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It’s not you. It’s me.

Famous break-up line. A soft way to get out of a relationship, even though it’s probably a lie. Even if it’s true, “you” think that it is “you.”

There is one relationship where this statement is true –  every time.

One example is found in Exodus 3, the burning bush. You remember the story, right? Moses is tending sheep and sees a burning bush that isn’t being consumed. He goes closer and the voice of God says, “I’ve seen the oppression of my people and have heard their cries. I’m going to use you, Moses, to deliver them.”

11 But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 He said, “But I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain” (Exodus 3:11-12).

Notice God’s answer to Moses: “It’s not you. It’s me.”

Who am I? Nobody. A shepherd. A dad. A pastor. A mom of pre-schoolers. A high school student. An unemployed college grad. A frustrated career-seeker. A retiree.

Nobody significant. Nothing special. No great skills.

It’s not you. It’s me.

It’s God who is going to do great things through you and in spite of you.

It’s God who is going to give you victory over temptation.

It’s God who is going to bear you up under the weight of grief.

It’s God who is going to carry you to heaven.

It’s not you. It’s him.



All cleaned up for church

It was finally warm enough and still light. I was already in jeans and already out of the house. It seemed like a perfect day to wash the winter mud and grime off the car.

While I was doing it, I thought, “I wonder what the weather is going to be like this week? I wonder if that gravel road will be muddy on Wednesday? Is it really worth it to wash the car today?”

My conclusion, “Well, at least it will be clean for church tomorrow.”

When we were kids, we had “church clothes” and “church shoes.” Those were the nice things that we didn’t wear just every day. We kept them clean, even polishing the shoes on Saturday, so we could look our best when we went to church.

There’s certainly nothing wrong with having nice clothes and a clean car when we go to church on Sunday.  But, I wondered, if that’s all the preparation I do for going to church, or if the only reason I clean up my life is to look good for others, am I as hypocritical as the pharisees?

Peter wrote:

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 15 but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:14-16).

I guess the answer to my wondering is “yes.” A holy God has called me to live a holy life. Not just nice clothes and a clean car for church on Sunday.

“Do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance” – don’t let your life be shaped by your desires, what you want to do, what you think is right.

“But…be holy in ALL your conduct” – pure, clean, righteous, separate, set up, sanctified in everything you do all the time everywhere. Not just for church on Sunday.

And God is the standard. Completely separate from sin. Completely set apart to holiness.

So, I’ve got work to do. How about you?

Joyful suffering

Joy and suffering are usually at opposite ends of the emotional spectrum.

Joy comes at Christmas, at the birth of a baby, at the completion of a task.

Sorrow appears at funerals, doctor’s appointments, in a court room.

So what in the world is “joyful suffering?”

After listing some obviously positive benefits of salvation, Paul explains joy in the midst of suffering in Romans 5:

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5:3-5).

He’s not talking about balloons and streamers at a funeral. Or doing cartwheels after the doctor tells you that you have stage 4 cancer.

But he’s helping us to take a step or two back and look at suffering in the bigger picture of what God is doing in our lives and in the world.

“Suffering produces endurance” – one more trip to the doctor, one more day without that loved one, one more…and we keep waiting. But it’s not just waiting until the suffering is over, because “endurance produces character.” The endurance brings about a change, a change in character, not just a superficial change. It’s not that you know all the ins and outs of chemo, the doctors and nurses by their first names, and can keep all your meds straight.

Character is seen in your behavior. By joyfully suffering, your character, your inner self, will change. That will be evident to others around you. Sure, you might still have some really bad days, but your character is being changed.

And that character change produces hope. That implies that the character change is a positive one. Obviously, suffering can make us grumpy and bitter – also a character change. But the change that Paul is describing is one that leads to hope.

Do you think that maybe that hope is beyond being cancer free? Greater than not crying yourself to sleep every night in loneliness? Bigger than having a great big family gathering for Christmas?

Verse 5 would seem to indicate that: “…and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

While those others might give us a goal, the potential remains that they will never happen. Paul is referring to a hope that will not disappoint. A hope that will be fulfilled, because it is not dependent on any human action.

God’s love poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit – the hope of eternity with Him, because of what Christ did on the cross for our. That is really the only hope that is certain.


Oh, but it hurts so much!

Sometimes life just hurts.

When we are young, our greatest pain is a skinned knee. But the older we get, the more we realize that life is not that easy. We build relationships. We have memories with people. We work hard at a job. We raise our children.

Plans are made for the future. Dreams of the next big goal keep us motivated.

And then something happens and all of that crashes around us. Death, disaster, divorce, disease, down-sizing, deployment, dementia – not all grief factors start with “D” – but when they hit, our world turns inside out and upside down.

And it just hurts.

