Recalibrating the Measure

I had been wooed by the digital display and the sleek design, but I should have stuck with the tried and true older model.

The new scale promised to be scientifically accurate because of some high-quality triple sensory design. It could track the weight gain and loss of two different people by storing the weigh-in results in its memory.

So I brought it home from the store, opened the package, read the instructions, dropped it down on the floor and stepped on. Then I scowled.

This didn’t seem right.

I tried again a few days later and then after a few more days, I tried again.

According to this handy dandy super scale, I was gaining about a pound a day despite snacks of yogurt and granola, exercise sessions and water.

I could rail about the injustice of the world or blame the metabolism shifts in my 30s, but how could I argue with such a scientifically accurate device?

Finally, I carried out two scales from the cabinet: The old one with the tiny arrow that scalescrolled through the numbers and eventually landed on a miniature line and the new one with the flashing white numbers against a black display.

They were different.  A lot different.  I pushed the digital one around a bit and stepped on and off a few times.

I’d been using a faulty measure.

What else am I using as a faulty basis for my thoughts and emotions, my plans, my faith?

A.W. Tozer wrote: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

This, after all, is our foundation, our measure by which we weigh the world, and the filter through which we understand our circumstances.

But it’s not just what we think that matters, certainly not what we say.  We can confess:

I believe God is faithful.
I believe God can provide.
I believe God forgives me.
I believe God is all-powerful.
I believe God is with me.
I believe God will never abandon me.

All that sounds good and right.  We say what we’re supposed to say.  Sing the words we’re supposed to sing.

We might even think we mean it.

But sometimes we’re really looking at the world through circumstances and emotions.  Slowly, without changing what we’re saying, we’ve still changed what we believe.

The Israelites wandering around the wilderness outside of Egypt professed belief in the God who had led them out of slavery.

When Pharaoh’s army chased them to the edge of the Red Sea, however, they complained: ”Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Exodus 14:11).

When they realized they could no longer shop at the Egyptian grocery stores, they whined:  “you have brought us out into this desert to starve this entire assembly to death” (Exodus 16:3).

And when the desert diet proved restrictive, they remembered: “The fish we ate in Egypt at no cost—also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5).

They said they believed in God and His miraculous power, but, as Kelly Minter writes in her study on Nehemiah:

“whenever the Israelites faced difficulty in the desert they chose to believe something false about God.  Three of the biggies were that he had abandoned them, withheld from them, or wouldn’t meet their needs” (p. 125).

It is Nehemiah’s prayer, centuries later, that reminds the people of the truth:

You did not abandon them in the wilderness
because of Your great compassion….

You did not withhold Your manna from their mouths,
and You gave them water for their thirst.

You provided for them in the wilderness 40 years
and they lacked nothing (Nehemiah 9:19-21).

But in the middle of the wilderness, with Egypt behind them and the unknown ahead, without a meal plan or a guaranteed buffet, Israel believed false things about God.

And I get that.

It’s hard to see the truth when our eyes are shut tight to the wonder of God or our bad attitude is crowding out the glory from our field of vision.

We’ve decided we’re stuck.
We’ve determined to feel unhappy.
We’ve felt cheated and gypped out of what we really want.

So we just rack up more and more circumstantial evidence, cementing what we feel.

And we believe it.  God can’t use this situation.  God abandoned me here.  God is withholding from me.  God can’t rescue, save or provide.  God doesn’t know what He’s doing.

That’s false evidence, a faulty measure, a shaky foundation.

Today, let’s pray for God’s eye-opening grace, for His perspective, for a reminder of His goodness, for revelations of truth.  Just like Nehemiah did, let’s recount the goodness of God rather than letting our dissatisfaction or hurt determine what we see and what we believe.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

Did Jesus Get Splinters?

“Mom, did Jesus get splinters from the cross?”

My daughter doesn’t really know how to whisper.  She somehow manages to make her voice breathy and full of air, but still push the words out with a great deal of volume.

I mentally apologized to the audience members in front of us and behind us, who had come that night to see the Ballet Magnificat dance in worship and to tell the Exodus story.

But then the dancers surprised us.  They fast-forwarded in time to our ultimate Deliverer, Jesus Christ, who sacrificed Himself to give us freedom from slavery to sin.

There He was mocked and scorned by the crowd.
There He was beaten and nailed.
There He was hoisted onto the weathered wood and left to die.
There He cried out in pain.
There He died.

You never know what might make an impression on a child. I had already answered  whispered questions about slavery in Egypt earlier in the program.

Because, as many times as we had talked about the story and read the account in the children’s Bible . . . . and as often as my daughter had heard it in Sunday School and Children’s Church and Awana . . . somehow she had missed the part of slavery where it’s horrible and evil and frightening and relentless and hard and unfair and cruel.

So, the sound of the whip cracking and the way the slaves dropped to the ground in fatigue and despair shocked her.

You mean “slavery” is this?  It’s not just a happy little Jewish community living in tiny houses on the outskirts of Egyptian cities?

No, my baby girl.  Slavery is a pharaoh ordering that every male baby be killed at birth.  It’s waking up every morning to labor hard and long for someone else, no freedom to worship or rise above or choose for yourself or provide for your family.  It’s whips and rods and beatings and shame and being less than.

