This week, I’ve been busy planning my son’s 11th birthday party. The venue isn’t fancy—it will be a backyard ordeal, equipped with a kickball game and a trampoline. The menu isn’t elaborate. A few boxes of pizza and a tub of ice cream will surely take the culinary spotlight. And the guest list isn’t long. The grandparents and neighbors’ kids make up the majority of it.
Yet, I will still find a way to stress over everything. I will probably forget something, such as the candles, and beat myself up over it. I will fixate on cleaning the guest bathroom. I will worry about not having enough seating. I will find some random detail that’s not up to par and derail myself from the joy of the event itself.
I could already feel the tension arising last night. You see, I snapped at my husband, who innocently forgot to invite his sister, and tweaked a detail on the cake order from Publix. I found myself experiencing misplaced rage over something so very silly.
All of this unnecessary worry I had about maintaining tradition caused me to forget about what truly mattered, as I acted in a way I’m now embarrassed about.
Fast forward to this morning, as I read through the 15th chapter of Matthew and was immediately reminded of what Jesus shares with us about tradition:
Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?”
In this chapter of Matthew, God reminds the Pharisees that their laws and customs are not above God’s. Jesus shares the important reminder that God’s commandments should come first, before any laws of man, traditions, or anything, for that matter.
This hit hard as I thought about the many details I had allowed to cloud my judgment and take my energy—when in reality, acting kindly and humbly as God intended is far more important than any self-made or traditional expectations of me.
Jesus said unto the Pharisees: “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” (Matthew 15:17-18).
Let us not use our traditions as an excuse to forget our tongues or manners, even to those closest to us. I personally am working on this every day. This weekend, I choose to focus more on my son’s joy and less about the details that I’ve often deemed too important. Thank you, Jesus, for the reminder that Your commandments are the details in which we should fix our vision.
Genesis 25:23 23The LORD said to her, “Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”
The unnamed servant of Abraham went to Haran and sought out a wife for Isaac. If we follow the analogy of Isaac being a foreshadow of Christ, then this servant is like the Holy Spirit seeking the bride of Christ. He finds Rebecca and takes her from her father’s house without delay. When Rebecca is joined with her husband, she finds this war within her. Is that not true of us, the bride of Christ. The flesh is warring against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5:17).
The custom of that day was for the firstborn to receive twice as much as any other heir along with the responsibility and authority of the father. That has carried down to this day in many Eastern countries, but God reversed the order with Abraham’s sons and Isaac’s sons, and others. The picture is that the first born, the flesh, must serve the second born, the spirit. There must be a separation as God predicted to Rebecca. We have to set the flesh aside, crucify it with Christ, and refuse to serve it. Even more than that, we must master it.
Which one is the stronger? If we look physically, by sight, we would say Esau. Notice the prophecy says ‘one people will be stronger’. If we look at the people descended from them, the Jewish people have been stronger spiritually and in persistence. These two are at war, even as I write, through the nations they have become. There is a war within you, Christian brother or sister. You must set the flesh aside. The Spirit is stronger. Don’t for a moment believe the flesh is. The older will serve the younger. See that it is so by yielding to the life of the Jesus in you every day.
Meditation: “For sin shall not be your master.” Romans 6:14a (NIV)
Streams in the Desert – January 23
- 202323 Jan
Why standest thou afar off, O Lord? (Psalms 10:1)
God is “a very present help in trouble.” But He permits trouble to pursue us, as though He were indifferent to its overwhelming pressure, that we may be brought to the end of ourselves, and led to discover the treasure of darkness, the unmeasurable gains of tribulation.
We may be sure that He who permits the suffering is with us in it. It may be that we shall see Him only when the trial is passing; but we must dare to believe that He never leaves the crucible. Our eyes are holden; and we cannot behold Him whom our soul loveth. It is dark–the bandages blind us so that we cannot see the form of our High Priest; but He is there, deeply touched. Let us not rely on feeling, but on faith in His unswerving fidelity; and though we see Him not, let us talk to Him. Directly we begin to speak to Jesus, as being literally present, though His presence is veiled, there comes an answering voice which shows that He is in the shadow, keeping watch upon His own. Your Father is as near when you journey through the dark tunnel as when under the open heaven!
–Daily Devotional Commentary
What though the path be all unknown?
What though the way be drear?
Its shades I traverse not alone
When steps of Thine are near.
SCRIPTURE READING — PHILIPPIANS 4:4-9
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.
Many years ago I read an incredible book called Hey God by Frank Foglio. The back cover gives this description: “Mama Foglio, her cantankerous husband, and ten rambunctious kids were poor. In fact, they were so poor that the poor people called them poor. Then one day the Lord burst into their lives, in the form of another, equally poor, equally large and tumultuous Italian–American family that stormed into their home and evangelized them mano a mano.” The book shows how Mama Foglio began to understand the riches of her spiritual Father and to rely on them. It is a powerful witness of what happens when we hand our anxiety over to God and begin to pray.
There are times when anxiety or fear can be paralyzing, and even though we know that to be true, we still go down that path. I love it that Paul, from a prison cell, reminds us to stay focused on the Lord and “rejoice always.” He reminds us that conversation with God is important. He reminds us that we are a witness to others when we learn to lean on God rather than our anxieties. He also reminds us to remind ourselves of what is true: God’s provision is always ours.
As we change our thinking, we remember that through Jesus we have full access to the Father, who hears all our requests and gives us all that we need. And we inherit his peace, which “transcends all understanding.”
Lord, we rejoice that you are always with us. Thank you for peace and for all the riches you give us. Amen.