.

If the pinnacle of redemption took place as Jesus exhaled that last breath, then Satan had already failed. Though Jesus’ body would lay dead, there was nothing the devil could do after that moment that could turn the tide in his favour again. Ever. He failed. Wholly and utterly.

This leads us to our next term (3617) of annihilation. When it comes to the devil, darkness, sin, this is a great word to have in your repertoire.

ANNIHILATION: The act of reducing to nothing or non-existence; or the act of destroying the form or combination of parts under which a thing exists, so that the name can no longer be applied to it, as the annihilation of a corporation.

Noah Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

This is a good word. And it’s a good word to think about in reference to Jesus being finished. Satan has no power. Death and fear are only shadows. As Jon Foreman once wrote, the shadow proves the sunshine. Light exists. It’s a substance. It has cause and effect. Darkness is nothing. It can do nothing.

The last term (3618) might be the most important.

When he had sipped the sour wine, he said, “It is finished, my bride!” Then he bowed his head and surrendered his spirit to God.

John 19:30 (TPT)

The Passion Translation actually includes the bridal term in the scripture and it adds a completion to Jesus’ phrase that other translations miss out on. Jesus’ work was finished on the cross (not the resurrection). Satan failed. Sin and darkness and death were annihilated. All of this was so that the bride, the Church, could find a way back into communion with the Father.

Jesus’ death wasn’t as a runner breaking through the tape at the end of a marathon. His completion was once and for all. Nothing more was or is necessary. He doesn’t need to run another race.

The next time fear or darkness try to overtake you, remember Jesus’ words. It. Is. Finished. The fight isn’t ours. It was His. And He won. It’s not a continued battle. It’s over. Done. Complete.

It is finished.

Why I Left Church

You probably don’t know me. If you do, there’s a good chance you don’t know my whole story. I’m not shy about it, but neither have I been terribly public about it. But the truth is, my “story” is a part of who and what I am today and has been a major contributing factor to my current journey.

My journey is my own. I know of many people who are walking a similar path and many who will never set foot anywhere near it. I’m not saying that my way is the right way and your way is the wrong way. I simply want to give context so that maybe you will have a better understanding of where I’m coming from.

As of the writing of this post, it’s been a year and a half since I formally requested a release from the church I had been a part of for over seven years. In those seven years, there wasn’t an area of ministry I had not been involved in in some way or another. From janitorial and building improvement, to kid’s and youth ministry, men’s and women’s ministry, small groups, corporate prayer, graphics and media, worship, and even preaching, I had done it all. I did it for years without question. That was how I’d been raised. But then something changed.

I started to read my Bible—not so different from what all of us who profess to be Christians should be doing, but I wasn’t just reading it and putting it away, I was reading it looking for something to take with me as I went about my day.

The change started slowly. It was (and still is) exciting. I was seeing the Bible in a different way and making connections I’d never seen or heard of before. And while I was making connections on one hand, I was seeing a disconnect on the other hand. The Church of the Bible didn’t look much like the church I was so busy “doing.” I’d read about what Jesus was doing and how He was teaching His disciples, but failed to see how that had been translated in to what I was doing for the church.

Let me be clear, I am in no way knocking the local church. I believe there is a place for it, but I also believe that we all need to take a close look at our part in it and why we do what we do. Most of what I was doing for the church had little or no biblical foundation. Before you get all riled up, I strongly encourage you to look into this for yourself. Forget everything you think you know about what church should look like and go to the Gospels to see exactly what Jesus said He would build. If you’d never been exposed to church in your life and read the first five books of the New Testament and then walked into a church building, would it meet your expectations? Be honest.

The first week after leaving church was strange. I’d never intentionally skipped out on a Sunday service a day in my life. The next week was even more strange, as was the next. I eventually settled in to a new routine and actually found myself able to relax on weekends instead of spending Saturday preparing for Sunday and spending Sunday doing everything I’d prepared for on Saturday. There was no rest for me on the “day of rest.” Without “doing” church, I found rest. I felt like I could breathe again, never having realised I’d stopped doing that somewhere along the way.


