Day Fifty-Four: Open Arms

READ:  Read the passage several times.

2 Chronicles 30:1, 5-9

(1, 5) Then Hezekiah invited all of Israel and Judah, with personal letters to Ephraim and Manasseh, to come to The Temple of God in Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover to Israel’s God…. And they sent out the invitation from one end of the country to the other, from Beersheba in the south to Dan in the north:  “Come and celebrate the Passover to Israel’s God in Jerusalem,”  No one living had ever celebrated it properly.

(6-9) The king gave the orders, and the couriers delivered the invitation from the king and his leaders throughout Israel and Judah.  The invitation read:  “O Israelites!  Come back to God, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, so that he can return to you who have survived the predations of the kings of Assyria.  Don’t repeat the sins of your ancestors who turned their backs on God, the God of their ancestors who then brought them to ruin–you can see the ruins all around you.  Don’t be pigheaded as your ancestors were.  Clasp God’s outstretched hand.  Come to his Temple of holy worship, consecrated for all time.  Serve God, your God.  You’ll no longer be in danger of his hot anger.  If you come back to God, your captive relatives and children will be treated compassionately and allowed to come home.  Your God is gracious and kind and won’t snub you–come back and he’ll welcome you with open arms.

THINK:  As you read, listen for a new perspective on the way life is, or the way God is, that stands out to you today.  Perhaps you will notice that God can have dangerously “hot anger,” yet under other circumstances he is tender and open to a people who have walked far away from intimacy with him.  Maybe you’ll be struck by the pigheadedness that kept some Israelites from taking “God’s outstretched hand.”

PRAY:  Study the perspective you’ve absorbed, looking at it from different angles and holding it up against different experiences you’ve hand.  Do you ever fear approaching God because you worry he might snub you?  Have you ever refused grace?  Consider a specific situation.  Then become aware of God’s presence with you.  Tell him what was going on during that time.  How does the God of this passage (offering his “outstretched hand” to the Israelites) compare to your image of God in that situation?

I have frequently worried that God might snub me and, many times, that fear has kept me from approaching him boldly.  It has kept me from feeling like I could hold Him to His word.  The Bible is full of promises.  I know this.  But it’s so much easier to believe that those promises will hold true for others than for me, especially when I’m in the throes of a pity party.  I constantly have to remind myself of the verse that says that God is no respecter of persons.  I know that verse was referring to judgment, but wouldn’t it also extend to his promises.  If His grace is sufficient for you, then it must be sufficient for me too.  If his provision, his timing, his love are always perfect for you, then, they must always be perfect for me, as well.  So then…that means the problem is not God, but me.  Refusing to reach out and grab hold of God’s hand because I fear He will snub me says more about me than it does about him.  It says I have a faith problem.

A friend of mine once gave me an analogy that, I think, fits this situation perfectly.

Imagine there’s a chair in front of you.  Do you ever wonder if the chair is going to hold you up before you sit in it?  If it looks rickety, maybe.  But if it looks new, if it looks sound, you just sit.  You don’t stop and wonder.  That’s faith.  It isn’t faith until you place your bottom on the seat and let it have your full weight.  It’s not faith to think the chair can hold you.  It’s not even faith to know that the manufacturer says it can hold up to 200 pounds.  Faith comes with the sitting and resting on the chair, trusting that it won’t crumble under you and let you fall hard on your backside.

I have to admit:  for a huge chunk of my life, I have not had that kind of faith.  I’ve had the dip-my-toes-in-the-water kind of faith.  Yes, I can swim.  But, yes, I could also drown.  I’ve let fear of drowning keep me from plunging into the depths of this walk of Christianity.  This time 18+ months ago, I was operating on faith.  I took a plunge.  A scary one.  And for the better part of the last 18 months, it has felt like a sat on a chair that gave way underneath my weight.  But I think what I’m finally starting to see is that I had constructed the chair that I tried to sit on.  Jesus was not my foundation.  No…my foundation had been the carefully constructed plan I had made for my life, and that had pretty much worked out the way I thought it would.  Sure, there had been times when all I had to go on was actual faith.  Many times.  What I have discovered over this last year-and-a-half is that those time when I was operating purely on faith in the Lord were times when I was struggling, times when I knew there was no way I could help myself out of the situation I was in.  All I could do was obey God, every day, and pray that He knew what was best for me and that His plan would work itself out.  And it did.  Every.  Single.  Time.  That simple fact is the one thing that has kept me afloat since this whole thing started.  Everything hard I’ve ever had to go through, for which I’ve had nothing to rely on other than God, has worked out just exactly the way it needed to.  And, it was not over one second sooner than it needed to be, and it didn’t last one second longer than He needed it to.

Have I snubbed God’s grace?  Sure.  Who hasn’t?  But the one area where I have not, the one area that I never really realized that grace was active and abundant in my life:  perseverance.  It takes grace to persevere.  There have been many days where, by the end of the day, I was “SO DONE.”  But the grace of God is that tomorrow does not have to be like today.  And I can get up and do what I need to do tomorrow because I need to get up and do it.  I have children at home, watching me.  If I give up, what kind of example will I be setting?  Do they see me low?  Of course.  There have been days when I have told them that I just need a “mental health day” and they have to go to their rooms and I go to mine, and “we” let me recover.  My youngest is not fond of having to spend too much time alone, so this is practically punishment for him.  This means that I have to use a lot of finesse when I am breaking this news to him.  Lots of reassurance that he is NOT in trouble is often needed.  So, I cannot take these days often.  Besides, it feels indulgent.  And not in a good way.  I know, deep down, what I really NEED most on those days is to get up and do something for someone else.  But sometimes, it takes me a little bit to remember that.  So, once I do, I get up, get over myself, and get on with life.  I think that is a measure of grace as well.

So, dear readers, I don’t know where you are in life, right now.  Maybe you are going through a hard time and feel like nothing is making sense and like you are struggling just to make it through the day.  Maybe you are a mom, living for naptime and bedtime because you feel like you are going to go crazy.  Maybe you are a dad just hoping you don’t screw up your kids because you are the man of the house and there is more pressure associated with this job than you ever dreamed.  I have just one prayer for you, just one word of encouragement.

PERSEVERE.

Keep going.  Don’t stop.  God will meet you every single step of the way.  When you find that He isn’t meeting you, or you feel like you haven’t heard from Him in a while, pull back from your “schedule” and see if maybe you haven’t run ahead of God.  He has plenty of grace for the step you are on, but you have to stay on the step He wants you on.  Otherwise, you are just running on your own steam.  And, eventually, you are going to run out of steam altogether.

LIVE:  Close your time today by saying the Lord’s Prayer.  Speak the words aloud very slowly.  Picture the righteous but compassionate God described in this passage, the One who is hearing your prayer now:  “Our Father in heaven, reveal who you are.  Set the world right, do what’s best–as above, so below.  Keep us alive with three square meals.  Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.  Keep up safe from ourselves and the Devil.  You’re in charge!  You can do anything you want!  You’re ablaze with beauty!  Yes.  Yes.  Yes.  (Matthew 6:9-13)

I pray you all have a blessed day!  Take care of yourselves.  And remember, God gives us EACH DAY our DAILY BREAD.  We don’t get to keep yesterday’s bread.  And he won’t lend us the bread for tomorrow.  Trust that he has rationed you just enough bread for today because He loves you fully.  Today.  And because He wants you to trust Him for tomorrow’s ration tomorrow, He has set aside for you a ration for tomorrow as well.  He is already there.  He has a place prepared for you.  So, walk today, trusting that today He’s got you covered; and tomorrow, He will too.

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