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Devotional: Not so ‘awesome’: Christians overusing the word

17 Nov

Got $50 from your aunt for your birthday? Awesome!

Finished six sections each week to get the Timothy Award in AWANA? Awesome!

Your baby just started taking his first steps without holding on to anything? Awesome!

Christians using ‘awesome’ to describe anything not related to God Himself? Not so awesome.

Our society has been using ‘awesome’ as a synonym for ‘cool’ since the 1980s. How was that burger, Ted? Oh, it’s awesome, dude. How do those shoes feel, Stephanie? Wow, they are awesome. How does it feel to have your first baby, Joe? Totally awesome.

A website even lists what it considers to be the most awesome things, including, um, Will Farrell’s Super Sexy Sunscreen.


The definition of awesome is full of awe. Um, yes, of course. So let’s look up the definition of awe. It says:

“an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, fear, etc., produced by that which is grand, sublime, extremely powerful, or the like”

One of the two examples in that definition says ‘in awe of God’. The other example it gives is ‘in awe of great political figures.’

What the Bible says

Interestingly, Scripture (ESV) also uses the word ‘awe’ in reference to God and great political figures.

In Jos 4:14, the people stood in awe of Joshua, just as they stood in awe of Moses. In 1 Sam 18:15, Saul stood in awe of David due to David’s great success. And in 1 Kgs 3:28, all Israel stood in awe of Solomon due to his wisdom. Great political figures all.

But while the Bible describes people being in awe of other people, it never commands us to be in awe of people (or things, like shoes, sports results, or Will Farrell’s, um, sexy sunscreen). Scripture does, however, command us to be in awe of God. For example:

You who fear the Lord, praise Him!
All you offspring of Jacob, glorify Him,
and stand in awe of  Him, all you offspring of Israel! (Ps 22:23)

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him! (Ps 33:8)

By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness,
O God of our salvation,
the hope of all the ends of the earth
and of the farthest seas;
the one who by his strength established the mountains,
being girded with might;
who stills the roaring of the seas,
the roaring of their waves,
the tumult of the peoples,
so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs. (Ps 65:5-8)

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe (Heb 12:28)

Christians should be careful to not use the word ‘awesome’ to describe anything unrelated to the Lord. This isn’t an attempt to be Pharisaical (where obeying laws are more important than a pure heart), but a caution to keep the Lord in His rightful place in your heart as the only One who truly is awesome.

Your turn

Have you been using the word ‘awesome’ flippantly? Have you ever referred to the Lord Himself, or things related to God (like heaven), as awesome?

Devotional: trusting God amid despair

9 Nov

Have you ever been hurting inside? It doesn’t have to be a tragedy of some sort; it could just be a spiritual desert, where you feel like you need a lift from the Lord but you aren’t getting one? You try to be faithful to God, and you try to believe  things will get better. But each day passes by and nothing changes.

I feel that way sometimes. My job doesn’t value me the way I feel it should. Maybe for you, you don’t even have a job and it’s been a long time since you’ve even gotten an interview. Or maybe you and your spouse feel distant, or maybe your spouse left you altogether.

Abraham feels your pain. And then some.

God promised Abraham something, but for 25 years, nothing happened. Twenty-five years! Let’s see what happened during that time.

In Gen 12, the Lord tells Abram for the first time (vv.1-3) about the Lord’s plan to make Abram a great nation. Sounds amazing. Just one problem. Abram doesn’t have any children and he is 75 years old. Abram’s reaction? He believed the Lord’s promise and did as he was told (vv.4-5). As 80s pop icon George Michael once crooned, “you got to have faith, faith, faith.”

After traveling a bit (remember this was before the time of BMWs, so travel was not exactly easy nor quick) into the land of Canaan (v.5b-6), the Lord appears to Abram again and reiterates His promise (v.7). Abram’s reaction? He built an altar there. In other words, Abram worshipped the Lord.

After Abram and Lot decide who gets what land, the Lord appears to Abram again (Gen 13:14-17) and reiterates His promise. Abram’s reaction? He built another altar. So again, full of faith, Abram worshipped the Lord.