Why do I put “doing” in quotes? I think there is a massive difference in going through the motions of church (activity in a local organised body)—the doing—and being the Church (the global body of Christ).


Before COVID hit, I’d attend a local denominational congregation every once in a while. After spending 20 years as a worship leader, I missed corporate worship. I also met on a weekly basis with several other people who found themselves on a similar path. We were all in need of fellowship and encouragement to help with the healing process.

Fast forward to today. I’m part of a local small group with no church affiliations and I’m also part of an online small group with a church affiliation. Both groups are family to me. If the lockdown ever ends, I have no plans to join another local congregation.

Most people would rather forget 2020. I don’t. 2020 was a year of immeasurable growth for me. I learned so much that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I’m learning to forget what I thought I knew and open my mind and heart to what the Bible actually teaches. Verse-by-verse, I’m exploring what it really means to be a part of the Church Jesus said He would build—and I don’t have to be a part of something men are trying to build to do that.

Being a part of the body of Christ is not the same thing as being a member of a local church. The two are not the same thing. I’ve known of people who were involved in a local church that never made a commitment for Christ and I know many strong believers who never darken the door of a church building.

I think this pandemic has offered churches (and their members) across the globe an incredible opportunity to redefine what it really means to be a believer. Many leaders are embracing this time and are re-evaluating and redirecting so that when they are allowed to open the doors again, nothing will be as it was. It’s my prayer that believers everywhere, in establishing a “new normal,” also take this time to re-establish themselves, not in a local church, but in Christ.

Double Double

Here in Canada, a double double is how one orders a coffee—two creams, two sugars. For those with a love of literature, it hails to the witches in Macbeth. For fibre artists, it’s another ball of yarn entirely.

Then the soldiers, when they had crucified Jesus, took His outer garments and made four parts, a part to every soldier and also the tunic; now the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece.

John 19:23 (NASB)

Most commentaries will make a point of talking about the seamless garment Jesus wore, but none that I’ve found so far have managed to explain exactly what it meant that Jesus had a tunic woven seamlessly in one piece from top to bottom. I admit that I probably spent more time than I needed to looking into this.

As a weaver myself, I understood immediately the implications of a seamless garment. It’s what’s referred to as a double-weave, or in some cases, pocket-weave. In regular weaving, a single piece of cloth is woven on a loom. In the case of a double-weave, two pieces of cloth are woven on one loom at the same time. These pieces can be woven as two separate items or a single item as a tube (as in the case of John 19:23), or even as double cloth in which case the final product is a reversible item with identical, but inverted, patterning on both sides.

Example of modern double weave.

One commentary erroneously stated that such a garment was not necessarily a luxury item for it could be woven by a craftsman who had no exceptional skill. I beg to differ. I’ve been weaving for about four years now and would consider myself to work at an intermediate level. I’m no expert, but I’m not a beginner either. Double-weave is daunting. I have the skills and equipment to to it, but I have yet to even make an attempt.

What does this mean in relation to a single verse most people skip over? Maybe nothing. Maybe a lot.

Weaving in ancient times was primitive. The looms I own would have been a dream for weavers in Jesus’ day. Don’t even get me started on spinning wheels… On a modern loom, four shafts or sheds are required for a double weave. Each shed lifts a specific grouping of threads (warp) through which another thread is woven (weft). According to my research, these simple mechanical wonders didn’t exist 2,000 years ago. What existed was a basic wood frame and stone or clay weights add tension to the warp (vertical threads as shown below).

The garment described in John 19:23 is a fine and complex piece of weaving. It was an article of clothing that someone took much time and care to make. Some scholars believe Jesus’ mother, Mary, made the tunic herself. No matter who made it, someone obviously cared greatly and it was unlikely that the item was purchased since a tunic like the one described was most often made for priests who served in the temple.

