When Life Doesn’t Go as Planned

Understanding the will of God isn’t just a twenty-first century issue we’re experiencing because of a certain white noise called social media. Or the outpouring of too many years’ post crucifixion. Nor is it a matter of recent debate. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a topic of discussion since God marched Adam and Eve outside the luscious landscape of the garden.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:11-22
Key Verse: “He supposed that his brothers would understand that God was giving them salvation by his hand, but they did not understand.” Acts 7:25


For God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are his ways our ways (Isaiah 55:8), so the whole wrapping our minds around his sovereign plan thing, a bit baffling at times. But waiting for it to unfold – a different story altogether.

Especially when we’re passionate and have great intentions. A plan to bring glory to God. Desires that match his own. And a small sliver of an idea of how God might use us in this great big world.

Yet day after day nothing happens. No, this-is-what-I’ve-been-waiting-for phone calls come. No doors burst open. No new path is carved. And it’s hard to wait on God. To sit back and relax. To trust and believe and not take matters into our own hands.

As Moses did forty years in. He’d grown up Egyptian, yet understood his Hebrew heritage and had a heart for his people. According to Acts 7:25 he also had an idea God intended to use him to free the Israelites. He just didn’t know when or how.

And to his credit, he was willing. The problem? It wasn’t time. The motive was right but not the moment. The four hundred years God mentioned to Abraham had yet to be completed, the people’s suffering unfinished, and Moses, well, he was far from the faith filled leader Israel would need.

But as is often the case when we let desire cloud discretion, Moses moved ahead of God. Filled with compassion for his brethren he went to see them “and looked on their burdens” (v. 11). But it wasn’t just a quick glance or a little “I wonder what they’re up to” once-over. The Hebrew verb for looked means “to see with emotion.” It was a gut twisting gaze. The heart-breaking kind.

So when Moses saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew (probably to death), he couldn’t help himself. “He looked this way and that, and seeing no one, he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand.” (v. 12)

His sense of justice not totally out of place. Nor his rights as prince of the land. Yet it was wrong because it wasn’t necessary. God didn’t plan to save his people through the works of Moses. He planned to save them through glorifying works of his own. Just as he saves us. By grace though faith in his power and provision.

So the LORD waited until Moses was an old man (relatively speaking). Until his power was stripped. Until he had nothing left to offer but the words of God – to redeem the Israelites from the hand of slavery. Because it’s not us who deserves the glory, it’s God.

Though at the time, Moses had no idea what God was up to. (I think we’ve all been there.) Yet filled with undeterred passion for his people he couldn’t stay away. So he went again the very next day to visit the people but this time found two Hebrews fighting. And said to him, “Why do you strike your companion?” To which the man replied “Who made you prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” (v. 14)

Not exactly the response Moses was planning on. He figured the Israelite’s “understood that God was giving them salvation by his hand” (Acts 7:25). Upon realizing not everyone was on the same page, Moses was afraid.

And rightly so because when Pharaoh got wind of it, he tried to kill him. Not because Moses had committed murder, but because he had joined the hot civil rights movement and was no longer one of them.

So Moses fled to the land of Midian where he came to the rescue of seven unwed sisters, found himself invited for dinner, and ended up marrying one of them. My favorite part? Though he’d made a mistake he was still snug in the hand God. A lovely reassurance for us who struggle with GAGS (Getting Ahead of God Syndrome). (You’re welcome for the acronym.)

Moses met four decades in the wilderness. God was in no hurry. But the problem is, we often are. Leading us to assume God’s moved on, decided on someone else, or had an entirely different plan altogether. A plan we were never meant to be a part of.

Think Moses struggled with any doubts his forty years in Midian? I think anyone would have. But God hadn’t set Moses. He hadn’t changed his mind. Moses hadn’t misunderstood. Nor was he being punished. He was being prepared. A reality I need to sit close with.

Little did Moses realize the land he dwelt in and learned and grew comfortable exploring was the very land he would lead the Israelites around on for forty adventurous years. He also learned to be a shepherd, keeping watch over his father-in-law’s flocks. A skill he’d later use shepherding God’s unruly people (Ps. 77:20).

Not to mention the lessons in unconditional love he gained by having a wife and two boys, along with the experience of patiently disciplining, encouraging, and raising children. Skills he’d not doubt put to good use.

Consequently, it’s possible his father-in-law, who just happened to be a priest, taught him valuable insights about the LORD. As a descendant of Abraham through his wife Keturah it’s feasible Reuel served the true God.

Though Moses couldn’t see it, God was working. The same God that lead Abraham’s servant to the well Rebecca was at, and Jacob to the well Rachel was at, is the same God that lead Moses to the well his wife was at.

The same God that used the Midianites to carry Joseph to Egypt is the same God that now used the Midianites to prepare Moses to bring them out of Egypt.

The same God who allowed Moses’ life to mirror that of Christ’s by causing him to be rejected by his own people so he would turn to the gentiles, marry a gentile wife, and then later appear again to the Israelites as their deliverer and be accepted by them the second time, is the same God who’s allowed my life and yours to mirror the redemption Israel received.

And this same God, is still in charge today. So if you’ve made your home in the wilderness, if you’re not where you thought you’d be this time last year, if you’re waiting on God to move, to work, to open a door either here or there – think of Moses and his season of preparation. God’s working my friend, even when we can’t see it. Just be faithful and follow Him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you waiting on God to do? Are you trusting in his plan and purpose or have you moved ahead because it’s taking too long?
How might your current circumstances be preparing you for the works God has ahead?

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Dear Mary, Did You Know?

