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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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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5 Benefits to Keeping an Eternal Perspective

Everyday we have a choice to make. A choice to either view life through an earthly lens or an eternal one. And I’ve noticed the days I choose to peek through heaven’s window instead of my own, it’s beneficial to not only my head but my heart and mind and relationships.

1. It keeps me upright in an upside down world. Have you ever noticed the world is often backwards? Babies are born to families who could care less, while godly women weep with empty wombs. Success meets the wicked at every corner, while the righteous deal with endless frustration. Prosperity throws itself at the worldly, while the one who adheres to God’s commands struggles to make ends meet.

There are days life just doesn’t make any sense. Yet in view of eternity, all is right as it should be and even more so. The blessings in store for those following Christ are nothing short of A-mazing. Redeemed, forgiven, and lavished with grace we’ve been blessed with “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3). Already! As in it’s already happened! Let alone adopted as God’s own children, named co-heirs with Christ, and guaranteed an inheritance that would knock the socks off most anyone. 

Beloved, whatever appears to be lacking now will be filled to overflowing when we’re face to face with Jesus Christ. And when I’m able to keep that perspective, it’s much easier to stay on my feet and not trip over the world’s continuous need to turn everything topsy-turvy.  

2. It sheds light in darkness. Consider Job. An upright and godly fella who lost everything – servants, flocks, herds, sons, daughters, and was struck with boils from head to toe. Things were bleak to say the least. While describing his situation to his friends Job explained, “My relatives stay far away, and my friends have turned against me. My family is gone, and my close friends have forgotten me. Even young children despise me. When I stand to speak, they turn their backs on me. My close friends detest me. Those I loved have turned against me. I have been reduced to skin and bones and have escaped death by the skin of my teeth” (Job 19: 13-14, 18-20 NLT).

Yet just a few breaths after that nauseating description Job had the audacity to declare hope! “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skins has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God” (Job 19:25-26, ESV).

My friend, it’s the light of eternity that makes life bearable. I honestly don’t know where I’d be (nor what I’d be for that matter) if I did not have the hope of heaven. But in light of heaven, I can walk any path, if it’s my duty to do so. Because the light of heaven can permeate even the darkest of days. 

3. It doesn’t answer my questions, but it does answer my doubt. We aren’t always going to know why things happen the way they do. In fact, most of the time we aren’t going to have any clue as to WHY. Even Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived, admitted he didn’t understand why God allows certain things and not others (Ecc. 8:17).

But there’s one thing we can be sure of when nothing else makes sense: eternity. By the indwelling of the Holy Spirit we’re signed, sealed, and delivered from this aching world unto a perfect one. “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18).

Eternity is a done deal. And when I think on it, instead of parking on the uncertainty of my current situation, I can calm my quivering heart with the things I know to be true. Like the fact that Jesus has gone to prepare a place just for me. Why would he do that if he didn’t care about me? (And you for that matter…don’t forget you.)

We may not know why things have to be the way they are today, but we do know  who holds tomorrow. And He is faithful and kind. 

4. It helps me fight the appropriate battles (Most of the time). Because in light of eternity, is it worth it? Will I gain any reward by taking up this fight? No, the answer is no. (This is so convicting.) In light of eternity, more often than not I’m engaging in the wrong battle or at least fighting it the wrong way.

Scripture is quite clear that our battle is not against flesh and blood, but against “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). Am I saying the struggle you’re having at work isn’t real or the fight you had with your spouse last night was an illusion. Um, no. It was real. So real in fact, I know a piece of you is still there – at the scene – begging your mind to come back and replay the entire episode again and again.

But I believe wholeheartedly behind every misunderstanding, every argument, every hurt, every divisive word, is a scheme of the devil. To uproot our marriages, tear apart our families, and get us so sidetracked  and steeped in sin we’re useless for kingdom work. Satan may not be able to pluck us from the nest but he can certainly ruffle our feathers. And the only way we’re going to win is through whispered words of prayer that proceed from the mind set solely on Him.  

5. It keeps me ready.  When eternity is on the horizon of my soul, I’m much more apt to interpret the unexpected knock on my door as an opportunity instead of an intrusion. Or view the unwelcome disruption of my to-do list as a God sent invitation instead of an outright irritation. Giving me opportunity to store up  treasure in heaven. Because I know when I get there – I’m going to realize there’s nothing better.  

