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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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

Truths to Dwell in on Election Day

If there’s an emotion I struggle with most, it’s anxiety. That all too familiar feeling of uneasiness that wraps itself like a noose around my heart when I linger too long on the I-have-no-control-over-this-issues or the how-is-this-going-to-work-out scenarios or the what-if possibilities or the I-can’t-help-but-worry situations.  

And once I let it take hold, it’s hard to shake. Anxiety has a strong grip. Refusing to leave me alone, even in the most mundane tasks – following me from room to room while I put away toys and pick up clothes and throw away diapers I should have tossed in the diaper champ three days ago. (Just keepin’ it real.)

Tired of giving uneasiness a free ride, I take deep breaths – pausing to see if it’s better with each exhale. It’s not.

I’ve found only one way to loosen the grip of anxiety — grip harder to the word of God. And I mean tight. With an earnest effort. The kind that might be deemed excessive.

Isaiah 26:3 declares, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Perfect peace doesn’t come with a long run or a warm bath – it comes with a mind fiercely fixed on Christ.  

A mind willing to take every thought and doubt and question and shove it deep into the heart of Scripture. Again and again and again.

This. This is my approach as tomorrow turns into today and Americans vote not just on the next President of the United States but on my future and my kids future and our rights as Christians and my future freedoms or lack thereof.

It’s enough to make my insides simmer. The power that’s at stake – the supreme court judges that will be appointed to either uphold Biblical standards or spit on them. The knowing that above all else I will choose God and be a champion of His word no matter what it might cost me.

I don’t like. I really really don’t like it.

But there’s only one way and that’s straight through it. So I’ll tackle the apprehensions climbing up my throat with God’s Word diligently pouring through my mind. Anchoring me to the one ultimately in control. And I’ll do it with these four truths and the Scriptures that back them.

1. God is sovereign.
The presidency is not determined by us, it’s decided by God.

A friend kindly reminded me the other day that God is not sitting up in heaven nervously hoping enough Christians vote. He knew long ago who would be named President in 2016.

Jeremiah 27:5 says, “It is I who by my great power and my outstretched arm have made the earth, with the men and animals that are on the earth, and I give it to whomever it seems right to me.”

And again…
“I will appointment the leader of my choice. For who is like me, and who can challenge me? What ruler can oppose my will?” (Jeremiah 49:19b, NLT)

Whether it be for the rod or revival it’s God who allows the scepter to slide from one man’s hand to another (or woman for that matter). We may be surprised, but God never is.

“The LORD of Heaven’s Armies has sworn this oath: “It will all happen as I have planned. It will be as I have decided.” (Isaiah 14:24, NLT)

Yet God says to the righteous, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)  Thank you Jesus.

2. Christ is King.
No matter who sits in the Oval Office, Christ sits on the throne of Heaven.

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: The LORD is our righteousness.” Jeremiah 23:5-6

“And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Daniel 7:14

“On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.” Rev. 19:16

3. Truth will prevail.
I can’t stand lies. Yet for months the news has been brainwashing us with them, many have been led astray to believe them, and Satan (the father of lies) has been hard at work to uphold them.

But the Word of God is truth (Jn. 17:17) and it will not pass away. It will stand forever (Isaiah 40:8). It may be shoved aside for now. It may be forgotten. It may be torn apart by people who make it say whatever they want it to, but ultimately it will prevail! And be upheld! And be the standard by which Christ rules.

For He is truth (John 14:6). And speaks only truth (Isaiah 45:19). “The sum of your word is truth, and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” (Psalm 119:160)

Those who live by the TRUTH will be rewarded with eternal life, “but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Rom. 2:8).

In the end, truth wins.

4. Those who fear God will be blessing.
It may not look like blessing. It may be harder than we ever anticipated. But there is blessing in store for the Christ follower who fears God enough to wholeheartedly obey him. Especially in the midst of a society that doesn’t.

“Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity.” Proverbs 28:14

“Blessed is the man who fears the LORD, who greatly delights in his commandments….He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.” (Ps. 112: 1,7)

Not afraid of bad news…

If you need me in the next few days, I’ll be right here smack dab in the middle of these truths. Will you?

