Week 4: God Who Triumphs Over Evil

Monday: Genesis 4

Tuesday: Matthew 4

Wednesday: Ezra 4

Thursday: Acts 4

Friday: Genesis 4, Matthew 4, Ezra 4, Acts 4

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 4: Hope is ever present as God grants Adam and Eve two sons, and yet, evil seems to prevail as the human race plunges further into sin. God, ever faithful gives Cain a warning – “sin is crouching at the door… you must rule over it.” But Cain does not resist. Even still, even in the midst of consequence, God mercifully allows Him to live, to prosper, to be protected, to have offspring. God gives Seth, offering redemption and fresh hope – and people began to call on the name of the Lord.

Even after Christ’s redemption, sin is ever crouching at the door. We may, by His Spirit alone, rule over it. Is there a sin, even something subtle, that is crouching nearby? A small but festering anger or unforgiveness? A spirit of unforgiveness or irritability?

Recognize these “small” sins, the way they lie in wait for us. Name these things, repent and ask the Spirit to enable you rule over sin in your life. As we call on the name of the Lord, He is merciful and good!

Tuesday, Matthew 4: Jesus, fully God and fully man, is able to resist temptation, sin “crouching at the door.” He counters Satan with the truth of Scripture, and ultimately prevails. After battling temptation is when jesus begins His public ministry and I am reminded that often, our hardest work is unseen, beginning in our own hearts and minds before we can minister to others.

Though we will never be perfect, we can learn a lot from Jesus’s example. In the Scripture, we have the truths that we need to combat the lies of the enemy. Today, identify one lie that he is whispering to you, that you may even unintentionally be believing. Now search out a verse or portion of Scripture to combat that lie. Repeat it often. Write it down and hang it where you can see it. Battle the lies of Satan with the Truth of our unchanging Father’s Word!

Wednesday, Ezra 4: Corruption, bribery and jealousy stop the progress on the temple and its wall for 15 years. I imagine the discouragement of the people of Judah as they are slandered and falsely accused. They may feel like evil is winning, that their enemies prevail. It can seem that way, can’t it?

Are there any situations in your life that feel hopeless, or where you feel that evil has triumphed or pain will have the final word? I’ve certainly been there, I think we all have. I encourage you to call a trusted friend or family member and name these things. Invite them to pray with you, and believe as you pray that even when it feels hopeless, suffering and darkness will not prevail.

Thursday, Acts 4: Peter and John are imprisoned for sharing the Gospel – it would be easy to despair, and yet, still many believed. The persevere against persecution and continue preaching the Gospel even to the rulers and authorities who are astonished by their courage. I love that the realization of the rulers as they witness the boldness of Peter and John, is that these men must have been with Jesus.

When people look at our lives, can they tell that we have been with Jesus? Are we living, and even suffering in a way that points others toward Him, that serves as a testimony to His goodness? 

Friday Reflections:

We all get derailed, distracted, discouraged. Sometimes it feels like we have just got it all wrong. Sin crouches at the door. Satan temps and taunts. Corruption, bribery and jealousy threaten the work we feel God has called us to. Hardship and opposition take the wind out of our sails.

And yet, our God does not change.

Still, He calls out to us. Still, He is merciful to us. Still, He strengthens us.

A week after our terminally ill friend breathed her last in our guest bedroom, words from my daughter’s home school assignment caught my eye. We ‘d been learning about paragraphs and punctuation. She wrote, “Our sick friend lived with us for a long time and my mom was brave and took care of her. We thought she might get better, but she didn’t. I saw my mom praying for her. My mom was brave.”

Brave. That certainly wasn’t what I felt as I read it, or as I shepherded my children through yet another loss. I felt downright defeated, as if I had somehow failed our friend, and my family again.

“We thought she might get better,” her paragraph continued, “but she didn’t.” It is seven years later and I cannot type those words without tightness in my chest and tears threatening to spill forth. I think it’s one of the most vulnerable things we can ever say to God, to each other, “I thought it would be this way, but it wasn’t. I thought it would be easy, but it’s not. I thought I would be better, different, more… I thought you would fix it, but…” It’s hard to breathe.

The failure can swallow us in a minute. When we face hardship of any kind, big or small, we can feel like we have failed God or worse, like He’s failed us.

Gently, He guides me to focus on the other words my ten-year-old has written. “I saw my mom praying for her.” I think about all the zillions of times my kids must have seen me praying for her. I think about the days when I didn’t feel like asking God again to heal her, or when I didn’t feel like waking up in the middle of the night to sit with her and make her some tea. I think of the times that I don’t really want to pull out the Bibles after breakfast to start our day in the Word, because I need to hurry to the next thing, or the times I don’t want to stop what I am doing to listen to a child’s hurt or the times that I don’t feel like chopping the carrots for dinner again. But I do it anyway.

And I think of Ezra who has to pause his work on the wall for 15 years, and Peter and John, imprisoned and beaten and mocked, and Jesus hungry and Eve distraught over the loss of her son and all of them praising God anyway.

And what if that is His desire for us in all our failures and our mess-ups. In all the times that things do not go as we had planned or hoped, when we loved the person who never did change, when we cleaned up the messes and no one said thank you, when we did the hard thing for no one’s approval, when there really was no wind in our sails, but we did it anyway. I think that kind of faithfulness might be the bravest kind of brave.