Why are the slaves working so hard, Mom?  Why is he beating them, Mom?  Why do they look so tired, Mom?

All whispered in my ear and what to say in that moment of hushed conversation other than, “That’s what slavery is, honey.  Didn’t you know?”

But how could she know?  We have a way as humans of protecting ourselves from knowledge that hurts.  And we have a way as parents and teachers of watering down the truth so we don’t frighten kids (or ourselves).  And we have a way as adults of sanitizing reality so we don’t have to face the ugly horror of it.

But when Jesus told the crowd that the truth would make them free, they didn’t understand: “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?” (John 8:34).

They had forgotten their people’s four-century-long history, of slavery in Egypt, and how God sent them the deliverer Moses.

Jesus reminded them: You, yourself, have a lifelong history of slavery to sin and “a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:35-36).

I explain this later to my daughters, when whispering is no longer mandatory, and we have the time and space to talk.

Did you see how terrible slavery was for the Israelites?  Jesus says we were slaves to sin in the same way.

And did you see what Moses had to give up in order to deliver the people out of Egypt?  He couldn’t keep his fancy room in the palace, his princely clothes, his royal position, his delectable foods.  He sacrificed all that to lead his people out of slavery.

But Jesus gave up more.  Paul tells us that Jesus “made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:7-8).

My daughter knew about the nails and the crown of thorns.  She knew about the cross.  But the scornful cries of the crowd, that she couldn’t understand.

Then, while watching the dancers portray Jesus’ crucifixion, she thought of the most horrible thing she could imagine, the thing that terrifies her into wearing shoes on our deck and the thing that has sent her into fits of screaming on our couch when we pull out the tweezers.

Did Jesus get splinters from the cross?

Why yes, baby girl, he probably did.  But he did it for you and for me.  He hung bare-skinned on a rough wooden cross so He could deliver us and set us free.

That’s the truth of costly grace and the Savior who paid the ultimate price: splinters, whips, mockery, the weight of sin, separation from God, and death and all.

How can you keep from forgetting what Christ has done for you?

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

I’m Sorry: Lessons in the Art of Apologizing

As a girl, I think I read Lucy Maud Montgomery’s whole Anne of Green Gables series at least ten times.  My friends and I used to watch the movies together and even gave each other nicknames from the story.  To this day, my friend still writes notes addressed to me as “Anne” that are signed, “Diana.”

There’s a moment in the movie when Gilbert pleads for Anne’s forgiveness and says, “I’m sorry” in his Canadian accent with a puppy-dog look in his eyes.  That always sent us into giggles, a whole room full of middle school girls just tickled to pieces by his apology.

I can’t say for sure why the story of Anne has been on my mind so much lately or why I’ve been dying to watch the movies again after more than a decade.  But maybe it’s because of Gilbert’s, “I’m sorry” and the fact that those are words we’ve been hearing and saying around my house a lot lately.

Now that my baby girl is two-and-a-half, we’ve been trying to teach her the principles of personal responsibility and forgiveness. She’ll stomp her way out of her bedroom with her arms crossed tightly across her chest and her eyebrows crinkled in anger.  Then she’ll tattle.  “Lauren jumped and hit me on my arm.  Victoria dropped her book and it hit me on the head.”

Usually, it’s all just an accident, a mishap resulting from too much silliness at bedtime.

Whatever the circumstance, purposeful hurt, accident, or misunderstanding, my toddler feels the need to receive justice and isn’t in the mood to give grace.

So, we make a big deal out of demonstrating a proper apology to her.  The offender looks her in the eye and says very clearly, “I’m sorry for . . . ” and then hugs her to seal the reconciliation, which she normally rejects.  She’d prefer to feel angry for a while.

The goal, ultimately, is to teach her that when she pushes others or knocks over her sister’s Lego tower or messes up their projects, she needs to say, “I”m sorry” in just that same way.

We’re still working on that part.

This is all a matter of grace. It’s learning that sometimes we mess up and hurt others and we need to own up to that.  There are few things more humbling—and downright hard—then saying, “That was my fault.  I was wrong.  I’m sorry.”

Yet, grace is much easier to give when we’ve been the recipient of grace ourselves.  Likewise, it’s a little bit easier to apologize when we realize we aren’t the only ones who make mistakes sometimes.

It’s all a matter of remembering what’s been done for us already.

God makes this point throughout Scripture, reminding the nation of Israel often to remember where they came from, what they’d been through, and how God had rescued them.  That national memory needed to impact how they treated others, particularly the poor, oppressed, and weakest among them.

God said:

“You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21).

“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 19:34).

“You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today”
(Deuteronomy 15:15)

“Love the sojourner, therefore, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt
(Deuteronomy 10:19).

God reminded them all the time that they were slaves in Egypt, toiling hopelessly with no freedom or self-determination.  Their sons were murdered at birth.  Their worship hindered.  For 400 years, they had been the oppressed people.

Then God rescued them and blessed them.  He led them to the Promised Land and gave them victory.