Dear Mary,

You don’t know me, but I know your Son. Your firstborn. Son of the Most High God and LORD of all the earth. Or maybe I should say he knows me. I think that might be better. For it’s He who searches hearts and minds (Rev. 2:23). He who made me and holds me together. He’s my rock, my refuge, my shield.

What was it like Mary, to raise him? To have the radiance of God’s glory call you mother; the author of life (Acts 3:15) and salvation (Heb. 2:10) play on your living room floor; the Son of the living God eat at your table. Indeed Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42).

Did you know Mary? Did you know you held the source of eternal salvation in your arms? (Heb. 5:9) Did you know you were rocking the Shepherd and Overseer of souls (1 Peter 2:25); tickling the toes of the Alpha and Omega (Rev. 1:8); playing peekaboo with the Savior of the world? What went through your mind as you tucked in bed the Ruler of the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:5) and kissed goodnight the face of God?

Were you taught as a little girl of the virgin birth to come? “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14). Could you even fathom you were the one Isaiah spoke of seven hundred years before; the one to bring forth the Redeemer? (Is. 47:4).

Who would have thought, the Author of Life, would put on flesh to be the Author of salvation. It leaves me undone every single time I think about it. “Taking the form of a servant…he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil 2:7-8). What a story! A story you got to be a part of.

I’m challenged by your immediate willingness to surrender your life to His service. Were you scared (Luke 1:29)? I would have been terrified. To be with child and yet not married – they could have stoned you. I would have hid.

And you did for a while – escaping to be with Elizabeth. Whose greeting must have welcomed you like the fullness of spring. “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” (Luke 1:42) She knew! She already knew!

Knit by love and wonder and the greatest of men growing in your wombs, how sweet were your conversations in the still of each day’s light? Did you sit hot tea in hand, while Zachariah played his part, silently mouthing the Scripture bombarding his eager heart? Or maybe he wrote them word for word, the verses he’d hidden deep inside, while his two favorite ladies treasured each one with unhindered delight.

Then empowered by God’s grace in the arms of your dear friend, you went home to face the future, no matter how it would end.

How nervous were you to tell Joseph? I would have pleaded with God to tell him instead. Yet left with no choice, you forged ahead. Did you beg him to listen; did you beg him to stay? And then sit in confusion when the conversation didn’t go your way? Or did God step in and save you, as he’d soon do for us all, before the brokenness of rejection crept in to make you fall.

Though relief kindly met you the day of Joseph’s dream, I’m willing to bet misjudgment didn’t make you beam. Pregnant out of wedlock, how many painted you an immoral girl? Did your parents believe you? Did Joseph’s understand? Or was it a whore of a daughter-in-law they thought they got instead.

Then the decree to register, did it take you by surprise? Or fit like a piece in the bigger than you puzzle of your life? (Micah 5:2) Yet knowing time was near, you had no choice but to go south ninety miles on a donkey or perhaps a cart. Ankles swollen, baby ready, you rode the rough terrain with a man you called your husband to the town we all know by name.

How scared were you Mary when the first contraction came? When it seized you with determination, did you hide it at all the same? Counting and recounting until you couldn’t hide it anymore. What went through your mind when no one would open their door?

Wake up Bethlehem your time in history has come, yet there was no place for you to have God’s sweet and precious son. Was Joseph mad with urgency? Could you hear it in his voice? Did you plead with him to hurry? Did you plead with him to help? Until he finally found a stable or perhaps a room off to the side, to welcome the King of Glory in a manger on his first night.

Where was the fanfare? Where was the fun? For the birth anticipated since the garden had come undone.  It was reserved for a few meager shepherds tending their flocks not far. Who heard the angels call and followed a special star.

I’d say it’s not what you pictured when Gabriel first made mention of the plan. But I have a feeling it didn’t matter once you held his tiny hand. Could you sense the magnitude of the moment? Could you sense heaven standing by? As they watched Immanuel invade the world with a simple little cry.

Did you know time stopped counting down at his arrival and began counting up until his next? Could you fathom the baby you were holding was deity at it’s best? Diminished in his glory so the world would know him not. How did you later let go? For it’s my freedom that he bought.

Nestled in your arms for only a short time, you knew the birth of this child would change your life forever (Luke 1:48), but did you know it would also change mine? Thank you for your example. Your willingness to say yes, when God called you and put you to the test.

Mother of the great I AM your new normal, I have no idea how you did it so informal. One day at a time that’s how we mothers roll. In hopes of raising great kids, because that’s always the goal.

But yours was great from before time began. Perfect in every way he still holds my hand. Faithful until the end I’ve received him as my King, thank you Mary he makes my heart sing.

You may have carried him then, but it’s he who now carries me. I’d be lost without him for all eternity. Bruised for my transgressions and crushed for my iniquities, he’s my Savior, my God, but it all started with him bouncing gleefully on your knees.

It happened didn’t it? It’s all true. He came, he died, and came back, and reigns over me and you. I look forward to meeting you someday and talking as only mothers can. But until then Mary, I’m holding tight to the precious boy your raised up to be a man.

In Christ Alone,
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When We’re Called to Let Go

He had it all. Every comfort you could imagine. The best of Egypt at his fingertips. The latest technology, the fastest chariots, the choicest of fruits, servants, wealth, prestige, power, fame. He said it and it was done. He asked for it and it was delivered.


Devotional Scripture: Acts 7:17-29; Hebrews 11:23-27
Key Verse: “He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward.” Hebrews 11:26


401 Easy Street, is where Moses resided. In the shimmering, cool, palace of an elite world power. Adopted as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter it’s even possible he was next in line for the throne.

Yet Hebrews 11:24 tells us he refused it. He “refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:24-25). Considering “the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward” (Heb. 11:26).

