When You Are About To Break—Don’t

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God will never forget you—even if you are in the fog of negative and discouraging circumstances. And God’s track record is to use your worsening circumstances to bring an even greater deliverance, a more powerful testimony of his power for your life, and greater glory to himself as you snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. As Frederick Douglas said, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 5:22-23, 6:5

Moses returned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you brought trouble upon this people? Is this why you sent me? Ever since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has brought trouble upon this people, and you have not rescued your people at all.” The Lord: “I am well aware of my covenant with my people.

Who knows how many spiritual victories and miraculous interventions God’s people forfeited because they retreated from God’s work in the face of increased adversity; they pulled up just before the finish line. Such was the case of Florence Chadwick, a world famous swimmer who famously gave up just a half mile shy of the California coastline on her record swim from the Catalina Islands.

Previously, Florence became the first woman ever to cross the English Channel twice both ways. But on the fourth of July 1952, the thirty-four year old swimmer was set on being the first woman to swim the twenty-six miles between Catalina Island and the shores of the Golden State. After fifteen hours of swimming, a thick, heavy fog set in. Florence began to doubt her ability, and she told her mother, who was in one of the boats, that she didn’t think she could make it.

Her mother and her trainer encouraged her to not to give up, to press on because the coast had to be close. But all Florence could see was the fog—and she gave up, in reality, so close, yet in her mind, so far.

Neither could Moses see what God saw. Moses saw only the reality of rejection and increasing hostility as Pharaoh threw him out of his presence. God had instructed Moses to declare before this great world ruler that it was time to let Israel go. But this time, Moses’ message fell on Pharaoh’s deaf ears. Yet it was not deaf ears, it was a hard heart—hardened by God for a forthcoming purpose that would be glorious beyond belief. Moses could only see the fog of defeat in front of him. Above the fog, God was bringing the victory for his people closer and closer.

As someone has said, it is always darkest before the dawn. Sometimes God’s best activity is directly preceded by the last throes of Satanic struggle—one last surge to discourage the child of God into retreat and surrender. What we should never forget is that at the darkest, most difficult moments of our conflicts, God is well aware of his covenant with his people—a covenant that guarantees victory, not defeat.

God will never forget us—even if we are in the fog of negative and discouraging circumstances. And God’s track record is to use our worsening circumstances to bring an even greater deliverance, a more powerful testimony of his power for our lives, and greater glory to himself as we snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat. As Frederick Douglas said, “Without a struggle, there can be no progress.”

So when you are about to break—don’t! You’re inches away from an amazing breakthrough!

Going Deeper With God: If you are in a really hard place right now, wondering where God is, and ready to pull back from taking steps of faith, let me suggest a prayer for you to offer to God: “Dear God, I am struggling with the difficult and discouraging times in my life. Just at the time where I have hoped and prayed for a breakthrough, it seems as though I am about to break. But I will seize upon your promise to Moses: I am well aware of my covenant with my people. Lord, you remember us…you remember me. Now I pray, strengthen me to remain faithful and not to retreat in the face of adversity; let me not forfeit the victory that you have in store for me. Show me your unfailing love and great favor—and may it begin anew today!

Who? Me?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

The weaker the vessel, the greater the glory to the One who pours his presence and power into and out through that vessel. The more obvious the inadequacies, the bigger the challenge and the greater the unlikelihood, the larger the set-up for a testimony that will be passed down through generations of the power of God displayed in the life of one human being who was surrendered, if not reluctantly, to purposes of the Almighty.

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 4:10-13

Then Moses said to the LORD, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent, neither before nor since You have spoken to Your servant; but I am slow of speech and slow of tongue.” So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD? Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.” But Moses again pleaded, “Lord, please! Send anyone else.”

Like most people, even great leaders, Moses was a pretty insecure guy. He had lost a great job, and while landing a minimum wage gig just to make ends meet, he had nevertheless wandered in obscurity for forty years before the Lord appeared to him in a burning bush with a new assignment. And while that new assignment would thrust Moses into the history books as the greatest leader of all time, at this point in his life, he was the most diffident deliverer ever!