But when my mind is everywhere else but there, I tend to miss the God sent invitations, especially with my kids. And I want to be ready. Ready to speak of God’s attributes when the sunrise sings of his beauty. Ready to give him praise when I see his tender touch on my day. Ready when he counsels. Ready when he calls. And ready when he comes.  

Therefore, I make the choice to move beyond my own convenient window, to peek out heaven’s – no matter the effort it might take. Because eternity doesn’t just impact the destination – it improves the view along the way. So climb on up and take a peek with me – the view is gorgeous from up here.

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Photo provided by Pixabay

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

 

5 Things Jesus Didn’t Do For You

It’s Easter. The time of year we set aside to remember what Jesus did for us. His sacrifice. His love. But have you ever paused to consider what Jesus didn’t do for you?

1. He didn’t stay in Heaven. Now I can understand going from earth to heaven. I’m looking forward to it. But Heaven to earth? No thanks. Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate. Leaving behind the blessed sound of seraphim calling “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts” (Is. 6:3). In exchange for “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” (John 19:15).

Abandoning the throne room of heaven glistening of crystal and sapphire for nothing. No place to lay his head. His appearance reduced to something despised and rejected with “no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” (Is. 53:2). Instead of the glorious appearance of gleaming metal and fire encompassed by the brilliance of a rainbow (Ezekiel 1).

The marvelous presence of the Father replaced with that of fisherman, tax-collectors, self-righteous pharisees, the poor, the needy, and people like us. Downright sinners. Utterly and completely lost. So in need of a Savior He didn’t even consider for a brief moment staying in Heaven. Because…

2. He didn’t consider Himself better. Though he could have. Though He is. He didn’t. “He who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light” (1 Tim. 6:15-16) humbled himself in the likeness of man. Counting others as more significant than himself. Though he is God, “he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being” (Phil. 2:6-7; NLT).

He washed the disciples feet. He walked from town to town. He spoke to a Samaritan harlot. He healed. He gave food. And ultimately he gave his body as a ransom for sin. Carrying his own cross as far as he possibly could. Though through Him “the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col. 1:19). Though “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3) He still never even once considered himself better. Therefore…

3. He didn’t sin. Ever. He died a criminal’s death as a perfectly righteous man. But I dare say it wasn’t easy. In every respect Christ was tempted just as we are. Tempted to lust. Tempted to give up. To get even. To give in. To fall headlong into a pit of despair because life simply isn’t fair. But He didn’t. Not even once. Day after day he remained sinless (Heb. 4:15). Even after forty days in the wilderness and who knows how many temptations from the devil (I don’t think Satan limited himself to just three); Jesus persisted in purity.

Even when they didn’t believe him and called him a liar. Even when they picked up stones to kill him. Even when they testified against him and spit in his face and mocked him as King of the Jews, he clung to holiness. How? Is beyond me. I would have failed miserably from the start. But Jesus didn’t. So he could be the holy and unblemished lamb necessary for our atonement. The once and for all offering given to God on our behalf. If only we’d believe. If only we’d bow in submission to the one who loves us beyond any conceivable measure.

How do I know? Because…

4. He didn’t get off the cross. His body racked with pain so agonizing most could not watch. His lungs compressed. His heart failing. His flesh ripping. The nails, the thorns, the agony of being rejected by God as the sin of man surged upon him. Yet he stayed. Compelled by his love for us. For sinful mankind – he remained. Crying out “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

The rulers sneered, “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God” (Luke 23:35). Alongside the soldiers who yelled, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” But he wouldn’t. No he wouldn’t. Why? So HE could save them. So He could save us.

So we could spend eternity with him. Blessed in Christ with every spiritual blessing. Made holy and blameless before a God who can accept nothing less. Adopted as sons. Made co-heirs with Christ to an eternal inheritance beyond anything we could possibly imagine. Redeemed by his blood! Forgiven! Freed from the clutches of sin. The riches of grace lavished upon us.

And as if that weren’t enough…

5. He didn’t leave us alone. He gave us the promise of his presence. (Matt. 28:20) Along with the Holy Spirit. Our helper, comforter, and counselor. Sealing us for the day of redemption. And allowing us the opportunity to do even greater works than he did. Sounds wrong doesn’t it? But it’s in there. “Truly, truly I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (Jn. 14:12). “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth” (Jn. 14:16,17).