Counting the luxuries he’d been handed as nothing, he exchanged the palace for a tent, riches for a relationship, honor for dishonor, affluence for affliction, ample amenities for very few, the royal robes of Egypt for a shepherd’s coat

Would you have done it? Would you have left the lap of luxury for a seat at the commoner’s table? I don’t know if I would have. In all honesty, I’ve stumbled through the text this week for fear of what lies on the other side. What sacrifice I might be called to make.

Because the truth is, I like my comforts and conveniences. Don’t you? Nestled amid the amenities of the palace I know the conversation I would have been having with Jesus. “LORD, please, can’t I just serve you from here? I have money for the poor. I have power. I have influence. I’ll use them for your glory. I promise.” There’s no doubt in my mind I would have hung on.

But Moses didn’t. Considering the reward much greater than the cost, he gave it all up. And he did so by faith. (Hebrews 11:24 – The same way we’re to do it.) Taught by his parents, grandparents, siblings, or maybe God himself, Moses took God at his word and believed it.

You know who else exchanged affluence for affliction? Jesus. “Who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:6-7).

Humbling himself he exchanged the throne for a stable, the royal robes of heaven for some simple swaddling, the brilliance of glory for no form of majesty, the table of heaven for a seat with commoners, the praise of angels for the rejection of men, a crown of splendor for that of thorns, fellowship with God for the wrath of sin. Obedient to the point of death, that we might live.

How’d he do it? Much the same as Moses. He looked ahead. He looked to God. He looked to heaven. Enduring the cross “for the joy that was set before him” (Heb. 12:2).

Handing the hope of heaven to us who can’t get there. Weaving grace into the fabric of human hearts. Offering peace and reconciliation to a people apart from God. Giving us who come with nothing of eternal value, every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. (Eph. 1:3) And an inheritance we can’t even fathom.

“But as it is written in the Scriptures: “No one has ever seen this. No one has ever heard about it. No one has ever imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (Is. 64:4, ICB).

It’s too great. Too wonderful for us to wrap around. Take beauty and go a step further. Take marvelous and magnify it. Take superb and marry it to delightful and you’ve got a small piece of our future in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, we can let go. We can sacrifice. Whether it simply be time or money or the life we thought we wanted. The way we thought things would be. The dream we felt sure we needed. The career. The plan. Or the life of ease and convenience we’ve grown comfortable in.

We can humble ourselves. We can be obedient to the call of God, even if it means running in a direction the world never would. Keeping before us the reproach of Christ, because the reward is far greater than the cost. The Savior far greater than the sacrifice.

Moses gave up much to gain more. And because of his willingness he experienced an intimacy with Christ so spectacular his face radiated with God’s glory. (I want that.)

But it took time. And a path he never expected. Are you willing? If and when God calls us to let go, let’s do so in faith my friend, for the riches of our King are far greater than that of this kingdom. And the surpassing worth of experiencing Christ a treasure like none other.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:7).

In obedience we gain immeasurably more than we could ever lose. Be faithful my friend, be faithful.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Have you been busy counting the cost or the reward? I often get caught up in the cost. What is God calling you to let go of today? Are you willing?

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When the Place We’re in Makes No Sense

A testament to God’s sovereignty often includes two words: perfect timing. A check arrived in the mail the day before rent was due. A friend showed up at the exact moment needed. A phone call seconds before it was too late. A stranger who asks if they can pray for you. A note of encouragement when you needed one most. A verse at just the right time.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:5-10
Key Verse: “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand.” Isaiah 14:24


And we think “Wow. That was either a crazy coincidence or that was God.” But based on the Scripture before us, I’m going to say it was God. The LORD of heaven and earth, who is before all things, and through whom all things hold together (Col. 1:17).

He alone holds wisdom in his hand – giving it to those who ask (James 1:5). He alone changes the seasons and removes kings from leadership and sets up new ones (Daniel 2:20-21). He alone laid the foundation of the earth, marked off it’s measurements, and prescribed limits to the ocean saying, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:4-11).

He doesn’t just orchestrate events here and there – He orchestrates life. As he did in countless stories of the Bible – including this one. The account of Moses birth, his nail biting jaunt down the river, his adoption by Pharaoh’s daughter, and his upbringing in the palace.

It wasn’t an accident the princess walked down to the Nile to bathe when she did. It wasn’t just perfect timing, though the timing was indeed perfect. Nor was it luck that she felt compassion for Moses.

It was God.

She knew her father’s orders. She knew the baby was to die, yet without hesitation the princess set in motion a plan to keep the child for herself. In all honesty, it makes no sense. If she had wanted a child, I’m sure she could have found an Egyptian baby. One of noble status. After all, she was daughter of Pharaoh, say the word and it was hers.

Yet she found a circumcised slave child, in a basket, in the river, and chose him.

Did she find it odd that a young Hebrew girl was close at hand, privy to the entire scene? After all, the princess was either bathing or about to. She could have been mad. “What are you doing here?” She could have ordered the young girl questioned. But instead she listened to her and allowed her to fetch a wet nurse for the hungry child. Another coincidence? I don’t think so.

But the sovereign hand of God did not stop there. Giving Jochebed the opportunity to nurse her son, gave Moses connection with his people. We aren’t told how often he got to visit his mama, or at what point he understood his story. But according to Exodus 2:11 when he grew up, he knew who his people were, despite his Egyptian upbringing.