Now keep in mind that it was a burning bush from which God spoke! You typically wouldn’t backtalk God if he spoke to you from a burning bush, yet Moses offered one excuse after another as to why God had come to the wrong guy. You would think if the Almighty showed up in such dramatic fashion Moses might have been convinced that he indeed must be the right man. A God who is powerful enough to speak through a burning bush that doesn’t consume itself, and in fact, calls out your name from the bush, doesn’t tend to show up at the wrong address.

Moses’ problem was that he was more focused on his own inadequacies than on God’s adequacies. Moses was not the one who would have to do all the heavy lifting—God would. Yet God always works through human beings—men and women, by the way, who end up getting a lot of credit when God works through them. And, you know the rest of the story. That is exactly what happened: Moses got more than his fair share of recognition for the mighty acts that God wrought through him.

The truth is, the weaker the vessel, the greater the glory to the One who pours his presence and power into and out through that vessel. The more obvious the inadequacies, the bigger the challenge and the greater the unlikelihood, the larger the set-up for a testimony that will be passed down through generations of the power of God displayed in the life of one human being who was surrendered, if not reluctantly, to purposes of the Almighty.

You may not be called to call down plagues or part the Red Sea, but I’ve got a feeling that you are exactly the kind of person God is looking for. If he is calling you to step out for him, surrender, for he makes no mistakes. And since he has selected you, apparently he plans to do some incredible stuff through your obedience.

Going Deeper With God: Try offering this prayer of the reluctant: Dear God, I understand Moses’ reluctance. Sometimes I wonder why in the world I am someone you would want to use. Yet you are the One who made me just as I am, placed me where you want me to be, and called me to represent your name. And if you called, you will provide all the resources needed to secure victory, bring greater glory and honor to your name, and leave a legacy of what God can do through simple people submitted to your purposes. Lord, help me to place greater confidence in you than I’ve ever done before. And through my life may your name be exalted in all the land. May my life be a testimony to future generations of the power of God, that a people not yet born will gain great confidence in you and do mighty things in your name, all to your praise and glory.

So You Want A Burning Bush, Do You?

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Desiring a burning bush experience is a great thing; we just need to be aware of the great demands such a desire might place upon us. The reward of being visited by God will always be tempered by the demands of being used by God. As Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Going Deep // Focus: Exodus 3:4-5

When the LORD saw that Moses had gone over to look, God called to him from within the burning bush, “Moses! Moses!” And Moses said, “Here I am.” God said, “Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

When you read this amazing story about Moses and the flaming tumbleweed from which God spoke, if you are like me, you’re probably thinking, “Man, I’d like a burning bush experience, too!” Whenever we come to places in Scripture where God or one of his holy agents literally, physically interacts with man—Jacob wrestling with God, Daniel visiting with the archangel, Peter on the mount of transfiguration, John receiving the Revelation—there is just something inside us that longs to encounter the real, living presence of Almighty God, too.

That is not a bad thing. It simply reminds us that in Adam, we were originally created to walk hand-in-hand with our Creator, enjoying an uninterrupted, unfiltered and intimate face-to-face relationship with him. We were designed for that and will continue to desire that until the day God takes us home and our faith once again becomes sight. In the meantime, perhaps, you or I may be one of those fortunate ones along the way to whom God grants a personal visitation.

But there is another side to those burning bush experiences that we need to keep in mind. You can see it here in this text—and you will find it in any of those other face-to-face encounters peppered throughout Scripture as well. First, you will notice that these revelations are preceded by great need. In this case, the people of God, Israel, were being severely abused as slaves in Egypt. They were crying out to God, and he was fixing to recruit a deliverer to deliver them. The fact of the matter is, more often than not, daunting challenges precede these Divine visitations. So you want a burning bush, you say! Can you handle the bad times that go with them?

Second, you will notice that the Divine visitation required the personal purification of the visited. God required Moses to take off his shoes—representing the soiled places literally and spiritually where Moses had trod. Special visitations of the Divine Visitor are never just so he can chat—he has arranged for that to be accomplished through everyday prayer. When he shows up, it is to reveal his special purpose—and the prerequisite for the revelation of his purpose is always clean hands and a pure heart on our part. So you want a burning bush, do you? Then get ready for the intense heat of purification.

Third, a burning bush always ends with a pressing assignment. God told Moses that he had seen and heard the misery of Israel’s slavery, which he would now do something about. (Exodus 3:7-9) And the kicker to this announcement was that Moses was going to be at the tip of the Divine spear when God dealt with Israel’s cruel Egyptian taskmasters. So you want a burning bush, too! Good—get ready to be God’s chosen instrument in solving the problem that produced the visitation in the first place.