But are we doing it? Are we doing the works Jesus did? Let alone something greater? As believers we have the power of God’s Spirit within us. So let’s be bold! Let’s be confident! And let’s tell the world what Jesus didn’t do for them.

Thank you Jesus – My Savior, My God. Thank you for all you did and didn’t do for me.

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The Danger of Distraction

You know what the enemy wants? To discourage you. To get you so distracted and down you’re worthless for the kingdom – God’s kingdom. He’d love nothing more than to steal your joy today. To keep you from thinking about the hope you have – the peace God gives – so you won’t tell anyone. So you won’t bear witness to the confidence and certainty Jesus Christ provides. And the joy that comes with intimately knowing the Savior now and for all eternity.


Devotional: Genesis 23
Key Verse: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 1:13


Every day brings opportunities of distraction. Whether it be the ever present “to do” list or sick kids or simply unwanted circumstances. Or something “bigger” like the loss of a loved one or a job or a doctor’s report. The fact is, it doesn’t take much and we’re knee deep in fear and uncertainty. Completely overwhelmed and diverted from the blessings we have in Christ.

The enemy doesn’t have to destroy us, he simply needs to distract us. By getting us to focus on the wrong things; ever stirred up instead of prayed up.

The temptation was there for Abraham too (on more than one occasion). To lose his focus. Sidetracked by the misgivings of the day. Or the drama in his home, the disputes among his servants, or the fears he felt living as a sojourner in a foreign land.

Especially the day Sarah died. His beautiful wife of probably more than 100 years. His princess – gone; no longer there to encourage him in his faith. No longer there to remind him of the promises. The milestones. The miracles God had done in their lives.

Genesis 23:2 says Abraham wept for her. He was broken. I find it interesting this is the first mention of the word “weep” in Genesis. It’s not recorded at the fall, the flood, or even the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. But here at the bedside of a faithful man’s beloved – God made note of the weeping.

God is not indifferent to our losses. Neither is he forgetful. “You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book” (Ps. 56:8, NLT). He knows how much it hurts. He knows my friend. “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3a). Yet remained faithful (2 Timothy 2:13).

As did Abraham in the muck and mire of grief. Abraham could have laid in his tent for days or weeks or months after Sarah’s death. He could have given up. He could have decided it was too hard without his wife. And not fair of God to take her. He could have doubted and despaired over God’s faithfulness and kindness. But he didn’t. Instead, he took the opportunity to step forward in faith, purchasing the cave of Machpelah at top dollar (400 shekels of silver).

If God intended to give him the land of Canaan, as he had promised, then he wanted his wife buried there, along with himself. As it turned out – Sarah and Abraham, Isaac and Rebekah, Jacob and Leah were all laid to rest in the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, about 20 miles south of Jerusalem. Ironically, today there stands a Muslim mosque over the spot believed to be the cave of these patriarch couples.

Abraham turned Sarah’s death into an opportunity to step forward in faith, no matter the cost. This indeed is the goal. To walk forward in faith. Not distracted or distraught or dismayed. But confident in the hope we have in Jesus Christ. In the blessings of eternity. Whether the day brings about “little” distractions or “big” ones, let’s turn it into an opportunity to glorify God with our faith; as we’re filled with inexpressible joy because of the hope we have (1 Peter 1:8).

Because we know “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18). For “our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body” (Phil 3:20-21).

Therefore we don’t grieve as those who have no hope but as those who know “by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep…we will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:15-17).

Because of faith in Jesus Christ I have much to look forward to. And so do you! He knows when it hurts; He takes note of the weeping. And he’ll take care of us. We just need to remain focused always and forever on Him.

So today, come what may, I pray you “set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). And step forward in faith.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What kinds of things is the enemy using to keep you distracted from the peace and joy and assurance you have in Christ?
How can you step forward in faith today? What kind of declaration can you make?

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God is for Us

Devo Scripture: Genesis 9:1-17
Key Verse: “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31

It had been quite a year for Noah and his family. I have no doubt they were happy to be off that boat. But as I put myself there with them in the mountains, I have to wonder if they had doubts; questions; concerns. We read from one verse to the next without pause but they did not. They lived it daily. So I wonder how long before God spoke to them? Reassured them. Blessed them. How long? Was it immediately after the burnt offerings? Or was there a time of silence when they questioned, looked at each other, and thought what now? What will become of us? Did God bring us this far only to let us starve? Why did we have to land in the mountains of all places? Is God for us or against us? If God was really for us couldn’t he have made this whole starting over thing a little easier? Why does it have to be so hard? Is this really God’s plan? (Have you been there?)