Which we know little about, other than the fact he was instructed in all things Egypt and “mighty in his words and deeds” (Acts 7:22). In other words, he went to school. He learned to read and write and communicate and be a leader. All things that would come in handy for the man God planned to use to write the first 187 chapters of the Bible and lead his people out of Egypt (see Num. 33:2; Joshua 8:31; John 5:46; 2 Cor. 3:15)

But my favorite part is that Pharaoh housed, fed, nurtured, provided, taught, and educated the very man God would use to bring about the very thing Pharaoh was trying to prevent – a massive Israelite escape. An awesome display of God’s sovereign hand at work!

It wasn’t by accident or chance or consequence that Moses ended up in the palace. It was God’s plan, to prepare Moses for the works he prepared in advance for him to do. Sound familiar? Ephesians 2:10 says it works the same way for us too!

So when we end up in a place we didn’t expect or a situation we hadn’t anticipated, we can relax knowing God’s got a plan. And maybe, just maybe that thing that’s taking forever, that issue we never expected, that fork in the road, that mishap or misfortune is the very thing God’s going to use to prepare us for a ministry, a life, an impact far more fulfilling than we ever could have imagined.

Beloved, with God on the throne, the place we’re in has purpose.

Proverbs 16:9 says, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” If this is true (and we know it is because it’s the living breathing word of God) then we can relax. Apart from sin, the place we’re in has purpose. And even then God can use our mess ups. (Can I get an amen?)

Nothing happens without God’s eye upon it. Without his knowing. His purpose always prevails. “The LORD of hosts has sworn: “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand” (Isaiah 14:24).

What probably felt like terrible timing to Jochebed – a baby boy born under a death sentence, was actually God’s perfect timing.

So take heart, lean not on your own understanding and trust the LORD. Because the same sovereign God who ruled then, still rules today. Therefore, we can know, the place we’re in has purpose.

Contemplate and Evaluate
What does the fact that God is sovereign mean for you today?
How might God be preparing you or using you, as you wait or walk the path you’re on right now?

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The Result of Faith

I wrapped it carefully, as though my entire world sat inside that little rectangular box. Curling the ribbon just so – I couldn’t wait for dinner. Couldn’t wait to give my mom her mother’s day present so our little secret could finally taste freedom.


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 2:1-10
Key Verse: “By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful, and they were not afraid of the king’s edict.” Hebrews 11:23


Married just three months, I knew the baby bib inside that box would shock everyone at the table. “You’re pregnant?” The scene looped through my head over and over. What would they say? How would they react?

I knew there’d be congratulations because we were a polite family and that’s what polite families do. But would they think us too young? Because wasn’t I too young? I stared at the box, willing the growing butterflies keeping my baby company to simmer down. Everything was going to be fine. A baby is a blessing. New life is a blessing, right?

It’s no secret a baby can bring with it all manner of emotion. Everything from elation to trepidation, depending on circumstances. Which has me wondering where Jochebed, mother of Moses, may have fell on the spectrum.

It wasn’t her first baby. She already had a daughter, Miriam, and a son, Aaron, who would have been two at the time (see Ex. 7:7). Though unable to give her children freedom (as a slave in the land of Egypt), she’d been able to give them life – a blessing she’d surely enjoyed. But this time, this time, might be different, finding herself pregnant under an edict to toss all newborn Hebrew boys in the Nile.

Had it been me, I would have been begging God for a girl. “It’d just be easier LORD. Please, please, let it be a girl.” But what if it was a boy? Certainly angst grew right along with her stomach as she waited for her day to come.

“It’s a boy!” Whispered the midwives.  Exodus 2:2 says when she saw “he was a fine child, she hid him three months.” Because what else are you going to do? But Hebrews 11:23 states it was more than elation that caused Jochebed and Amram to hide their son. It was faith.

Faith? But how could it have been faith, if “faith comes by hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). My take on things – they had a word from the LORD. Because faith is not merely hope, it’s believing in the word of God and acting upon it.

While other mothers were weeping for their littles, Jochebed believed something different for hers. A belief that was by faith. Otherwise, I don’t think she would have sent Miriam along to watch. Nor do I think she would have placed him in the very river that had claimed the lives of so many, unless directed by God.

Left to my own reasoning, I would have gotten as far away from the Nile as possible. Run away if you have to, but don’t go near that river!

Yet there she was among the reeds sweetly surrendering her son in a basket made of papyrus, coated carefully in bitumen and pitch. How you let go, how you walk away, is beyond me.

But she did. And then she waited. For minutes? Hours? Did the river move unusually slow that day as it carried her son into a wake of unknown? Interestingly enough the Hebrew word used for basket in this passage is tebah. It can also be translated ark. It’s used in Scripture only here and in reference to Noah’s ark, which was also covered in bitumen and pitch – a tar like substance to keep things sealed.

A coincidence? No. Noah’s ark was a vessel of salvation for him and his crew, just as that little basket was a vessel of salvation for Moses. And a picture to us of Christ – the vessel of our salvation. It was faith that placed Moses in that ark and faith that places us in Christ.

Though crocodiles were probably a threat, though the basket could have tipped, though someone else could have grabbed him, carried along by God, Moses had never been safer than he was in that basket. (And in Christ, I’d say we could say the same.)

Did Jochebed have any idea how God would save him? Any idea it would be through the princess? I doubt it. But just hours after releasing him to the hand of God, there she sat nursing her sweet boy, and getting paid for it.

Not because she begged and pleaded and threw a fit. Not because she schemed a great plan. Not because she took matters into her own hands. But because she had faith. Faith in a God who is bigger. Faith in a God who is always faithful to his word.

My friend, it’s faith that opens the door to far more than we can imagine (Eph. 3:20). Faith that lends us the opportunity to experience the goodness of God. And faith that allows us to be part of what God is already doing.