When God appears, it is to reveal his kingdom plans, not just to make us feel good or give us a warm, fuzzy spiritual high. No, when God shows up, the encounter will fuel us for the grand kingdom assignment to which we have been assigned.

Still want a burning bush? Yeah—that’s what I thought: You still do! So do I.

Going Deeper With God: Desiring a burning bush experience is a great thing; we just need to be aware of the great demands such a desire might place upon us. The reward of being visited by God will always be tempered by the demands of being used by God. As Frederick Buechner said, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” So go ahead, ask God for an uncommon encounter. He may just grant your request.

Better Hands

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God knows the final days—the outcome of human history. And without him, it looks bleak. But it is not without him, in an overarching sense, because he has inserted himself into the center of it as a Deliverer through his Son, Jesus the Messiah, King of kings and rightful ruler of the earth. And at the end of the day, those who belong to God will live under the blessings of God.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 49:1, 10, 28

Then Jacob called for his sons and said: “Gather around so I can tell you what will happen to you in days to come. … “The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” …All these are the twelve tribes of Israel, and this is what their father said to them when he blessed them, giving each the blessing appropriate to him.

C.S. Lewis observed, “No doubt all history in the last resort must be held by Christians to be a story with a divine plot.” When you read the final words of Jacob as he prophesies over his sons, you could easily get the sense that he is letting loose with some pent up frustrations that he has held onto over the years. He is finally going after some of their bad behavior with a well deserved but long overdue rebuke:

Reuben: “Turbulent as the waters, you will no longer excel, for you went up onto your father’s bed, onto my couch and defiled it.” (Genesis 49:4)

Simeon and Levi: “Let me not enter their council, for they have killed men in their anger…I will scatter them in Jacob and disperse them in Israel.” (Genesis 49:5-7)

Dan: “Dan will be a snake by the roadside, a viper along the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that its rider tumbles backward. I look for your deliverance, Lord.” (Genesis 49:17-18)

Wonder what he would have said to them if he were really upset!

But to understand the positive message in what might seem like a prophetic utterance season with the bitter salt of rebuke, one needs to see the overall thrust of what Jacob is seeing. And what Jacob sees is what we have been seeing through the narrative of Genesis: that even with a creation that went off the rails, the Creator was still there—at the start, in the middle, at the finish—steering human history for his sovereign purposes. That is why I chose three specific verses at the beginning of this devotional—verses 1,10, 28—verses from the beginning, the center, and the end of the prophecy.

In Genesis 49:1, we find that Jacob is speaking about what will happen in the days to come. In Genesis 49:10, we see that at the center of this description stands a king, a deliver who will come from the tribe of Judah—which we now know was the Messiah, Jesus. At the end of the proclamation, in Genesis 49:28, Jacob refers to the blessing that will come upon the twelve tribes of Israel, and by prophetic extension, all of those who are the children of God by grace through faith in his Son.

The point? God knows the final days—the outcome of human history. And without him, it looks bleak. But it is not without him, in an overarching sense, because he has inserted himself into the center of it as a Deliverer through his Son, Jesus the Messiah, King of kings and rightful ruler of the earth. And at the end of the day, those who belong to God will live under the blessings of God. He has positioned himself to bless his people, and that will not be denied. God is steering the ship of history. He is the Sovereign Ruler of the universe, and will bring his plan for the ages to the end that he desires and has foreordained. And since you are “in Christ”, you are tucked away into the fabric of that plan, safe and secure within his competent and caring hands.

Yes, if you are in Christ, your life is in Better Hands.

Going Deeper With God: If, like Jacob’s sons, you have done plenty to mess up your life, repent of your ways and begin to walk in his ways. There may be consequences you will have to work through, and even if you don’t, you have to live within the consequences of existing in a world broken by sin. But rejoice, at the end of the day, God has sent you a Deliverer, and as you put your life in his hands, nothing but blessings, some now, plenty in eternity will be coming your way.

The Power of the Blessing

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God has engineered every child with the seeds of success—and it’s a parent’s duty to see and prophetically speak that potential into the child’s spirit. Much of what a child needs to reach their potential is an adult who understands God’s thumbprint for them and helps the child understand what that means by picturing it for them. As Larry Crabb said, “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.”