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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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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

 

What if Praying for More Isn’t the Answer

Key Verse: “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.” (1 John 4:15, ESV)

More of you Jesus, I want more of you. Have you prayed it? I have. Out of a longing to know Christ more, to be with him and near him and breathe his presence into the depth of my soul, I’ve earnestly asked Jesus for more.

More of him in my life. More of him in my soul. More of him in my heart and mind – penetrating my hard to reach spaces. My anxious spaces. My hurt spaces. My unsatisfied spaces.

But what if it’s not a matter of more but a matter of less.

Less of me. Less of sin. Less of filling my heart with the things of this world so there’s still room for Him.

Because the truth of the matter is, at the point of salvation we are not given a partial filling of Christ, as though I need more of him poured into my soul. We’re given a full one. 1 John 4:15 states, “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”

Not a little bit of God. Not a small portion of who he is. Not just enough to get us through until heaven. But all of God – in all of us. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead in us (Rom. 8:11).  So we can know he is with us and for us and walking right there beside us.

“By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.” (1 John 4:13)

All of it.

Yet we walk in doubt. “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16)

Not because Jesus withheld some of it or forgot to give us a portion of himself but because we’ve left no room. Unawares perhaps, we push him aside for other things. Like when I’d rather sit and be mad than figure out a way to be God honoring through it.

Or when I hang out with envy and pride, and then discontentment shows up. And I’m completely stumped as to why Jesus didn’t come to the party.

Where did you go Lord? I need you. I need you right now to show up and be here. Yet I’m unwilling to give him any part of my day.

Give me the world and give me Jesus – this is the mantra we live by. But James reminds us, “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (James 4:4)

But in all honesty it’s not that verse that got me; it’s the next one – “Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, “He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us?”

His spirit. The very spirit of God choked, smothered, pushed back, one selfish decision after another. Stuffed underneath layers of calloused arrogance and self-righteous preoccupations, while we pray: More of you Jesus, More of you.

I get it now….

Exchange worship of self for worship of Him, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange time in front of the tv with time for him, and you will have more of Jesus.  
Exchange that which is dirty, and dark, and wrong, for that which is true, and noble, and right, and pure, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange the works of the flesh for the fruit of the spirit, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange sinful habits for holy ones, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange religion for a relationship, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange a prayer time for a praying life, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange the ways of the world for the ways of God, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange a love of money for a love of God, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange envy for contentment, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange my will for His will, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange pride for humility, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange bitterness for forgiveness, and you will have more of Jesus.
Exchange the heart of a master for that of a servant, and you will have more of Jesus.

We’ve already been brought near to God by the blood of the Messiah (Ephesians 2:13) There’s no reason to ask him to do it more. But there is every reason to ask him to make us less.

Less of me means more of Jesus. And more of Jesus means less of me. In the words of John the Baptist. If we want more of Jesus, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:30)

Thy will be done Lord. Thy will be done. In Jesus name, Amen.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What exchange do you need to make today to have more of Jesus?
In what area of your life does Christ yearn jealously over your spirit?

More Encouragement:
“Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Hebrews 4:16
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8a

The Most Important Thing We Can Teach Our Kids

Do you have any goals? What about for your kids or grand kids – have any hopes or dreams for them? Of course you do. I do too. And we should. Without dreams that grow into goals and goals that beseech us to try we wouldn’t have things like indoor plumbing or best selling novels or the Olympics or HGTV. That’s right we’d be living in a world without books and Olympians and Chip and Joanna Gaines. And to make matters worse – we’d be going to the bathroom outside.


Scripture: Genesis 48
Key Verse: “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31)


So don’t get me wrong. We need dreamers and thinkers and doers and tryer-outers. We need people willing to fail and try again, people willing to pave the way for the rest of us who avoid science like it’s a bad plague.

But passion doesn’t need prompting. It will come naturally. God makes each of us with unique abilities and gifts and talents and loves. What needs prompting is purpose.