There they were alone in the big gigantic world with little left to their name. It would take time to grow food. The terrain was different. The climate was different. Their surroundings were different. I have to think they had doubts. Plenty of doubts. Doubts that make you wonder is God really for us or against us? This God who just brought judgment on the entire world is he for me or against me? But then God spoke. (Just let the magnitude of that alone sink in.) Did they expect it? Or was it a bit surprising? “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” God’s first words after pouring out his judgment were words of blessing. Can you imagine? What a relief to hear the very words God had spoken to Adam (Gen. 1:28). It was still God’s desire that man flourish. But there was more! God said more! “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything” (9:3). Oh how God provided. He was for them, not against them. So much so that he gave them all animals as food. We don’t know exactly what the restrictions were prior to the flood but now they could kill to eat as they needed. He provided abundantly for them and for us. Because he is for us, not against us.

But God still wasn’t done. Because God would not stand for the kind of violence that preceded the flood and because he values the life of man (for all people are made in God’s image) he enacted the death penalty for any person or animal who wrongfully took a life. My friend, God is for us. Everyday he is for us. Then God continues with what had to be the most reassuring promise ever to fall on their ears – “never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” Oh thankgoodness. Can you imagine their relief? Never again would they have to go through this. Never will we. And as a sign of the covenant to never flood the entire earth again, God said “I have set my bow in the cloud” (9:13). Note God doesn’t say “the bow” or even “a bow.” He says “my bow.” The rainbow is his and his alone. It’s not simply a meteorological phenomenon. It’s a part of his glory. His very glory! What surrounds the very throne of God? A rainbow! John saw it in a vision. “And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald” (Rev. 4:3). And so did Ezekiel when a vision of the throne was given to him. “Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around” (Ezek. 1:28).

God didn’t make the rainbow that day. He didn’t suddenly come up with the idea after the flood. No…the rainbow has always been. It’s a small glimpse of the radiant glory that always surrounds him majestic on the throne. And he graciously shared it with us. He shared his bow with us. Why? Because he wants us to know he is for us; not against us. But so often it doesn’t feel like it. Because we associate his goodness to us with our good fortune. When things go well, God is for us. But when things turn upside down we quickly wonder why me? why now? How could this happen? Is God really for me; or against me? Oh that we would stay grounded in the truth of His Word. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” (Rom. 8:31-32)

God proved that he is for us when he sent his one and only Son to die in our place on the cross. God proved that he is for us when he poured his wrath upon Jesus so he didn’t have to pour it on us. God proved that he is for us when he gave us the gift of eternal life. What then shall we say to these things? What shall we say to the fact that in Christ we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17); blessed in Christ with all spiritual blessings (Eph. 1); sealed by the Holy Spirit for the day of redemption (Eph. 4:30); adopted as children of God and joint heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:17). What shall we say to the fact that he has freed us from bondage to sin (Rom. 6:22) and given us access to his very throne (Heb. 4:16)? I think we shall confidently say – God is for us, not against us.

So when the day comes that I question. I will hold fast to the word of God. I will stand strong in the promises and remember these things. Satan will not dissuade me. Man will not dissuade me. I know whom I have believed in. And he is for me. Everyday God is for me. So let me be for him. Let my life be all for him.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Do you feel confident that God is for you? If not, ask him to give you peace and confidence in the promises he has given us.
How can you today express to God that you are for him?

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Perhaps We’re too Practical

Devo Scripture: Genesis 8:20-22
Key Verse: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

They made it! The flood Noah had been anticipating for decades was over. Now what? What’s the first step when life as you knew it is changed forever? When the loss around you is completely overwhelming? When you’ve got questions, doubts, fears? When there is much work to be done? The rebuilding that preceded them must have felt at least a bit overwhelming. The rebuilding of people, animals, homes. The rebuilding of businesses, farms, flocks, herds, food. Everything had to be rebuilt. Everything. All they had was on that boat. Where would you even start?