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 48:14-16

Jacob put his right hand on the head of Ephraim, though he was the younger boy, and his left hand on the head of Manasseh, though he was the firstborn. Then he blessed Joseph and said, “May the God before whom my grandfather Abraham and my father, Isaac, walked—the God who has been my shepherd all my life, to this very day, the Angel who has redeemed me from all harm—may he bless these boys. May they preserve my name and the names of Abraham and Isaac. And may their descendants multiply greatly throughout the earth.”

If you looked up the words “dysfunction” in the Bible, you would find a footnote that said, “See Jacob’s family.” They brought disharmony, envy, rivalry, promiscuity, violence, estrangement to new heights —and that was on a good day. But over time, through some tough lessons, by making some strategic changes, and with God’s help, they turned a corner toward becoming a family of destiny.

Ultimately, God shaped this family into a nation—Israel, his covenant people. From Israel came the law of Moses, Levitical priesthood, the Davidic kingdom, the Messiah—Jesus Christ, and the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which American society was built. And we see how they began to turn that corner here in Genesis 48.

Jacob, now an old man does something for his children and grandchildren that every child wants and needs: He gave them “the blessing.” What do I mean by “the blessing”? Throughout the Bible, patriarchs of families and fathers would pass on “the blessing” to their children. It was a formal cultural occasion and a significant spiritual marker in the life of that child that shaped the rest of their life, even if it was an adult child when they received it. The father’s blessing would affirm the child’s value and give prophetic direction to their future…an impact that would last for generations.

We don’t do that much in our culture, but in truth, every human longs for both approval and prophetic guidance from their parents. Missing out on it leads us on a lifetime search for it in other ways…most of which are non-productive at best, and are destructive at worst.

How? How do you give them the blessing? Here’s what Jacob did—3 things:

First, you bless them by giving them meaningful touch. That is not easy in a culture that’s uneasy with physical contact…even in caring homes where parents, especially dads, tend to quit touching their kids once they reach grade-school. But notice what Jacob did in Genesis 48:10: “So Joseph brought his sons close to Jacob, and his father kissed them and embraced them.” Then, between Genesis 48:10-14, eight times there’s a reference to Jacob physically touching these two boys.

Throughout the Bible, “the blessing” was always accompanied by a meaningful touch. Jesus did this when he took the children in his arms and blessed them. God created us with 5 million touch receptors, and over 1/3 are in our hands. Jesus understood that touch communicates something powerful—that we’re loved and valued. It provides comfort, security, and acceptance.

Second, speak words of encouragement to them. Genesis 48:15 says, “Jacob blessed them and said, ‘May God bless these boys. May they be called by my name and the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac, and may they increase greatly upon the earth.”

There’s tremendous power in our words! Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” He may not have realized it, but he was echoing what the Bible teaches: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…” (Proverbs 18:21) Words of affirmation are powerful communicators of love, acceptance and appreciation. Without them, kids often grow up looking for it in ways that are unhealthy. But not only does withholding encouraging words hurt, we do even more damage by the negative words we use. Rather than shaping positively, critical, angry, negative words shatter emotionally.

Someone has said that it takes 40 positive affirmations to overcome just one word spoken in a hurtful way. We need to be keenly aware of how powerful our words are, and how powerful the absence of words of blessing can be. The people in your life, especially your children, need to regularly hear words that bless them.

Paul said it this way in Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their need, that it may benefit those who listen.” You can set the stage for a household of destiny by learning to bless with meaningful touch and encouraging words.

Third, envision a special future for them. You give “the blessing” by helping them to picture an amazing future. We see Jacob doing this in Genesis 48:16,19 “They will be called by the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac…may they greatly increase upon the earth…Manasseh also will develop into a people, and he also will be great. But Ephraim will be even greater and his descendants will enrich nations.” (MSG)

God has engineered every child with the seeds of success—and it’s a parent’s duty to see and prophetically speak that potential into the child’s spirit. Much of what a child needs to reach their potential is an adult who understands God’s thumbprint for them and helps the child understand what that means by picturing it for them. Larry Crabb said, “A vision we give to others of who and what they could become has power when it echoes what the spirit has already spoken into their souls.”