The motive behind the drive. Is it for my own glory or God’s? This is what our little loves and big loves and in between loves need help understanding. Because we don’t naturally seek to glorify God. If we did, well, then every pastor would be out of a job and we parents could hang out at the beach. But from my vantage point no pastors or parents are going to be out of a job any time soon.

We seek fulfillment. We seek pleasure. We seek after success and accomplishments and money and fame, but we don’t naturally seek God. It’s He that seeks us (John 6:44).

So it’s of grave importance we nudge and teach and at times push in the direction of purpose. As Joseph plainly did with his two boys. When Joseph heard that his dad had taken ill, he found his sons and took them to see grandpa.

At the mere sight of them, Jacob rallied, and sat up to do what he’d probably been praying about for quite some time – the blessing and adoption of Joseph’s boys – Manasseh and Ephraim.

Now I can’t help but wonder if he’d already run the idea by Joseph, or if it was a complete surprise. “Oh by the way Joseph, those two sons of yours – I plan to adopt them as my own.” “Oh, well that’s nice dad. But I tell ya what,  why don’t you give me a few days to run that one by Asenath, my wife. Remember her? And then I’ll give back with ya.”

But there is seemingly no hesitation on Joseph’s part. In fact when it was time for the official blessing Joseph urged his boys forward. “It’s ok guys go see grandpa.” So they did and Jacob kissed them and embraced them. Then Jacob stretched out his arms crossing them to place his right hand on Ephraim (the younger) and his left hand on Manasseh (the older).

Joseph thinking his dad had just gotten a little confused correct him, “Not this way, my father; since this one is the firstborn, put your right hand on his head” (v. 18). But Jacob assured he knew what he was doing. Manasseh would be great but “his younger brother shall be greater than he” (v.19). A common theme we’ve seen throughout the book of Genesis.

And in a matter of moments it was over. With the ceremony concluded, the boys adopted, and the blessing given, Ephraim and Manasseh were forever sealed as Israelite’s. Their children and their children’s children would not be Egyptian, they would be Hebrew. Why? Because Joseph pushed his boys in the direction of purpose.

Instead of teaching them the family business to ensure their financial well being; instead of encouraging them to stick close with their mother’s family for their social well being; instead of  discouraging them from the abominable lifestyle of shepherding to ensure their political well being; Joseph emphasized purpose, to ensure their spiritual well being.

Teaching them that there’s no greater honor than being part of the family of God. There’s no greater privilege than serving the Almighty God. There’s no greater task than bringing glory to God. Because He alone is God and does great and marvelous things (Ps. 86:10). It’s He who gives and takes away. To Him belong greatness and power and glory and majesty. All that is in the earth is his. Therefore riches and honor come from God alone. (1 Chron. 29:11-12)

How do I know Joseph taught them such things? Because their dad was second in command of the most powerful nation in the world at that time. They had wealth and prestige and immense popularity among the Egyptian people and the surrounding kingdoms. It would have been natural and completely acceptable for Joseph to one day pass the position to Manasseh.

Not to mention their mama was Egyptian with an Egyptian family and an Egyptian heritage. It was what they knew until their dad came home one day to announce an entourage of Hebrew uncles had arrived.

But they walked away from all of it. They left behind the financial, social, and political security Egypt had to offer, for the eternal security God had to offer. Knowing full well the riches of this world do not compare to the riches of God’s kindness.

My dear friend, are we teaching our kids the same? Do they have any idea they’re here to glorify God? Do they understand that there’s no greater privilege than being a part of God’s people? Do they know there’s no greater honor than serving the LORD God Almighty?

As they grow and learn and gain independence, let’s not just support their passions, let’s also be sure to teach them their purpose. That they might leave behind the riches of this world for the immeasurable riches of God’s great and loving kindness. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31).

Contemplate and Evaluate:
As followers of Jesus Christ, what is our purpose? How are you living out that purpose and how are you promoting it to the next generation?
Do your kids know why they’re here? Do they understand there’s no greater accomplishment than learning to live heart, soul, and mind for God? What can you do today to encourage them in the right direction?

Why I Pray for Israel

Maybe it’s because I’m with them all day. But for some crazy unheard of reason my kids don’t always listen to me. Can you believe it? However if daddy declares it or says it or asks for it – there’s usually a response. And a quick one at that.