First of all, the tunic was probably linen, which would have been imported from Egypt either as unprocessed flax or processed thread. Either way, it didn’t come cheap and easy. If it started as flax, someone had to process and spin it (another long, arduous, and complicated process). If it was already thread, it still had to be woven.

My take it that whoever made this piece of clothing for Jesus was someone who obviously cared about Him greatly and also recognised His authority as our High Priest.

So what does all of this have to do with any of us and why should it matter?

Some scholars liken Jesus’ tunic to righteousness—unbroken, seamless, perfect, that which covers without blemish. Look at it this way, this particular article of clothing remained whole through Jesus’ entire ordeal. And who got it in the end? A Roman soldier. A Gentile. One the Jews reviled.

What had once clothed Jesus as the Son of God would clothe a man unworthy of the garment.

What Jesus shed at the cross was something He most assuredly deserved. He had every right to everything the Father has. We had no right to it at all. But Jesus gave up that which was most valuable to Him so that we could be clothed in it. He gave up His rights so that we could take them on. Because He shed it at the cross, we get to take up that perfect, seamless garment of righteousness and wear it as though it was made for us.

Geek Out

I didn’t do well in high school science. I nearly failed Biology 11 and thought it best to leave my science career right there. But in the light of what the Bible has to say about a lot of things, I’ve suddenly become very interested in some areas of scientific research.

And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom—
    the Light that darkness could not diminish!

John 1:5 (TPT)

Most people understand that light is a spectrum. Visible light (what our human eyes can actually process) is a very small part of what makes up the electromagnetic spectrum.

What does this have to do with the Bible, you ask?

Everything.

In the third verse of the entire Bible, God called light into being. He didn’t create the sun or stars or the moon. He simply said, “Let there be light”; and there was light (Genesis 1:3). If we take this literally, that means that light existed in creation before there was any celestial body to create it.

John 1:5 tells us that the Word—the Living Expression, Jesus—is also the Light. So we can suppose then, that when God announced light into creation, Jesus burst forth.

Like vine-dressing in relation to John 15, I’ve learned some really interesting things about light that pertain to John 1. For instance, “It is proposed that all electromagnetism [light—visible and invisible] in the Cosmos is a consequence of sound. Put differently, electromagnetism would not exist without sound.”* Imagine that, something makes a noise and light is the result.

If you stand outside on a clear day and yell, someone a mile away might be able to hear you. But that doesn’t mean that that’s the end of it. It is hypothesized that, while sound waves eventually peter out beyond what is audible to the human ear, the electromagnetic waves created by that sound (an atom bumping into an atom that bumps into an atom…) go on through the atmosphere and into space forever, barring an unexpected meeting with dense matter. Each atom affected holds and transfers all the data from the initial event that caused the sound. So, in effect, every word you speak is truly eternal.

Human beings are frail and temporary, like grass, and the glory of man fleeting like blossoms of the field. The grass dries and withers and the flowers fall off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever! And this is the Word that was announced to you!

1 Peter 1:24-25 (TPT)

God, in His infinite wisdom and grace, created humanity in His image and invited us to participate in a union with Him that allows us not only to speak to Him and have Him respond, but He’s actually allowed us to take on His identity. As Jesus is Light, so we are invited to not just be in His light, but to actually be that light.

There are things on earth and in the atmosphere that affect sound. It can be stopped, but light cannot. We need to think beyond what we can see and hear with our physical senses. We need to learn to see beyond what merely seems to be to what really is. If science can prove that light is a result of sound and that the waves it makes are eternal, what can we learn from Jesus—the Light of the world—living within us and we in Him? If we can learn to truly see Him as Light and learn that our place is in Him and His is in us. Who or what can stop us?

What was made in infinite power could not be unmade by any finite power. It could only be hidden by darkness.

Ted Dekker, The 49th Mystic

The commentary for John 1:5 will soon be available here.

*John Stuart Reid, The Special Relationship between Sound and Light with Implications for Sound and Light Therapy

Out with the Old

Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.