One of the ways you can envision a special future is through word pictures that express high value. Notice Genesis 48:20: “Israel,” he is referring to a time in the future when the nation of Israel, “will use your names to give blessings: May God make you like Ephraim and Manasseh.” (MSG)

A word-picture expresses a child’s God-given worth in a creative & unforgettable way—and often becomes the prophetic momentum for them to become that vision. Do that for your child. Find a common object, one that they value, and use it to paint a word picture of their special value and their special future. Discern God’s thumbprint for their life and prophetically speak that into their spirit and you’ll provide them with a self-renewing blessing. Touch and encourage your kids, and paint for them a picture a special future—that’s the blessings

And what a gift that is!

Going Deeper With God: Touch, encourage and envision a future of promise for someone today—especially a child. You will be doing God’s work.

Leave The Fingerprint Of Blessing In Your World

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Our assignment as believers is not to needlessly annoy the world, it is rather to leave the thumbprint of divine blessing wherever we go. Wherever we are, whatever we do, with whomever we are doing it, our life is to leave a witness to the grace of God in hopes that some will be left with a compelling call to turn to him, and if not, to leave them with compelling evidence of their rejection of that grace.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 47:7-10

Then Joseph brought his father Jacob in and presented him before Pharaoh. After Jacob blessed Pharaoh, Pharaoh asked him, “How old are you?” And Jacob said to Pharaoh, “The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of the pilgrimage of my fathers.” Then Jacob blessed Pharaoh and went out from his presence.

Jacob blessed Pharoah, who has blessed God’s chosen people.

God’s promise to Abraham is now being fulfilled in the ongoing story of Joseph’s rise from the low ebb of his years in prison to the zenith of political power in Pharaoh’s palace. Through Joseph’s wisdom, clearly a gift from God, all of Egypt has been preserved from famine and Pharaoh has become even more powerful and firmly established in his position. What has happened: God has blessed the earth because of Abraham, and he has blessed those who have blessed the offspring of Abraham. (Genesis 12:1-3)

Nowhere is the divine pronouncement of Abrahamic blessing clearer than here, as the old patriarch, Jacob, is reaching out his hand to bless Pharaoh, who has blessed him. The man who represents the plan of God is offering God’s grace to the man who represents the quintessential enemy of everything God. And that, in a snapshot, pictures the journey of God’s people on Planet Earth.

As believers, we live in a world of paradox: We are strangers and pilgrims in a foreign land. Earth is not our home; we are heaven-bound. Because earth is currently enemy-occupied territory, and we belong to its rightful owner who is wrestling it back to his control, the world hates us. The god of this world wants to destroy us and eliminate the witness we bear of the Creator who seeks to redeem the world he created. To be clear, the world we live in is no friend of God, which means it is no friend to us. Friendship with this world for the believer, we are told by in James, means to be at odds with God. (James 4:4) We are to be in the world, but not of it, Jesus said. (John 17:16)

Yet we are called to be a blessing to the very world that despises us. We are to bless it, not curse it. We are to serve and strive for justice, and be living proof of a loving God to a lost people. The sense we get from Scripture is that our presence in our particular assigned place on the planet ought to leave a redemptive lift among those with whom we live. They ought to be better off because the people of God were among them. They ought to miss us if we were gone—at least the blessing they received because of our presence.

That is the paradox. We will be a blessing…we will be beaten!

The point being that the reaction we get from the world is not within our purview. How they treat us is above our pay grade. We are simply ambassadors for the true King, representing his interest on the planet he longs to reclaim. Now we can accelerate the world’s hatred by acting foolishly, displaying a “Christianity” that is beyond the bounds of Biblical faith, and being generally annoying believers for no good reason—and there are plenty of Christians who do just that. And the world will hate us.

We don’t need to help them along with that. That will hate us even if we are walking as Jesus walked. Our assignment is not to needlessly annoy, it is rather to leave the thumbprint of divine blessing wherever we go. Wherever we go, whatever we do, with whomever we are doing it, our life is to leave a witness to the grace of God in hopes that some will be left with a compelling call to turn to him, and if not, to leave them with undeniable evidence of their rejection of the grace that was offered.

The question is, are you leaving a fingerprint of blessing where God has assigned you—in your home, school, neighborhood or place of work. I hope so! You are a child of Abraham, living out God’s covenant promise to him to bless the whole earth through his seed. Make sure you are sprouting, and producing the fruit of blessing.