In Gen 15, the Lord appears to Abram for the fourth time and reiterates His promise (v.1). Abram’s reaction? For the first time, Abram shows a crack in the armor of his faith, expressing doubt (vv.2-3) because he has no heir. The Lord replies with a specific answer: you will have a son (v.4). Abram’s reaction? He believed the Lord, and the Lord counted Abram’s faith as righteousness.

Maybe you can relate. Perhaps you’ve had your faith stretched to the point where maybe, just maybe, you think the Lord is ignoring you and your plight. But then something happens where your faith is temporarily restored, even though your plight still isn’t resolved. Abraham would tell you, you’re not alone…he’s been there.

In Gen 17, the Lord appears to Abram for a fifth time to reiterate the promise (vv.1-16). The Lord is even more detailed this time, explaining the rite of circumcision that all future male boys will have to go through, including Sarai in the promise, and changing Abram and Sarai’s names to Abraham and Sarah, respectively. It has now been 24 years since the Lord first promised this to Abram. Abram’s reaction?

Abraham laughs (v.17)! It’s been at least 13 years (over a decade) since Abram believed the Lord and it was credited to Abram as righteousness. Abraham has gone the other direction now, into disbelief (though not full-blown disbelief since he prays to the Lord in v.18 for Ishmael).

We can certainly understand why Abraham would have doubt. For a God who spoke the world into existence, why would Abraham have to wait about a quarter of a century for God to do something? Why keep me in the dark for so long, Lord? Can’t you see I’m struggling?

The Lord answers Abraham that it won’t be Ishmael but a son from Sarah to be named Isaac (v.19). Abram’s response? He obeys again, circumcising all the males in his house as directed.

As we know, Abraham and Sarah do have a son, despite the fact that they were “advanced in years” and that “the way of women had ceased to be with Sarah”. But why did the Lord wait so long before fulfilling His promise? I believe God wanted to make sure it was an impossible situation for Sarah to conceive and bear a child so that such an event would give God the greatest glory. If Abraham and Sarah conceived when they were much younger, surely they might have thought that they had a lot to do with it. But at this point, it was obvious to all that they had nothing to do with it and God had everything to do with it.

Whatever spiritual desert you’re going through, continue to keep the faith, be obedient to the Lord and worship Him, as Abram did. The Lord cares for you (Mt 6:26) but sometimes help will wait to come until a time that demonstrates you have nothing to do with it and God has everything to do with it.

Devotional: Don’t think you’re insignificant!

21 Oct

This is a devotional I did with my kids recently. Given how kids have the propensity to forget things, I’m posting it here so that they won’t forget the lesson behind it.

(I’m sure some preachers have preached this before, but this was something I stumbled across during one of my morning quiet times, so, no, I didn’t steal any of this material from someone else.)

When I grew up as a child, I was not a Christian. My mom was not a Christian. I was in a low-income family. No house. No car. No father. But I still had aspirations. I wanted to be somebody. Maybe a famous cartoonist. Maybe a major league baseball player. Maybe a scientist who would invent something important.

Of course, none of those things happened. Was rejected in attempting to be a syndicated cartoonist. Failed to make the cut in walk-on tryouts for UIC baseball. Definitely not a scientist.

But I don’t look at my life as wasted or insignificant. I graduated college, am still married to the girl of my dreams, became born-again, and have six kids in whom I’m hoping to instill their own faith in Christ. The first three accomplishments had significant hurdles I had to overcome, and the last accomplishment is a significant responsibility that I’m still working on. So even in what I would view as a failure to be significant in my childhood goals, I’d argue that what I’m doing is still significant even if I never became famous for it or if no one else appreciated what I did outside my immediate family.

Not all kids grow up with aspirations to become significant, however. Some just go through life without deep thoughts about the future. Some grow up with deep thoughts but wondering what life is all about. Others will grow up like I did: getting a decent job and raising a family but not feeling significant. Maybe you too wonder if there’s more to life than this.