John 15:2 (NASB)

Hands up if you’ve heard preachers dole out condemnation along with this verse? “If yer not livin’ fer Jesus, He’s a-gonna cut you right off and toss ya into the pit of fire!” (*insert southern preacher voice here.) It’s not a comforting thought about a God who literally claims to be the full embodiment of love.

So what does pruning here actually entail? It does not include God coming at the church with a machete like an backwoods bushwacker. According to The Passion Translation study notes, the term take away actually means that he takes up [to himself] every fruitless branch. As in, He lifts those wilted, lifeless, unproductive branches off the ground where they will spoil and puts them in a position where they can become productive. God’s version pruning isn’t cutting people away, it’s placing them in the best possible place to succeed.

So where does the cutting come in?

I’ve learned a few things about vine-tending. Pruning happens in the winter—after harvest and before the spring buds start to appear. A good vinedresser is not shy about pruning. The most common mistake people make is not pruning enough. When it comes to trees, a good, sturdy trunk with good sturdy branches is ideal. It means that thing is going to stay standing and provide shade for a long while. With vines, a sturdy root stock is important, but when it comes to branches, old is bad, new is good.

Old growth on vines doesn’t produce. It just steal the much needed energy from the new growth that produces the best and most fruit.

“This church hasn’t changed a lick in over a century!” Good for you. That’s why the congregation is the same size and meeting in the same building as it was a hundred years ago. Many (I’d even go so far as to say most) professing Christians hold on to traditions of the past—traditions that we have no biblical example for. Those are old growth believers, still a part of the vine, but not producing because they refuse to endure the discomfort of the pruning required to promote new growth.

If I’ve learned anything on my journey to where I am today it’s that letting go of what I used to think has been well worth gaining what I now know. That’s what childlike faith is—coming to God with a blank slate and then, like every kid ever, keep asking “why?”

God makes us ask ourselves questions most often when He intends to resolve them.

Thomas Merton

If we really believe that we serve an infinite God, why would we ever stop asking questions? Why would we be satisfied as a tough old branch that might sprout a few leaves when we can be a shiny new vine that produces the good fruit?

If you’d like to see more on John 15:2, click here to purchase the commentary.

The Vine for the Wine

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.

John 15:1 (NASB)

Let’s face it, in our lifetime, most of us will never grow grapes. We’ll eat them. We may drink them. But we won’t grow them. So immediately, our understanding of what Jesus is saying here is limited.

In my digging through this verse and the following scriptures, I took the time to learn a bit about vinedressing and even a bit about winemaking. When looking at what would normally be very dry, very boring information in a spiritual context, suddenly that very dry, very boring content comes to life.

Did you know that not every grape is right for every vineyard? Grape grower, Wes Hagen, said to choose the right grape to plant, not the variety you prefer. From a natural standpoint this makes sense. Just because you want to produce a certain wine, it doesn’t mean that the soil you have is right for that variety of grape. From a spiritual standpoint, Hagen’s comment is even more profound. The right vine in the right soil makes all the difference in the final product. In accordance to the gifts we’ve each been given, we are all best suited to thrive in different areas. Just because you may want to be or do something doesn’t necessarily mean that’s where you’re best suited. The best result comes when you allow the vinedresser—God—to choose where you will grow and produce the best.

Another interesting fact about vineyards is that very few are planted from seed. More often than not, the variety that’s growing on the trellises is not what’s rooted in the soil. This is because many of the best varieties of grapes for winemaking do not have the strongest root structure. So root vines are planted and the growing vines are grafted.

I am a true sprouting vine, and the farmer who tends the vine is my Father.

John 15:1 (TPT)

As New Testament believers, we are the vines that have been grafted on to the sprouting root stock. There is no way we can grow roots strong enough to grow a worthwhile fruit on our own. And, thankfully, we don’t even have to try. Our strength, our roots, come from what or, rather, whom we’ve been grafted to. All the nourishment we’ll ever need comes through that root system that Jesus has established and all the care we need comes from the Father, the vinedresser.

Further verses will address our need to stay in the vine lest we be unproductive and cut away. For now, though, take the time to think about the implications of the root and the vine working together and all that means not just for grapes, but for us as individual believers.