Going Deeper With God: How can you be a blessing to your world, leaving a fingerprint of God where he has placed you? Encourage the people around you. Serve the underserved. Love the unlovable. Show kindness and respect. And preach the gospel—even using your words, if necessary, as Augustine said.

Altar of Remembrance

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain his brothers had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. He recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 46:1-4

So Israel set out with all that was his, and when he reached Beersheba, he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac. And God spoke to Israel in a vision at night and said, “Jacob! Jacob!” Jacob answered, “Here I am,”  God said, “I am God, the God of your father. Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. I will go down to Egypt with you, and I will surely bring you back again. And Joseph’s own hand will close your eyes.”

Good news had flooded Jacob’s old, weary soul, worn thin by years of dashed hopes and dead dreams, like a flowing stream in the parched desert. Joseph, the son he favored, was alive after all these year of thinking he had been killed by a wild animal. And the news of Joseph’s incredible journey from the pit to the palace had revived the old patriarch’s heart:

When his sons told Jacob that Joseph was alive in Egypt, and everything he had said to them, and when he saw the carts Joseph had sent to carry him back to Egypt, the Jacob’s spirit revived. And Israel said, “I’m convinced! My son Joseph is still alive. I will go and see him before I die.” (Genesis 45:27-28)

As Jacob began the journey from Canaan to Egypt to see his son and to relocate his clan in the riches of Goshen during the time of famine, one of the first things he did was to build an altar and offer sacrifices to the Sovereign God who had revived his dreams by remembering the covenant the Almighty had sworn to his grandfather Abraham, his father Isaac, and to him. And as he sacrificed, the Lord spoke, calling him by name and recounting the promises of the covenant that he would fulfill as the clan of Israel lived in the land of Egypt.

We don’t built altars much anymore, and rightly so. Under the new covenant, established through the blood of Jesus, the altar of God is now our heart. Yet there are significant events in our spiritual journey, breakthroughs into the blessings of God so important that we would label them “defining moments”, that require an altar. At times, building a memorial at which we can stop to give praise to God and to remember is covenant, is an appropriate thing—perhaps even a needful act of faith. There are times along the way that establishing a memorial of remembrance will serve to remind us of the greatness and faithfulness of God as we journey forward to the next challenge.

These physical symbols that we choose to jog our memory are powerful. Every time we look at that sacred symbol, or touch it and consider what it represents, we call to mind the reality of God’s glorious presence and his unmerited intervention on our behalf.

God often used symbols in the Old Testament. So to, frequently in the Revelation, symbols are provided to help us grasp the glories of the eternal world where God dwells, physical representations of his invisible and uncontainable presence. These symbols provide a way for God’s people to worshipfully enter into God’s presence without being completely consumed or totally overwhelmed by God’s holiness. In other words, spiritual symbols allow finite people to momentarily grasp the infinite.

Have you ever noticed how small children at an ocean beach will run away from the crashing waves in absolute terror. Why? They are overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude and brutal force of something incomprehensible. But later they will dig a hole in the sand and fill it with a bucket of that very same seawater that made up the monstrous wave. Then they will scoop a handful of that water and let it drip through their fingers back into the hole.

What are they doing? They are partaking in the magnificence of the ocean without being overwhelmed by it.

That’s the benefit of a symbol. It allows finite beings to comprehend the infinite—if but for a moment. An altar or remembrance allows you to call to mind the incomprehensible greatness of Almighty God and his covenant faithfulness in the past without being complete undone by it. I am not suggesting that you go crazy with this, that you turn your prayer closet into a holy shrine full of religious artifacts and icons—that can obviously get way out of hand. But sometimes we just need a little help with remembering that since God is covenantally faithful, that what he has done in the past for us, like he did for the saints of old, he will do for us today, and we can count on him to do again and again in the future.

God is faithful. He will fulfill his promises. Always. Do what you need to do to remind yourself of that. Perhaps an altar of remembrance would be the appropriate thing for you to erect.

Going Deeper With God: Think of a defining moment you have experienced with God. What can you do, literally and physically, to symbolize that moment in a way that will be a daily reminder of the greatness of a God who has promised to watch over and provide for you?