God had a plan to save his people. A plan Pharaoh could not stop – or Satan for that matter. For it’s God who “frustrates the plans of the wicked” (Ps. 146:9, NLT). But it’s only by faith we can be part of it.

Because it’s not fits or fighting or a fabulous plan that’s gonna throw a wrench in evil’s way, it’s faith in a God who’s already got it worked out.

If we want to experience the goodness of God, landing a front row seat to his sovereignty in motion. If we want to be part of what God’s already doing. If we want to be front and center of a plan far beyond anything we could ask or imagine – it’s going to require faith.

It may be hard, but walking forward in faith is never a leap into the unknown, it’s a clear path into the sovereign hand of the living God. So what, I ask you, are we waiting for?

Contemplate and Evaluate:
When have you stepped out in faith and experienced the goodness of God in a way you never imagined?
What do you need to trust God with today? Your family? Your future? How can you best walk by faith?

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This Week I’m Thankful for the Hard and Here’s Why

There’s an age old question: How could a good God let bad things happen? It just doesn’t make any sense to us. It feels incongruent because good and bad don’t go together. Yet there’s no way around the fact that God allows, and at times even ordains, both (Isaiah 45:7).


Devotional Scripture: Exodus 1
Key Verse: “When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD.” (Ezekiel 34:27b, NLT)


The first chapter of Exodus places a similar question before us: What kind of a God would let his chosen people be slaves in a foreign land for not just one or ten or fifteen years, but four hundred long, hot years? We’re talking generations who experienced nothing but brutal slavery while the iniquities (sins) of the Amorites and Perizzites and all the other “ites” in the land of Canaan rose to a level in God’s eyes that warranted destruction. (Gen. 15:13-14; Deut. 7:1-2)

Because that was the deal, do you remember? God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham and his descendants, but He wouldn’t destroy the peoples of Canaan without just cause. Without time to repent of their wickedness. Ezekiel 33:11 says, “As I live, declares the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.” He is a gracious God.

Yet on the flip side, he willingly enslaved His chosen people, not just allowing them to be treated harshly but planning for it. Psalm 105:25 says, “He turned their hearts to hate his people, to deal craftily with his servants.” 

The Pharaoh who first oppressed the Hebrews likely rose to power about eighty years after Joseph’s death. A foreigner – he cared nothing for Egypt’s history or a Hebrew governor named Joseph who died before he was even born.

He just wanted to be sure the growing people group in the Negev didn’t escalate to numbers that might pose a threat to his reign. And the best way to do that – keep them busy. Really busy. Afflicting them with heavy burdens like building storehouses for Pharaoh called Pithom and Raamses (v. 11).

Verse 14 goes on to say the Egyptians “made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.”

Day after day they got up and felt the whip of slavery on their back, thirsting for not just water but freedom. Yet in spite of the injustice upon them – they multiplied. They fell in love. They married. Men went home after long exhausting days and loved their wives. And women in turn came alongside their husbands and they had families.

The people increased greatly – growing “exceedingly strong, so that the land was filled with them” (v. 7), much to the dismay of Pharaoh, who decided to take an even more extreme approach when he realized the people were still increasing.

He called Shiphrah and Puah, two Hebrew midwives, and explained, “When you serve as midwife to the Hebrew women and see them on the birthstool, if it is a son, you shall kill him, but it if is a daughter, she shall live” (v. 16).

But they wouldn’t do it. Fearing God more than man, they let every new baby breath life. And as a result, God rewarded them with families of their own.

Yet He didn’t make the problem go away. He didn’t instantaneously strike Pharaoh down for such a grossly detestable idea. He let him live and since the midwives couldn’t get it done pharoah instructed the Egyptians to take on the task. “Every son that is born to the Hebrews you shall cast into the Nile” (v. 22).

I almost can’t even think of it – the smell and feel of my own newborns always just one lucid memory away. Inviting me to recall the sweetness of their small innocent frames.Their button noses. Their milk white puckered lips.

I shudder at the realization this was not a bad dream these sweet mama’s woke up from, but a nightmare they lived through. Their babies, their little ones, their sweet boys ripped from their arms and tossed into a river as though they were nothing.

Why LORD? Why did it have to be that hard? Why must life be that unfair? Why must we go through things that shatter our already tired and tattered hearts into even tinier pieces?

Couldn’t it be easier? It could. But here’s what I’ve realized: It’s only in the grip of great need, that we begin to grasp the expanse of a great God.

Just think for a moment – If it didn’t hurt, we wouldn’t know God as Healer (Ex. 15:26). If we didn’t have needs, we wouldn’t know God as Provider (Gen. 22:14).  If we didn’t have problems, we wouldn’t know him as powerful. And if we didn’t have worries, we wouldn’t know him as the God of Comfort.

If we could walk through every inch of life on our own, we’d never know He was willing to carry us (Deut. 1:31). If we could fight all of our own battles, we’d never know He was willing to fight on our behalf (Ex. 14:14). If we were never thirsty, we’d have no idea how satisfying He really is (Ps. 107:9).

And if the Israelite’s hadn’t been enslaved, they’d never have known God as Redeemer. Nor experienced a rescue beyond anything the world had ever seen then or now. A rescue that symbolizes the life of every believer – once enslaved to sin, but set free through Jesus Christ.

Why does God sometimes allow the hard?  So we can get to know the Healer.

Because there’s simply nothing better than knowing Him. A God who is good and right and perfect. Who’s just in all He does. Whose greatness is unsearchable. Whose understanding is beyond measure. A hiding place for the wounded and a shield to the faithful – he is the LORD and there is no other.