Devotional: Genesis 47:7-31
Key Verse: I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:3


“Why is that?” I asked the kids after a long morning of hearing myself give instructions to apparently no one in particular. “Maybe because daddy always means what he says.” (Emphasis on the word always please.)

“Well how very insightful my dear, sweet, precious children.” At least that’s how I think I responded. Or maybe responded or wished I responded. Anyway, once the shock wore off of hearing I only sometimes mean what I say, I realized maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing. Not that the kids don’t mind me, but that they have a dad who always follows through with what he says. Because they also have a God who does the very same thing.

Every single word God speaks comes forth exactly as He says it will, because the LORD always means what he says. Proverbs 30:5 says “Every word of God proves true.”

So when God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse,” He meant it. Anyone who stood by Abraham would be blessed, but anyone who stood against him would suffer the consequences.

It’s a promise wrapped in what we like to refer to as the Abrahamic Covenant. A group of promises given to Abraham, reiterated to Isaac and Jacob, and passed to their descendants – the nation of Israel.

So when Pharaoh reached down into the pit and made Joseph governor of Egypt; when he graciously welcomed Jacob’s family into the kingdom; when he granted them rights to the best land in all the region, he was not just being nice. He was unknowingly blessing God’s people.

Therefore God blessed him in great abundance. First through the words of Jacob who was brought into Pharaoh’s throne room after his sons were escorted out. And then by the work of Joseph…

When the Egyptians ran out of money to buy food during the famine they came to Joseph for help.  “We’re out of money but we need more food!” So Joseph allowed them to sell their livestock in exchange for more. But a year later they were in trouble again. With no money and no livestock left to their name they suggested Joseph buy them and their land in exchange for more food that they might survive the famine.

So he did. He sold grain to the people in exchange for their land and they became Pharaoh’s servants. It may sound harsh to us but it was a win win as far as the Egyptians were concerned. They not only had food to eat and seed to sow but got to keep four fifths of the crop for themselves. Even in years of plenty, only twenty percent would go to Pharaoh.

And through it all, Pharaoh was immensely blessed with livestock and land and great wealth. Why? Because God was faithful to his word to bless those who bless his people. Is the promise still in effect today? Does God still bless those who bless Israel and curse those who dishonor them? Well quite honestly I don’t see why not. And have no desire to test God on the matter.

First of all the promise was restated in a blessing spoken over Israel in Numbers 24:9, “Blessed are those who bless you, and cursed are those who curse you.” Secondly, God still loves Israel.

They are the apple of his eye (Zech. 2:8). He chose them out of all the peoples of the earth to be his treasured possession because of his oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (cf. Deut. 7:6-8) And I don’t know about you but I don’t usually discard my treasured possessions.

Romans 11 says the Jews are ““beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (v. 28-29). He cannot and will not go back on his word.

Though for a time God has hardened the heart of Israel, “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25), he has not deserted them. Look with me at Revelation 21. When the holy city, the new Jerusalem, referred to as “the Bride, the wife of the Lamb” comes down from heaven it will have a great wall with twelve gates and twelve foundations. On the gates will be “the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel” (v. 12). And on the foundations will be the “names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (v. 14).

Someday, in someway, God will bring his beloved bride and his beloved people together forever. Until then we stand by their side because “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all” (Rom. 9:5).

Beloved of God, pray for Israel. And pray for the leaders of our nation. Pray with me that we will always and forever be a blessing to Israel not just for our own protection, but because they are God’s treasured possession and a vessel of blessing to all families of the earth through Jesus Christ our LORD. My friend may we never forget, our Savior bled Jewish blood.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Since World War II America has given over 120 billion dollars in aid to Israel. We have stood by their side continually. Do you think there is a correlation between the great blessings our nation has experienced and the hand of blessing we’ve extended to Israel? Why or why not?
How has God been faithful to his promises in your life? What promise are you holding onto today?