If you’d like to see more on John 15:1, click here to purchase the commentary.

Introducing Verse-by-Verse

Before diving right in to this new phase, I want to give an introduction of how and why this commentary has come about and will continue to come and evolve as it goes.

All that has come before has led to this.

The story begins in 2017 when I decided to read the Bible cover to cover in a year—not just read it, but get something out of it. Daily: A Year in the Word of God was born. What began as a new spiritual journey for me ended the year with a series of 13 four-week devotional books with my thoughts regarding some of the scriptures I’d read every day throughout the year. In 2018, my plan was to once again read through the Bible in a year, forcing myself to dig deeper. My original intent was to end the year with another publication.

Sometime in the spring of 2018, God finally got my attention. It turns out I’d been reading my Bible looking for my next blog post rather than the True Reality of Jesus Christ (John 14:6 TPT). So the posts ended and my reading continued. As summer hit, I hit my own block. I felt like I’d run into a wall. My spiritual well felt as though it had run totally dry. So I actually set my Bible aside and started picking up some other books hoping to jar myself out of the funk I’d found myself in.

Books like The Way Back: How Christians Blew Our Credibility and How We Get it Back by Phil Cooke, Letters to the Church by Francis Chan, and Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola started to open my eyes to a version of Christianity I’d never even dared to dream about.

By the time 2018 ended and 2019 began, I was ready to embark on a new journey. Little did I know how deep down the rabbit hole it would take me. On January 19, 2019, I opened my Bible to John 1:1 intent on discovering for myself who Jesus really is and what He really said about His Church.

Nearly two years later, I’m still gloriously mired in John’s gospel. The road has been bumpy (bumpy like a Saskatchewan back road in spring) and it has been long. I’ve experienced more pain than I thought I ever would. But I’ve also experienced joy. Best of all, I’ve experienced Jesus. I’ve come to know Jesus in a light that all my years of church involvment and attendance never prepared me for or introduced me to. For many, 2020 has been a year of hardship and trial. For me, it’s been a year I’d never trade for anything. As I dig deeper into the scriptures I’ve found Jesus in every word of every verse of every translation.

Verse-by-Verse is my way of attempting to share some of what I’ve discovered on my own journey. Nothing I’ve discovered is linear. It’s not a road. It’s more like the Amazon River, running deep and wide while spreading out fingers into any place it finds purchase. Be patient. Don’t rush. And don’t get frustrated if nothing seems to be in order. An incredible thing about God is that He exists outside of space and time and everything fits together within Him. It really all work out in the end because it has already been worked out.

I invite you to join me in this amazing journey. Ask the big questions. Ask the strange questions. Don’t dismiss ideas because they might not align with what you’ve always been taught. You may be as surprised as I have been at the answers you receive.

Protect the promise

If you’ve made a commitment to someone, how far will you go to see that it happens? If someone has made a commitment to you, how far will you go to see that it happens? And what about what God has promised to you? How far will you go to hold on to the promises that you have from the Lord? Only until it gets a little uncomfortable? Only until it’s inconvenient and doesn’t really fit into your plans?

What if we could see the end at the beginning? Would it change our response to God’s promises? It certainly made a difference in Judah. God had promised that David’s line would never end. David would have an heir on the throne forever. But as we read in 2 Chronicles, that line was in serious jeopardy. Upon the death of King Ahaziah, his mother took it upon herself to destroy every possible heir. But one got away. Just a child, but an heir nonetheless.

Jehoiada said to them, “The king’s son shall reign, as the Lord promised concerning the descendants of David. Now this is what you are to do: A third of you priests and Levites who are going on duty on the Sabbath are to keep watch at the doors, a third of you at the royal palace and a third at the Foundation Gate, and all the other men are to be in the courtyards of the temple of the Lord. No on is to enter the temple of the Lord except the priests and Levites on duty; they may enter because they are consecrated, but all the other men are to guard what the Lord has assigned to them. The Levites are to station themselves around the king, each man with weapons in his hand. Anyone who enters the temple must be put to death. Stay close to the king wherever he goes.