Ezekiel 34:27b says, “When I have broken their chains of slavery and rescued them from those who enslaved them, then they will know that I am the LORD.” (NLT)

Sometimes it’s hard my friend, not because God doesn’t love us or forgot about us or turned his back for a few minutes, but so we will will know and experience beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is the LORD.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What difficult circumstances has God used to reveal himself to you?
If you’re going through a tough time right now, how might these insights change your perspective?

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It’s week one of a year long study through Exodus. If you haven’t signed up to receive Deeper Devos in your e-mail, please do so! And do me a favor: tell a friend! It thrills me beyond words when you share Deeper Devos with others. Thank you! Until next week, Stacey

Our Problem Isn’t the Government, It’s Holiness

I admit, I’m fearful. As a mother with four young children I’m deeply concerned about the future of this nation and what it holds for my littles. More than anything I want Christianity to be the religion our country holds closest to and the foundation we still stand upon.

But it’s not anymore. Biblical values are no longer the driving force behind societal right and wrongs. We gave that seat to political correctness and women’s activism quite some time ago.

Not that I don’t think men and women are created equal. Not that I don’t think women should have rights. We do and we should. But something’s gone terribly wrong in our society. And instead of facing the music. Instead of digging in to see where we may have gone wrong, fessing up to mistakes, and seeking to make it right, we just blame the government.  

Who is absolutely at fault, don’t get me wrong. We have leaders leading us in just about every wrong direction. Upholding lifestyles of immorality as good and normal. Passing abortion laws under the pretense of women’s rights instead of advocating a beautiful thing called adoption. Making decisions they have no right to make.

And it makes me want to scream. To get in the face of these so called wise people and tell them a thing or two about what I really think of them and their plans to steal the freedom of my children and belittle life.

So I yell at the TV and pray. Asking God to do something. To intercede. To bring revival. To protect me and my comfortable life. To work in the hearts of those in authority. Or remove them or replace them or keep them from putting in place rules and regulations that might hinder my lovely little existence.

Which is not wrong. We need to be praying, especially for our leaders. But I think we’ve forgotten something. (Or at least I had.) Something not necessarily easy, but important. And undeniably vital to the heartbeat of God.

I think we’ve forgotten holiness.

The setting apart of God’s people for righteousness. 1 Peter 1:15 says we are to be holy as He is holy. We are to conduct ourselves in such a way that matches the character of He who indwells us. For we are “a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession” saved to proclaim the excellencies of Christ (1 Peter 2:9). Yet what do our attitudes and actions and apathy most often proclaim?

We pray and then we go back to conformity. We ask, but then we go sit in front of the TV. Watching shows that take God’s name in vain and uphold sex outside of marriage and praise divorce and normalize weak men and applaud aggressive youth.  

We uphold Friends as one of the best sitcoms ever and post pictures of ourselves devouring reruns when almost every episode includes sexual immorality. We get more excited about the comeback of Gilmore Girls than we ever have about the coming of Christ.

We play video games that kill and we brag about it. We engross ourselves in murder mysteries and the nightly news, instead of engrossing ourselves in God’s word. Teaching our kids it’s ok to toe the line. To watch sin and laugh at it and be a part of it as long as it’s just on TV or with a gaming controller.

Which has me wondering, why would God ever want to move on behalf of such an apathetic people? A people who profess his name on Sunday’s but haphazardly throw him on the shelf Monday through Saturday. Who sit and laugh at the stuff he hates. Who live in a constant state of inconsistency. Who say they are Christians but could care less to uphold what Christ actually says.

We seek His intervention, but we don’t seek His Word. We covet His action, but we don’t covet His attributes.

Yet it’s holiness that moves God to act on behalf of his people and always has been. When the Israelites obeyed the LORD, God protected and prospered them. But when they profaned his name and acted in wickedness, God rejected them.

Not that he wanted to, but in holiness he had to for they refused to obey. “My people have turned their backs on me and have refused to return. Even though I diligently taught them, they would not receive instruction or obey” (Jeremiah 32:33, NLT).

God desires obedience. The cross didn’t change that. Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15).

Beloved, it’s holiness that moves God. When his people choose to do that which is honoring to him, he can’t help but respond. It’s our sin that keeps him quiet. Isaiah 59:1-2 says, “Listen! The LORD’S arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God” (NLT).

Our sins.

Yet the LORD encouraged Israel with this, “I have swept away your sins like a cloud, I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free” (Is. 44:22, NLT).

Return to Him! Not just in word but in deed. In holiness. In righteousness. The government has nothing on God. His presence alone “brings princes to nothing, and makes the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Is. 40:23).

But why would God act on behalf of a people who live as though they care nothing for him? Profaning not only his name, but his holiness.

Yes, we can pray. Yes, we can ask God to heal our land but without a return to holiness, without a whole hearted seeking of God and a good riddance to the sin we’ve let infiltrate our daily lives for far too long , I sincerely wonder at the outcome.

“This is what the LORD says: “Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:26 NLT  

I can only imagine what God might do if we – his people – asked for the old, godly way, and walked in it. It starts with us friends. It starts with us.

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Photo provided by @wittersgarden. Follow them on Instagram for more fun inspiration.

The Absurd Reality of Every Believer

There’s a truth seeking to intrude the everyday moments of life – both the mundane and the monumental. A truth I let slip into the daily drama every once in awhile but would do well to let drench the difficulties and decisions and dilemmas that arrive on my doorstep each morning. A truth I long to live within – snug and secure within the boundaries it provides, the comfort it gives, and the hope it exhales.


Key Verse: “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Corinthians 3:16


But instead of soaking in this immeasurably wonderful revelation, with all it’s lovely attributes, I more often than not set it aside for less feasible realities. Like having a beautifully put together life (the kind that is social media worthy) or a number on the scale that is less than last week or a completely picked up house or every dish in the cupboard or a floor that has less food on it than an all you can eat buffet.