If today’s Deeper Devo was encouraging to you or insightful you have my permission to share it! My heart’s cry is for God to use my writing to encourage, enlighten, and educate hearts of believers and nonbelievers every single week. Thanks my friend!

When God Doesn’t Answer Your Prayers

You know that thing you’ve been praying and praying and praying about. That situation which makes you rub your forehead, and sigh more often than you realize. The one that kind of sort of makes you short with your children when you think about it for more than five minutes. The one that just seems to have no good solution and little probability for actually turning out the way you want it to. Yeah, that one. The one you wish God would take away or fix or change or deliver you from altogether.


Devotional Scripture: Genesis 33:1-17
Key Verse: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6


You know the one. Whatever you do, don’t stop praying. Don’t give up hope. Transformation is possible and prayer really does work.

Take Jacob and Esau for example. From just about every vantage point reconciliation looked impossible. Anyone who knew the boys probably would have said “No way! They’re as different as night and day. Besides I’ve heard Esau speak of his brother. After what Jacob did to him, there ain’t no kind words comin’ from that man.”

Yet it happened. By the grace of God they reconciled. However unlikely it might have been, when Esau saw Jacob, he ran to him and “embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (v. 4).

Um, not quite what everyone was expecting. But when the LORD is on your side you can expect the unexpected. He is not a God who does what everyone expects! His ways are not our ways. His wisdom and knowledge are far beyond our comprehension. So relax. Or get excited. Stop dreading and start believing. Because whatever outcome you’re expecting is likely not the outcome God is planning.

I mean who would have ever thought Jacob would humbly greet his brother as lord and bow before him seven times. Who would have ever thought Esau would embrace his brother and accept his family. Who would have ever thought Jacob would share his blessing, insisting Esau have some of it. Please accept it “because God has dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough” (v. 11). Need I remind you this whole thing blew up over a blessing!

In return, Esau offered Jacob protection (v. 15) So why the change? How did we go from hatred to hugs and kisses? Was it the gifts? A happen so? A misunderstanding? Was the 400 man militia the way Esau always traveled? I doubt it. My friend, just sit and soak this in for a minute. This unexpected reconciliation that no one in their right mind would have ever predicted, was an answer to prayer.

In Genesis 32:11 Jacob had beseeched the LORD, “Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him.” And God did in a marvelous way! Just as he did the Israelites from the hand of the Egyptians and then from the hand of the Philistines (on more than one occasion) and the Ammonites and the Amalekites and an evil man named Haman. Just as he delivered Daniel and three boys named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and Peter and Paul and Silas when they prayed! And now us. “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13).

But I know what you’re thinking. What about John the Baptist who had his head chopped off or Stephen, the first martyr. Some deliverance they got! Actually they had a marvelous deliverance as well, unto glory dear friend, unto glory.

If God hasn’t delivered you physically from a situation maybe it’s because he’s delivering you spiritually from a stronghold. Teaching you to have faith. Or maybe he’s delivering your spouse or child or close friend. Perhaps the big fat nothing you’ve been getting from God is actually a powerful deliverance going on at your neighbor’s house as they watch you walk faithfully through hard times.

Because God does answer prayers. Just not always how or when we think he should. So we give up or miss it. Jacob and Esau were in their 90s when they at last reconciled. Their 90s mind you! How many prayers do you suppose their mama prayed for them? This was not an instance in which sibling rivalry dissipated once adulthood prevailed. It went on and on for years. It got worse and escalated beyond anything I’d say Isaac and Rebekah ever anticipated.

Why isn’t God doing anything? Think Rebekah ever asked that question? I certainly think so. But God was doing something – in Jacob’s heart – His foremost concern. Faithfully waiting at every bend in the road. Softening Jacob with kindness until he was ready. Ready to meet God. Ready to commit his life to the Savior, the Deliverer. On the bank of the Jabbok River in a wrestling match viewed only by the heavens.

But take note: His spiritual deliverance came before his physical deliverance. Yes God answered Jacob’s prayer but it wasn’t until after he humbled himself. And by faith walked out ahead of his family ready for God’s will to be done.