In the book of Genesis, there are seven major people or groups of people that the author focuses on. They are:

  • Adam & Eve
  • Cain & Abel
  • Noah
  • Abraham
  • Isaac
  • Jacob
  • Joseph

These are what we would consider to be the significant people in Genesis. Drilling down further, it appears that the most significant of Jacob’s 12 children is Joseph. In fact, Joseph is so significant that Genesis devotes 13 chapters (26%, more than a quarter) to Joseph’s amazing history.

I love Joseph. His love, patience, and ability to handle sexual temptation are all very inspiring qualities. Don’t you love Joseph?

But there is a child of Jacob who is even more significant than Joseph. Far more significant. Can you guess who it is? That person is Judah.

Now, in the book of Genesis, Judah is not significant at all. In fact, Judah’s mom was “hated” by Judah’s father (Gen 29:31), so you could say he grew up in a dysfunctional home. Can significance come from dysfunctional homes? In addition, neither was Judah the firstborn child of Leah; he was Leah’s fourth. What’s more, Jacob loved his brother Joseph the most. Joseph was a firstborn child…of Jacob’s favorite wife Rachel. Judah just doesn’t have a lot going for him.

But that’s not all. Gen 38 records a part of Judah’s history, oddly nestled among the pages in Genesis discussing Joseph. Here we see that Judah takes a Canaanite girl as his wife. It was already established that the people of the Promised Land were not to take Canaanite women as their wives.  Not good.

Even worse, Judah winds up impregnating his daughter-in-law Tamar, rather than giving her to his son Shelah. Oops. Tamar has twins, Perez and Zerah. Remember that name Perez…we’ll come back to it later.

Just to make sure we know that Judah is not a great guy, we read in Gen 37 that the plan to sell Joseph into slavery to the Ishmaelites was planned by none other than Judah. While it could be argued that Judah’s plan was instrumental to what would then happen to Joseph, the fact remains that Judah isn’t exactly a guy we cheer for and tell kids about with admiration in Sunday school.

The final nail in Judah’s coffin of significance is that when his father Jacob is dying, Jacob blesses Ephraim and Manasseh. Judah, not surprisingly, is nowhere to be found.

But wait a minute. If you turn to Matthew 1:2, the genealogy of Christ doesn’t say “Jacob father of Joseph and his brothers”; it says “Jacob father of Judah and his brothers.” Judah? The guy who couldn’t do anything right…and schemed to do things wrong?

But don’t stop at verse 2 in that genealogy. Verse 3 says: “and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron.” So Gen 38 is important after all. Remember that name Perez, three paragraphs ago? Here he is again…Judah’s odd son/grandson, part Canaanite child, is listed in the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Wow.

Do we know anything else that Judah or Perez did? No. They were as insignificant as they come, when it comes to accomplishments. If you were to ask either of them on their death bed whether they felt significant, I bet both of them would agree with you that they were lived insignificant lives.

But Judah and Perez are part of the lineage of the Messiah! You and your child, no matter how unlikeable they may be, no matter how insignificant they may think they are, matter to God. No one knows how the Lord will use you or your child for His glory. You may not see it in your lifetime, and your child may not see it during his/her lifetime either…just as Judah and Perez didn’t. But that doesn’t mean God doesn’t have a plan for you and your child.

As I write this post, there’s an article today in the Wall Street Journal about the number of trophy homes Oracle CEO Larry Ellison owns. Some of his homes are worth $108 million dollars. That’s not even his net worth; it’s just one of his many homes.

Are you or your child feeling like life is just a grind, or that your life isn’t amounting to much? Be encouraged! God has a plan for you to be significant! Not in a monetary or physical possessions way b/c Christ already condemned those as insignificant. Rather, your significance comes in your family’s multi-generational legacy. Genealogies are used in both the Old and New Testaments for a reason: the offspring you raise are what’s significant, not the stuff you buy with your wallet. If you are a parent, continue to raise your children and your grandchildren for God’s glory. If you are a child, continue to love the Lord your God with all your soul. It is the soul, after all, that is what’s significant.