Knowing me I’d start with one of my well formulated plans. I’d probably make a list or two; take inventory of our current provisions and determine how much we could spare per person per day until we could grow or gather more. I’d assign a brother-in-law or two to start taking apart the boat. We’d need it for firewood and shelter. Then I’d kiss my husband and ask him if he wouldn’t mind finding me something warmer to put on. The climate was so different and cold. The unexpected weather was going to add an interesting element to things. It would be a long few years but we could do it if we were smart, worked together, and lived practically. After all practicality was of absolute importance right?

But I don’t read any of that in Genesis 8. None. Instead of building a house what does Noah do? He builds an altar. Instead of taking inventory he sacrifices not just one animal but one of each clean animal. That took some serious effort and time. And wasn’t time of the essence? It’s survival mode people! Noah had limited resources; limited provisions; yet there he was burning animal after animal (when there were so few left) on valuable wood to a God who just delivered judgment on the entire world. Noah wasn’t thinking practically at all. No…he was thinking spiritually.

And he had never been more right than he was that day on the side of a freshly washed mountain. All practicality aside, Noah offered to God burnt offerings that so pleased the LORD, he declared “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.” Huh, did God suddenly have a change of heart? No. He is not a man that he should change his mind (Nu. 23:19). What happened that day on the side of the freshly washed mountain signified the necessity of sacrifice; shed blood; for the sin of mankind. It was an act of atonement because “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Heb. 9:22). Noah’s burnt offerings foreshadowed the sacrifice of Jesus, the Lamb of God, offered once for the sin of all people (1 Peter 1:18-19). And for that reason God’s wrath was appeased. The intention of man was still evil. The flood didn’t change that. But on account of the burnt offerings that foreshadowed his son, God restored his favor to man. Though Noah’s sacrifice may seem a bit impractical, even a bit absurd to the average onlooker; spiritually speaking – it was the most pragmatic and responsible act he could have done.

But if there had been a world watching might they have esteemed him as crazy? Wasting such valuable resources. It was so impractical. Oh that the world might esteem me as impractical for the sake of Christ. Don’t get me wrong I’m all about practicality. But what if we worship when it makes absolutely no sense to the watching world? What then? When life is upside down; when I’m hurt to my very core; when the watching world sees nothing but loss; when life holds so many questions; when I’m in a different place than I ever thought I’d be; when it appears as though God has turned his back? What if then I worship? When I don’t have time. When there’s kids to chase, dinner to make, laundry to fold, bills to pay. What if I took the time to worship right then? What might God do then? For you; for me? Genesis 9:1 tells us what God will do. “And God blessed Noah…” Blessing will follow. The kind of blessing only God can give. The best kind of blessing. But much of the time this blessing…well….it just doesn’t come under the pretense of practicality. Yet falls fresh on every knee bent hard, every face flat to the earth worshiping when the world looks and seeing marvel’s because it makes no sense.

So really then…what if we weren’t so practical? What if we sacrifice when we have little to give? Noah had nothing to spare yet one of every clean animal was slain. Was that a hard decision? Giving to God out of their limited resources? Or out of reverence for the God that spared them was it easy? I wonder, were they hungry? And I mean h.u.n.g.r.y. At the smell of the bbq did their mouths water insanely and their stomachs yearn for just a little. Yet they could have none of it. (except the hide). A burnt offering was offered in it’s entirety. All of it belonged to God because all of Christ was offered to God (except his robes). Sacrifice. It’s supposed to cost us something but does it? What if…what if we sacrificed when we had little to give? little strength. little time. little sleep. little money. little experience. little knowledge. What if we sacrificed then? When it seems so impractical to a watching world? What then?

Perhaps with a little less practicality the world might see in us the God who is worth it all. Perhaps then they might see Jesus; who saves, sustains, and protects the soul that seeks him. My friends, perhaps it’s time we live a little less practical and a lot more spiritual. Perhaps then we would find that we’re living the most pragmatic and responsible life possible.