So, remember, He said, to treat foreigners, the poor, widows, and orphans well by blessing them and loving them.  Why?  Because that used to be you.

It’s no surprise, then, that Paul picks up a similar theme in the New Testament, this time reminding new believers to forgive others because Christ had delivered them and forgiven them in the same way.

Paul wrote:

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32).


bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive
(Colossians 3:13).

The nation of Israel had no excuse for treating foreigners poorly, because they had spent centuries being mistreated as foreign slaves in Egypt.

In the same way, we who were once slaves to sin, who have been forgiven, who Christ died for so graciously, have no excuse for not forgiving others.  God overlooked the fact that we didn’t deserve it.  He put aside the issue of whether some would even accept it, and He chose to give grace any way.  So must we.

We model apologizing and forgiveness for my two-year-old, hoping that she’ll learn these principles of grace.  That’s a modeling job we all should be taking on in our homes, at our jobs, with our friends, in our ministries, and in the community.  We show others that we’ve received grace, so we give grace.  We forgive, just as God in Christ forgave us.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King

Shout! A Little Bit Louder Now: Part I

She didn’t believe I could hear her.  At the very least, I wasn’t paying attention and most certainly didn’t understand.

I was multitasking.  My two-year-old sat on my lap while I played the piano and sang at worship team practice.  For the most part, she sat patient and still during each of the songs.  Every few minutes, she gave in to temptation and touched a piano key or two.  Mostly, though, she simply sat and watched.

But then she began very quietly whispering in my face, “Paci.  I want paci.”

I didn’t have her pacifier and wasn’t sure where it was.  Besides that, I was pounding out chords on the piano and singing harmony all while whispering back to her, “Wait one minute.  I’ll find it in a moment.”

Since I didn’t immediately pop a pacifier into her mouth, she decided that I hadn’t heard her.  So, she said it louder.  And again, even louder.  “Paci!  I want paci!!”

Still singing, still playing the piano, I looked her in the eye and said, “I know what you want.  I’ll look in a minute.”

This was not acceptable to her.

At this point, she did the one thing a two-year-old who wants her pacifier could possibly do to make herself heard over all the music.  She grabbed my microphone with her hands, placed her mouth right up to it, and said in her loudest announcer voice (who knew two-year-olds possessed such a thing?): “Paci.  I want paci.”

That was an attention-grabber.

Have you ever felt like you needed a microphone to broadcast your prayers to heaven?
That God wasn’t aware of you, couldn’t hear you, wasn’t paying attention, and didn’t understand what you were going through?
That there was so much ambient noise, He couldn’t possibly hear the cries of your heart?

If anyone had reason to feel overlooked, ignored, unheard and unnoticed, it was the Israelite nation as they sweated and groaned their way through hundreds of years of slavery in Egypt.

And it’s clear that they weren’t silent sufferers.  Instead, “the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help” (Exodus 2:23).

More important than the fact that they were crying out, though, is the fact that God was listening—even before they realized He was paying attention.

And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. God saw the people of Israel—and God knew.   (Exodus 2:24-25, ESV).

I love how the Message breaks this thought down:

God listened to their groanings.
God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.
God saw what was going on with Israel.
God understood (Exodus 2:24-25, MSG).

God listened.  God remembered.  God saw.  God understood.

Oh, sometimes we believe pieces of God’s character hold true.  God may hear us pray, but He surely forgets His promises to us.

Or maybe He is faithful to keep His promises  . . . but only when He is looking in our direction.  Otherwise, we escape His notice.

Or maybe He hears our prayers and sees our situation, but doesn’t understand how desperate it really is and how hopeless we really are.

Yet, God’s character is no piecemeal buffet.  It’s not changeable or uncertain.  It’s not full of holes from the pieces proved false over time.

So, we can hold fast to this same truth as we groan in our own need, whether it be the annoyance of a daily stress, the repentance over a habitual sin, or the hardest of life’s challenges.

God hears us.  God remembers His promises to us.  God sees us.  God understands.

And then He rescues.

His response to the cries of the enslaved nation was to call Moses to be their deliverer.  Remember, though, that He had already placed every part of this plan into action over 40 years before.

He had rescued Moses from the murderous rampage of Pharaoh, who had every Hebrew baby boy killed at birth.

He had trained Moses as a prince of Egypt, schooled him in all of the sciences and rhetoric a leader of a nation might need.

He had watched over Moses as a refugee in the wilderness for decades.

And now, he called Moses up to active duty and sent him back to Egypt with a message for the hard-hearted Pharaoh, “Let my people go.”

God had been active for years before Israel ever saw the answer to their cries.

Just as the Psalmist wrote: “Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether” (Psalm 139:4, ESV).  Yes, the Lord hears our cries before they ever form on our lips and He knows our needs before we ever kneel before Him.

Because we know He hears, remembers, sees and understands, we can also declare with King David:

Now I know that the Lord saves His anointed; He will answer him from his holy heaven with the saving might of His right hand” (Psalm 20:6, ESV).

God’s love for us and compassion for His people is all the microphone we need to broadcast our cries to heaven and to receive salvation from His mighty hand.

You can read more devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King