2 Chronicles 23:3b-7 (NIV)

That is an awful lot of fuss for a kid just barely out of kindergarten. Yet Jehoiada knew that this boy was heir to far more than just the nation of Judah. He was the heir of a promise that would extend throughout eternity and they would protect that promise with their lives.

We have a book full of promises from God. How far will you go to see those promises come to pass?

The thing is, just because a promise has been made, doesn’t mean that we aren’t required to do anything. It doesn’t mean that we just get to sit around and let it happen around us. Had Jehoiada decided to leave matters be—it’ll all work out in the end, won’t it?—Joash would have been killed along with the rest of his siblings. The last of David’s line gone. And then what? It’s not as though God couldn’t have come up with another plan for salvation. But that’s not what God does. He’s not a God of plan B. He doesn’t even have a plan B. It’s plan A. Period.

So how do we know that God will keep His promises?

For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

2 Corinthians 1:20-22 (NIV)

If God has made a promise to us, we can be assured that He will keep it. But we also have a responsibility to protect that promise. We must arm ourselves as Jehoiada armed the priests and Levites to protect Joash. God has given us His Spirit so that we can stand firm in the face of our enemy and declare the Amen—let it be so—with confidence that if God has promised it, He will perform it.

Do you have a promise from God? Protect it. With your life.

Read: 2 Chronicles 23-25, John 16:16-33

Not yours

Do you need God to move in a big way in your life? Wait. That’s a silly question. Who doesn’t need God to move in a big way in their life? If you’re sitting there thinking that you don’t, then you really need God to move in a big way.

We all need God. And we all need Him to move in our lives. But most of us never really see God move in the ways we’d like him to. Jim Cymbala said in his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, that he despaired at the thought that [his] life might slip by without seeing God show himself mightily on [his] behalf. What a sorry existence we live as Christians if we never really see God move in or through us.

So what does it take to see God move?

  • Individuals. A move of God starts when one person decides that they want more for their life than what their own plan can accomplish. It takes one person making the choice to put God’s plans ahead of their own.

The Lord was with Jehoshaphat because in his early years he walked in the ways his father David had followed. He did not consult the Baals but sought the God of his father and followed his commands father than the practices of Israel.

2 Chronicles 17:3-4 (NIV)

  • Leaders. A move of God requires leaders—those who have made the choice to put the plans and purposes of God above everything else—to stand up and encourage others to do the same.

As they set out, Jehoshaphat stood and said, “Listen to me, Judah and people of Jerusalem! Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld; have faith in his prophets and you will be successful.”

2 Chronicles 20:20b

  • Families. If one person can make a decision, a family can make a difference. The entire nation of Israel was one family descended from Abraham. When they chose to walk in the ways of the Lord, God went before them and blessed everything they touched.

All the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the Lord.

2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

  • Worship. Our response to God, His goodness, His faithfulness, His good plans for us, stirs His heart. God cannot move where He is not welcome and what better way to welcome His Spirit than to stand in an attitude of adoration?

After consulting the people, Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (NIV)

In the case of Jehoshaphat and the nation of Judah, God went ahead of the army and defeated the enemy for them. By the time the troops arrived on the battlefield, all that remained were dead bodies and so much plunder that it took three days to gather it all.

We may not be headed into a physical battle, but we are most certainly in a spiritual one. If we want God to move on our behalf, there are certain things required of us. The greatest of these things is the sacrifice of ourselves.

He must become greater; I must become less.

John 3:30 (NIV)

It’s hard to let go of our own wants and needs. Scary, even. But when we recognise God for who He is—a good God and a loving Father—it becomes easier to allow Him to set the course for us. And that is what we must do. God will move, but it will be in His direction, not ours. We must be committed and submitted to His will.

For the battle is not yours, but God’s.

2 Chronicles 20:15b (NIV)

Read: 2 Chronicles 20-22, John 16:1-15