My friend, don’t give up. Pray. Have faith. Believe. Pulverize heaven with prayers. He’s the same God today as he was back then. And He answers prayers. A favorite verse around here is 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV). But I’m thinking it’d be wise to add verse 6 to our mantra “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” Or as the New Living Translation says, “at the right time...” Humble yourself before the LORD sweet friend and he’ll bring deliverance, the perfect kind, when the time is right.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Have you given up on God? Have you stopped praying because he didn’t answer? How has Genesis 33 encouraged you to do the opposite?
When has God answered your prayers? Was it different than you expected?
When you pray do you ask for God’s will to be done or insist on your own?

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When God’s Not Doing Anything

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Yes I’m wearing spandex. I was ready for some REFIT®. Let’s just all be happy I didn’t have to spend hours in my closet deciding what to wear.

Saturday morning I got to share with some lovely ladies that God is working…even when it doesn’t seem like it. Even when our prayers appear ineffective. Our efforts in vain. Our hardships unchanged. Because HE is faithful to all generations (Ps. 100:5).

I reminded them of Elizabeth – the mother of John the Baptist. How she longed for a child and prayed God would bless her with one (Luke 1:13). How she did all things right – living by the commandments to the best of her ability. Yet still no baby. No answer to prayer. Nothing.

Yet God was working, even when it didn’t seem like it. Little did Elizabeth know she would give birth to the greatest man who ever lived (Matt. 11:11). The last of the prophets; the one to prepare the way for the LORD. Little did she know it just wasn’t time yet. It. just. wasn’t. time.

Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Ps 27:14 Because God is working – all things in his perfect timing. It’s not that he doesn’t care. It’s not that he doesn’t hear your prayers. It just may not be time.

I reminded them of Sarah – the wife of Abraham. How she willingly followed her husband to a foreign land on the promise God would make a nation of them. How month after month turned into year after year of Sarah waiting for God to fulfill his promise. How she lost hope, took matters into her own hands, and gave her servant Hagar to Abraham as a wife.

I asked them to consider how Sarah must have felt when Hagar returned awestruck and elated with God’s appearance to her and assurance. Yet God had never appeared to Sarah; never spoken to Sarah; never assured Sarah. O the heartbreak, the confusion, the rejection Sarah must have felt. “Why not me LORD? Why her and not me? Why do you do nothing for me.”

Have you been there. I have.

Yet God was working. Just not as Sarah expected. He was working…in her heart. Doing a work IN her before he could do a work THROUGH her. He had not forgotten Sarah. He was simply preparing Sarah. To be the mother Isaac needed. A mother able to speak of God’s faithfulness. Able to confidently say the words “Nothing is impossible for God” (Gen. 18:14). Able to give her son the godly foundation necessary to be a founding father of Israel.

So take heart weary soul. If it seems as though God is doing nothing around you, maybe it’s because he’s doing something within you. Preparing you. For the wonderful plans he has for you. “For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (Phil 2:13, NLT).

Thirdly, I reminded them of Rachel, the beloved wife of Jacob. Forced to share her husband with her sister. Forced to watch her sister give birth to one precious boy after another; while her arms remained empty.

To Rachel it likely seemed as though God had forgotten her or hated her or cared nothing for her. Leah’s servant bore children for Jacob; her own servant bore children for Jacob; yet she could not. Why God? Why. not. me?

Have you been there? Waiting in the shadows as others receive what you’ve been asking for?

Yet God was working; masterfully weaving his purpose and plan. Little did Rachel know the boys in that household would grow to be the twelve tribes of Israel.  Little did she know it was necessary for her son to be the youngest (except for Benjamin), so his brothers would sell him. Little did she know he’d rise above them all and be placed second in command of Egypt. We know the end of the story. But she did not. All she knew was it hurt. Every day it hurt. To wait. To watch. To wonder why God cared little for her. But rest assured…

Our present circumstances do not indicate God’s presence.

Though there may be times we distance ourselves from God because of sin. He never leaves us. He never forsakes us. He’s always working – all things in HIS perfect timing and according to HIS plans and purposes. Not to mention, molding and shaping our hearts along the way.

“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you” James 4:8. And have faith because even when it doesn’t seem like it – God is working.   image