At the moment when worship seems the least practical option it’s likely the most sensible solution.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
Put yourself in Noah’s place, with limited resources would you have sacrificed all those animals?
In what area of your life might the Holy Spirit be prompting you to think spiritually instead of practically?image

Life’s About the Waiting

Devo Scripture: Genesis 8:1-19
Key Verse: “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14

I’ll be the first in line to admit I don’t like waiting in line. Or waiting at a stoplight for that matter. Or in a “waiting room”. Or for my phone to ring; the baby to go to sleep; my husband to get home; a maid service to show up on my front porch free of charge (still waiting for this one). Or for God to answer my prayer. It’s hard sometimes…the waiting and the waiting. But you know what…life’s about the waiting. Life’s about what WE DO during the waiting…

It’s no small thing…the waiting. Seems endless at times. Cruel even. Just ask Abraham who waited 25 years for God to deliver on his promise of a son. Ask Jacob who waited 7 years to marry the love of his life. Ask Rachel who watched 10 other sons be born into the household before she nursed a sweet baby of her own. Ask Joseph who waited 2 years for the cupbearer to remember him in prison. Ask Moses who waited 80 years for God to use him to bring salvation to his people. Ask David who waited 15 years from the time of his anointing to rule as king. Ask Zechariah and Elizabeth who waited desperate for a child. Yet God delayed for his purposes; for his timing; for the one who would pronounce the coming of the Kingdom; for John the Baptist.

Consider the faithful listed in Hebrews 11 who are still waiting. “These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar” (Heb. 11:13a). Consider the earth which “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:19). Consider believers who “wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies” (Rom. 8:23). Daily we continue “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Consider the martyrs who wait for God to avenge for their blood (Rev. 6:10). Consider Israel who waits for a Messiah that already came. Who waits for God to bring judgment on her enemies. Who waits for a promised future glory (Isaiah 60). Consider…the waiting. Consider…Noah.

In the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, the waters were dried from off the earth. And Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked and behold, the face of the ground was dry” (Gen. 8:13). It was dry! It had been 10 long months but the earth was dry! Yet Noah remained inside the ark. The door remained sealed. Though Noah could see for himself the earth was dry God didn’t give the ok to open the door for another 57 days. 57 days!! (As if they hadn’t already been on that boat long enough!) What was the atmosphere like during those 8 weeks? Did Noah feel forgotten? Anxious? Did his son’s threaten to open the door themselves? Or maybe it was the daughter-in-law’s? Was his wife supportive? I could see myself getting quite testy at this point. It’s been a year and I want off this boat! I’m tired of these stinky animals! But they waited…all of them. Because life’s about the waiting…about what we do during the waiting…

They waited for God to give the command to go. They waited for God to open the door. That’s not something many of us are very good at…to wait…for God to open the door. When we get tired of waiting (whether that door’s easy to open or not) we barge through with such force there’s no going back. I know because I’ve barged through a few doors in my day. And I’ve regretted it every time. Why? Because I lost out on the blessings that come with waiting. And the benefits that come with walking through a door that God opened; not one I forced open.

But I’ve learned something. Something revolutionary has finally weaved its way into my goal oriented head. It’s not about getting through the doorway. It’s not about the achievement because my friends there will always be something more to achieve. It’s about the waiting. About what we do while we wait for God to open the door. to heal. to provide. to save. to act. to answer our prayers. It’s about trusting in the waiting. It’s about praising him in the waiting. It’s about finding joy in the waiting. It’s about bringing him glory while we wait.

Therein lies the blessing. Therein lies the reward. It’s in the waiting. “For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him” (Is. 30:18b). “But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint” (Is. 40:31). “Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame” (Ps. 25:3a).

There is much blessing in store for a heart and mind that waits steadfast on God. So as tempting as it to wish away the waiting. To rush the waiting. To loathe the waiting. Let’s savor the waiting. Knowing there is purpose and blessing here and now. In the waiting…for an answer, for love, for healing, for work. In the waiting…to be noticed, remembered, promoted, successful. In the waiting…for God to open the door; for God to bring back a child; for God to make himself known; for God to give or take away. “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” (Ps. 27:14)

Life’s about the waiting…about what we do in the waiting…to God be the glory!

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you waiting for? How can you bring glory to God by your actions and attitude while you wait?
How can you see God working in the waiting? What purpose might he have?image

He is the Mighty One

Devo Scripture: Genesis 7:11-24
Key Verse: “O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when it’s waves rise, you still them.” Ps. 89:8-9

Another day. Another chance to bring him glory. That’s the goal right? I’m ready. I wake the kids. We start into our routine. I’m ready. Bring him glory. The goal. Remember the goal. But then the cereal bowl crashes, the outfit we picked out last night doesn’t feel right this morning, the little man cries because we’re out of Lucky Charms and his favorite shirt is in the dirty clothes. I’ll wash it. I promise I’ll wash it. Bring him glory…the goal. I work harder. Faster. Already stressed and it’s only 7:30am. The goal…I feel it slipping further and further from my reach. I grasp at it.