Consumed with the hope of making such lofty goals the truth of my everyday, I forget the real truth. The truth that would have blown the sandals off every godly Israelite of Moses’ day or Joshua’s day or David’s day.

The truth that in Christ, God is with me. Always and forever with me. Indwelling me with His perfectly righteous Spirit. Going before me, walking beside me, carrying me when I’m too tired to walk on my own. Or too overcome. Or too weary. Or too confused to take one more step.

“That’s impossible!” The Israelites would have said. “A holy God cannot dwell within sinful man!” Yet this side of the cross, He does. It’s not a ridiculous notion, it’s reality. The God who was once shielded nicely behind two curtains, on the other side of an altar, constantly smattered with blood – now dwells within every man, woman, and child that confesses Christ as LORD.

It’s a privilege unlike any other considering only the high priest could enter the presence of God (within the Holy of Holies), prior to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And even then it was only once a year, on the Day of Atonement, after cleansing and draping himself with special clothing. To do a job only he could do – sprinkle the mercy seat with the blood of atonement.

While the people outside waited. Are we accepted, or are we not accepted? Fear intermingled with hope; desperation threatening any shroud of confidence they felt after watching a goat, 2 bulls, 1 ram, and 7 lambs make their way across the bronze altar – the required number of sacrifices for that special day.

The vast gap between God’s righteousness and theirs requiring more of the same sacrifices not only on the Day of Atonement but at the first of every month and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and Pentecost (Feast of Weeks). Along with two daily lambs a year old, without blemish, split open every morning with a drink offering and every night with an offering of grain – as long as they existed.

But nothing compares to the Feast of Booths. It lasted eight days during which 71 bulls, 15 rams, 105 lambs, and 8 goats were required to be struck, broken, and splattered across the altar that kept guard over the tabernacle entrance like a fierce watch dog reminding the people to not come any closer. To remember their unholiness. Confess their uncleanness. And adhere to the commands of the LORD or face the consequences.

Yet me, on this side of the cross, I get to walk right past the altar of burnt offering, past the bronze basin that the priests used for washing, through the veil separating the Holy Place from the courtyard, with its “blue and purple and scarlet yarns and fine twined linen,” (Ex. 26:36), straight into the light of the golden lampstand.

Past the bread of the presence, which I could eat of if I wanted to, straight to the curtain separating me from the Holy of Holies.

Lungs filled with the sweet smells escaping the altar of incense, I get to slide the golden rings to one side, folding the cherubim embroidered on the large, expansive curtain, and walk straight into the presence of God.

Invited by the King himself. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). Cleansed and covered by His blood, I am not only encouraged to approach the throne of grace with confidence (Hebrews 4:16), I’m expected to as an adopted daughter of the Most High. So that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, may shield me wherever I go. (Phil 4:6-7)

An awesome blessing every believer this side of the cross has the privilege to experience. Yet what do we do with it? What do we do with this ever present reality? Do we exchange it for something less lovely? Less beneficial? Less likely?

Sometimes we do. Ignoring the fact that we are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in us (1 Cor. 3:16). An amazing concept I long to capture.

The presence of God is not shielded from me, but dwells within me (within you). “Therefore we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary” (Heb. 6:18b-19, NLT).

My friend, whatever reality you’re facing today, in Christ, this is the truth behind it – You are welcome in God’s presence. Invited by and through the blood of Jesus Christ.

What a privilege! A reality I pray we each live within – snug and secure within the boundaries it provides, the comfort it gives, and the hope it exhales. May it always and forever be the truth that rises to the top and prevails. Mending the brokenness of yesterday and binding up the uneasiness of tomorrow in the pure wonderment it provides.

Thank you Jesus for your presence in my life. Forgive me for setting it aside. Help me to live within the reality of this great and wonderful truth. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Why is God’s presence in us such an amazing privilege? Is it reality you live within? How can you make fellowship with God a truth you daily experience?

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Photo provided by @wittersgarden. Follow them on Instagram for more fun inspiration.

The Miracle that Can Happen When We’re Tired

Married to a farmer, fall is an exhausting time for me. It doesn’t just mean brisk beautiful mornings at our house, it means long 18 hour days in the field for my man and even longer 18 hour days at home for me.


Devotional Scripture: Mark 6:30-44
Key Verse: “And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31


Doing all the things, from forcing my four year old to please eat two more bites of chicken,  to explaining why it’s really NOT OK to eat boogers, teaching spelling words that won’t stick, and killing ferocious spiders.

Basically while the world is happily posting pictures of pumpkins, I’m just trying to keep from sticking my head inside one. Maybe you can relate. Exhausted from a spouse required to work more than you’d like and the constant needy-ness of small children, you’re overwhelmed. Tired. Or perhaps just overloaded with responsibilities and problems that just won’t go away.

There’s no disputing life is busy and at times downright draining. The concept of rest plays hide-and-seek with us way more than fair, while we sputter along on empty, thinking we’re the only ones with this problem. But even the disciples needed a break and didn’t get one. Mark 6:31 tells us Jesus and his crew were so busy, they had no time to eat! (Can I get an amen?) People were in and out and coming and going and life was crazy!

So Jesus says to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” Ahhhh, ok Jesus, that sounds lovely. So they got in a boat to make haste but when the people saw them leaving “they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them” (v. 33).

“Sheesh would you people just please give us a little space!” If I were the disciples, I would have been sittin’ in that boat displaying my best pout face. And promptly requesting he make them all GO AWAY. This is MY time to regroup and relax and I deserve it. Have you seen all the work I’ve been doing?