We don’t know what’s going to happen next. We don’t know what we should hang on to, or if we should even bother. Our plans are shattered. Our memories are fading. Our hopes for the future go up in flames.

No one really knows what to say. We get upset easily about their stumbling through something awkward.

It’s okay to grieve. God created us to have relationships and purpose. When those things collapse, we realize that He also created us with emotions – some that we maybe never experienced before.

Since He knows how and why He made us and why He has brought this event into our lives, He is the best comforter:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4ESV

Read those verses again and let them wash over your aching soul.

The Father of mercies.

The God of all comfort.

Who comforts us in all our affliction.

And some day. Maybe not right away. But some day, the last part will be evident:

“…so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God.”

It all starts with God bringing that crisis into our lives. The God who loves us and has a goal for our lives. He follows that with the comfort that only He can provide, because He is the only one who knows really what’s going on. And then, some day, we’ll be able to comfort someone else.

It hurts now. Let the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort give you comfort.

Search me.

Stop and think about God for a minute. He knows everything. He sees everything. He has everything under control. He has a master plan for the universe – and for you. He directs all the events in our lives and in the history of the nations to fulfill His plan.

He is loving. He is just. He is righteous. He hates sin. He condemns the wicked. He lifts up the weary and grieving. Nothing is hidden from Him.

David realizes this and prays:

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Psalm 139:23-24ESV

The verses leading up to this prayer recount how God knows the details of our lives, even before we are born. He knows when we get up and when we lie down. He knows the number of our days. He knows the words we speak, before they are formed on our tongues.

There is nowhere we can go to get away from God. The darkness doesn’t hide us from Him. We can’t travel far enough away to get out of His presence. Even the pits of hell are not an escape from Him.

Think of the intimacy of that kind of relationship in comparison to our other relationships. We can put on a show at church. We can avoid personal conversations at work. We can carry on a double life before our family. No one will know what we do at home, on the internet, or when we go out-of-town, unless we tell them.

But David argues that nothing in our lives is hidden from God. And then he asks God to dig even deeper, reveal any sin, see if there is any wicked way in him.

He wants anything that stands between him and God to be revealed, so it can be removed. Any sin. Every sin. He wants his relationship with God to be even closer and realizes that the only barriers are the sins in his own life.


Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

James Orr, 1936

Get the big picture.

When we get broadsided by a crisis, we are surprised. We don’t understand how or why it happened. We are confused about what to do next. We don’t know what to do right at the moment sometimes. Life gets out of balance and we wonder if it will ever stabilize.

When that happens, it’s easy to want to retreat, to give up, to run away and hide. That’s not always a bad option, at least temporarily. Sometimes life hits us so hard that we need to take a break to let our body, soul, and spirit recuperate.

But we need to remember that the crisis that surprised us is no surprise to God. Even the tough times are a part of God’s plan.

Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things, plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

Isaiah 25:1ESV

The good and the bad are all part of God’s plan “formed of old, faithful and sure.” He planned each step, each doctor’s appointment, each phone call from the lawyer, each pink slip – every detail of your life.

In the midst of the crisis, it might seem like God isn’t very loving to let those things happen to us. If He really cares, why did THIS happen?

We might not ever figure that out. But we can do as Isaiah, “I will exalt you; I will praise your name, for you have done wonderful things.”

The “thing” at the moment that is causing us to lose hair, sleep, and weight might not seem to fit into the category of “wonderful.” But we can look back at the other things in our lives, we can look around at the things that are happening around us, and we can look toward the things in the future – there will be wonderful things in those lists.

Sometimes the moment doesn’t seem very wonderful. But the big picture is simply amazing!

Always teaching.

Not everyone wants to be a teacher in a classroom, but everyone is a teacher. Whether it’s teaching your child to tie his shoe, or helping the guy at work figure out the copier, you will always be teaching.

Sometimes we are teaching unintentionally. People are watching our behaviors, listening to our words, and observing our reactions all the time. Or maybe it’s through conversation when someone asks, “What did you do this weekend?”

We are always teaching.

What are you teaching?

Preparing the second generation after the Exodus to go into the Promised Land, Moses gave this command to the people of Israel:

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.

Deuteronomy 6: 6-7ESV

Teaching the Word of God to our children is likely the most important teaching position we will have. The commands and principles from God’s Word will guide them through the ups and downs of life, give them an anchor.

There’s nothing wrong with teaching them other life skills, or your passion for your hobby, or your family history. But the Bible needs to be top priority.

And Moses gives a practical pedagogy: teach them as you go through life. When you’re looking at the stars, talk about creation and the greatness of God. When you’re talking about history, help them see how God is in control. When you’re doing life, tie God into the conversation.

I think the principle goes beyond our children, as the Bible talks about being an example, encouraging others, rebuking them, or counseling them. We are going to be teachers long after our kids have left the house.

We are always teaching. Make sure that teaching includes the Word of God.