I drop the big kids at school. I run errands with the little kids. I find my farmer somewhere in this county or the next. I deliver the ham sandwich. I listen to the crying little man who wants to stay with daddy. I remember the goal. Bring my Savior glory. But I’m tired. (But He is not) My heart stirs at the reminder. I can’t do this on my own Lord (My child I don’t expect you to.) And I’m tired Lord (Then it’s the perfect time to give me glory. It’s the perfect time to lean into my strength.) Yes you are strong. You are the Mighty One Lord. (Yes my child. Yes.) “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9). (That’s it my child. Remember what I have said to you.) He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength (Is. 40:29). (Yes if I have said it I will do it.) O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O LORD, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when it’s waves rise, you still them” (Ps. 89:8-9). (Yes child. There is none like me. Remember. Always remember.)

He is the Mighty One. There is no one like the LORD. No one but him can tell a lightning bolt where to strike (Job 38:35). “He loads the thick cloud with moisture; the clouds scatter his lightning. They turn around and around by his guidance, to accomplish all that he commands them on the face of the habitable world” (Job 37:11-12). He commands the morning since it began and causes the dawn to know its place (Job 38:12). He sets the stars in place and “by the greatness of his might, and because he is strong in power not one is missing” (Is. 40:26b).

Jesus. He is awesome in power. Great are his wondrous works. It is he that holds all things together (Col. 1:17). It is he that holds me together! It is he that holds you as well. Nothing is too big for the LORD. Nothing is too hard for him. Yet we hold tight to our problems. Our worries. Anxious we attempt the day in our own strength. Oh but it is he that makes us strong! If only we’d let him handle the big stuff and the little stuff we make into big stuff. If only we’d let go. If only we’d…trust. Then the world might see his awesome power displayed in us.

For he is in the business of big stuff! We see it easily in Genesis 7. The most powerful deluge of water ever to fill the earth was done at his fingertips. Not one raindrop fell without his consent. Not one.

And it was big. Really big. On the day the flood began “all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Gen. 7:11). It wasn’t just 40 days and nights of a nice steady rain. But for 150 days the waters prevailed rising higher and higher, 15 cubits above the mountains. And for another 150 days the waters receded. Yes there was forty days and nights of soaking, drenching, pouring rain. But it began with a breaking up of the great deep. Creation scientists believe the earth’s crust moved, cleaved open, shifting apart with great force causing huge amounts of water and volcanic activity to burst skyward. (Catastrophic Plate Tectonics) If the world began as one land mass it did not take millions of years for the continents to break apart but happened the year of the flood. So we’re talking under water volcanic activity that caused the ocean to rise quickly and powerfully over the earth. “The ocean floors would have been effectively replaced by hot lavas.” (www.answersingenesis.org) It was big. Really big. We serve a mighty and powerful God.

It was so big in fact with all the ash and dust in the air from the volcanic activity, sunlight was blocked “making the temperatures on earth cooler. As the warm water from the oceans evaporated into the air, forming clouds, the colder air over the earth caused wintry conditions, lots of snow, and ice glaciers. This could have easily caused an Ice Age that lasted hundreds of years.”(www.answersingenesis.org) The flood was big, with big effects. But none of it was out of his control. All of it done by the greatness of his might. Because he is strong in power.

I see it now as a storm approaches across the field. I’ve glimpsed it on the shore of a vast ocean. I’ve felt it sharing Christ with complete strangers. And I know it when patience fills me. Joy becomes me. Peace overwhelms me. Love astounds me. Only by his strength can I give thanks in the hard things. And sing praise amidst the mess. On my own I can do nothing. But in Christ I can do all things to his glory. For it’s at my weakest hour that his power shines brightest. “O my Strength, I will sing praises to you, for you, O God, are my fortress, the God who shows me steadfast love” (Ps. 59:17). He is a mighty and powerful God.

So remember the goal. And keep in mind, those big things in our lives that we try to handle ourselves….yeah they aren’t too big for the LORD. And those little things that we make into big things…yeah they aren’t too big either.

Contemplate and Evaluate:
What are you holding onto that you need to give God today? What’s keeping you distracted?
What areas of your life can you boast of his strength and therefore give God the glory?
Does your joy and peace exude to others that God is mighty and awesome in power?image