But Jesus didn’t make anyone leave. Instead he taught the crowd right there on the shore, smack dab in the middle of their hopeful moment of reprieve.

When it got late and the disciples saw their chance, they said to Jesus, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat” (v. 35-36).

But again Jesus didn’t make them leave. Instead, he told the disciples to feed the crowd themselves. (Um, excuse me?) Knowing they were a bit taken back he offered a little guidance. “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.”

They returned with five loaves and two fish and the rest is history. Jesus fed the massive bunch of them right then and there with just a small amount of provision, until every last one of them was satisfied.

It was a miracle we’re still perplexed by today. A miracle clearly displaying the power of our sovereign Savior. Yet just think what the disciples would have missed out on if Jesus had said to the crowd, “Hey ya’ll need to leave. I’ve promised these guys some rest.”

Because there’s no doubt they needed rest. They had just returned from a ministry trip, walking two by two, from town to town, with merely a walking stick in their hand. (Mark 6:7-13) They had been in homes of strangers for who knows how long, proclaiming the hard to hear message of repentance, casting out demons, and healing the sick. They were tired. They were overworked. They were hungry.

And they were more than likely a little scared. It was while they were out and about that John the Baptist’s head got served up on a pretty little platter. I can only imagine the questions this strange turn of events raised in their minds. They needed to regroup. They needed to think and rest and be with their LORD. But first, first, Jesus wanted to show them a miracle.

Because it’s only when we trust in the sovereignty of our Creator that rest will truly come.

So if peace and quiet doesn’t seem to be on the docket today. If it gets pushed further into the depths of chaos and kids and laundry and dinner and unexpected phone calls or fevers or tantrums or wishful thinking, maybe it’s because instead, what God really wants to do, is give you a miracle.

The miracle of His Spirit at work within us. Giving us patience when we didn’t think we had any left. Overflowing us with love when we don’t think we can love. Soothing us with peace when we don’t have any peace. Restraining us with self-control when we are way beyond self-control. Or helping us respond with gentleness or kindness, when it’s not even a little deserved.

None of that is a work we can do in and of ourselves. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are a supernatural work – a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). And when we’re tired, when we’re really really tired, that’s when we see it best – the work of God in us and through us. Because his power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Cor. 12:9)

So if rest doesn’t come right away. If it gets interrupted and tossed out the window by little people or little problems (or big ones at that), don’t worry. God knows we need rest. He knows it’s hard and stressful. But he also knows more than anything else we need to learn to trust Him.

Therefore, before the ease, the miracle.

Contemplate and Evaluate
When have you experienced the miraculous work of the Spirit in your everyday life? How can you experience it even more?

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Is Your Faith Genuine? A Comprehensive Look at Biblical Faith

Today the word faith gets tossed around Christian circles like a hot potato. You just gotta have faith. We say it regularly and we say it often. And there’s nothing wrong with encouraging one another to have faith. We should!

But with so many uses of the word faith today, I fear we’ve lost the foundation of what genuine biblical faith really is and what it looks like. Hebrews 11:6 says without faith it’s impossible to please God. So obviously faith is key.

Faith in Jesus as God and Savior, the only way, the righteous and perfect Lamb of God, who paid the price of my sin on a cross, conquered death, and rose again. Who is King today and forever. Who holds all things together. Who created all things and knows all things and is before all things. And deserves my allegiance.

Therefore, it looks like obedience.

Jesus said, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word” (John 14:23). “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me” (John 14:21). “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words” (John 14:24).

Out of a thankful heart, out of gratitude, out of love – genuine faith says yes. It doesn’t mind the boundaries given by God because it knows they are best, understands they are life giving, and has a desire to please God.

Genuine faith doesn’t proclaim the name of Jesus and then run off and live however it wants to, because genuine faith is produced out of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Who convicts and brings us to a place of repentance. Not only sealing us for the day of redemption, but guiding us until we get there. Teaching and reminding us of God’s word.

Producing within the believer the fruit of righteousness (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, and self-control). Not “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Gal. 5:19-21).

Because genuine faith does not walk in darkness. It cannot because God is light and his light indwells those who profess His name by way of the Holy Spirit. “If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).

It doesn’t shove God’s commands aside or ignore them or disregard them or make up it’s own way. Neither does it defy God, or chide God, or disrespect God by purposely practicing sin day in and day out. Because it respects grace as the space by which God grants us eternal life, not an open invitation to sin, or a way out of responsibility, but a way into relationship.

Does genuine faith walk this life perfectly? No, absolutely no. Faith knows it will mess up, but believes in a God who forgives when we humble ourselves and confess and seek Him. And genuine faith will confess because genuine faith desires fellowship with God.

Breathing trust in hard places, faith does the hard work fear is unable to do. It stops to listen. It trusts. It looks to the Bible for strength and hope and peace. Convinced God is greater than the enemy, it surrenders to the will of God. And seeks for God’s glory.

Pouring forth prayers, it remains steadfast. Even when the answer isn’t what we thought it would be. Even when we don’t like it. Even when we’re confused. Even when it hurts – genuine faith holds tightly to Jesus.

When the world leans into luck, genuine faith leans into Jesus. When the world has no answers, genuine faith finds answers in Jesus. When the world says you can’t, genuine faith says you can if it’s the will of Jesus.

Genuine faith doesn’t just desire God’s presence later, after all life has been lived, but desires it now, while life is being lived. It responds to the love of Christ in such a way that it’s evident who you believe in.

Confident in the promises of God, confident in the eternal blessings, confident in the work of Christ – genuine biblical faith lives a God honoring life.

So today I ask only one question, is your faith in Christ genuine?

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*Featured Image provided by Pixabay