And I think that kind of faithfulness brings us right up close to our Father who is the most Faithful of all, who never changes, who never leaves us, and who does have purpose in all of our pain and trial.

When we look around and it all feels utterly bleak, when sin is crouching and Satan is tempting and suffering is stifling, when we feel we couldn’t possibly praise God for our current circumstance, we praise Him anyway. We praise Him for who He is. We praise Him because He loves us, no matter how many times we mess up. We praise Him because He will not leave or forsake us, not matter how hard this turns out or how badly this things ends. We praise Him because no ending here is ever truly the end when we know we have eternity with Him.

  • What feels too hard right now, or like too much of a mess? We can trust God that, no matter what, His goodness and His plan will prevail.
  • In the midst of persecution, hardship, and even what might look like a failure, Peter and John do not pray for the their suffering to end, they prayed for more boldness and courage to face the situation at hand. And God, always faithful, answered and strengthened them! Dear one, God will give you the strength and courage for whatever you are facing today and in the upcoming season.
  • Turn on a worship song that you love and praise Him anyway, no matter what you are facing today.

Week 3: God Who Restores

Monday: Genesis 3

Tuesday: Matthew 3

Wednesday: Ezra 3

Thursday: Acts 3

Friday: Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3, Acts 3

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 3: Upon reading these words, it feels easy to despair. I see so much of myself in Eve, tempted to mistrust God, tempted to ignore His goodness and take things into my own hands. “Why can’t you just trust Him? Why can’t you just do better?” I berate myself. I hate my sin nature. But I also realize, that if we do not know we are naked, we do not know we need to be clothed. And when I do not realize the depth of my own sin, I cannot recognize my need of Our Savior. Even in the garden, God in His mercy has a perfect plan to bring His people back to Himself, to restore them to their pre-fall sinlessness. Even now, His plan is to bring us into glory.

-Is there a past sin or mistake you are beating yourself up over, that you just won’t allow yourself to let go of? Repent! Seek forgiveness from our loving Father, and know that He forgives you in His Son.

-Spend some time reflecting on how your sins and imperfections bring you to the feet of Jesus, recognizing your need for Him.

Tuesday, Matthew 3: In Genesis 3, sin enters. In Matthew 3, John prepares the way for the Savior, calling people to repent of their sin and God proclaims His pleasure in His Son, who will take away the sin of the world! What glorious hope, what a joyful response to the fall of Adam and Eve. “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” God declares about Jesus. And when we repent and put our full hope and trust in Him? These words become true of us too.We are His beloved children, in whom He is well pleased. As someone who is self-critical by nature, always over-examining my own failures, this one can be hard for me to truly grab ahold of and believe. How could He be well pleased with me after I have failed again? Because of Jesus, who fulfilled all righteousness, because of Jesus who took my place.

John says we bear fruit in keeping with repentance. How could you make true repentance (not the same as wallowing in guilt over your shortcominging!) and the true acceptance of His forgiveness part of your daily rhythm or routine?

Spend a moment in silence listening for His voice that assures you, “You are my beloved child, and I am well pleased with you.” Can you receive it? Can you believe it?

Wednesday, Ezra 3: I am amazed at the bravery of God’s people, continuing to build, continuing to sacrifice and praise even in the midst of their very real fear of the enemies all around them. And did you see that? It says that they offered sacrifices of praise because they were afraid. Sometimes, we offer praise in spite of our fear, but sometimes, it is our fear that pushes us closer to Him, causing us to cry out, to lift hands in praise. Even in the midst of their fear, the Isrealites keep offering. They keep building. They lay the foundation of the temple and they praise the Lord.

What are you afraid of right now? Can you praise Him in spite of it? Can you praise His because of it, believing that this thing may draw you closer to Him and transform you into His image?

What work has The Lord appointed you to do right now? Maybe it’s something big – raising your children, running a business, caring for a loved one, or maybe it’s something “small” (nothing is too small in His eyes) – remembering to lower your voice when you are frustrated instead of raising it, or making dinner (again!), or finishing a report. It is good and right to praise Him while we do the work He has appointed to us! For indeed He is good and His steadfast love endures forever!

Thursday, Acts 3: Here at the Gate called Beautiful, God restores. He makes all things beautiful in their time, and He makes our feet strong in His grace and mercy. I love that the people who saw Him praising God were amazed. Is our praise on display in a way that leaves people in awe? Are we quick to tell and to show and to testify of the ways that God has strengthened us and healed us and met us?

Friday Reflections:

There it is. The crafty hiss of the serpent, the same today as it was then, “Did God really say…” we know that thought, or at least I do, so well. “Would God really care if,” or “God must not care” or “If God cared and He saw me, He would never allow this.”

And Eve believed the lie, the one I believe too often, “God withholds good from me. God does not give me what I need.” I’ve thought it even when I didn’t dare say it, haven’t you? I’ve thought I must take matters into my own hands when God’s plans aren’t quite what I want, not quite as I had planned. I have been Eve and I haven’t trusted that He could truly love me and yet not give me exactly what I want. “God withholds good from you,” the serpent whispers, and we reach out to take a big, juicy bite of the lie.

The people God fashioned for Himself out of the very dust of the earth defy Him, and run to hide. And yet He comes looking, Him always coming for us gently, always reaching for us, always finding us. “Why are you hiding?” but He already knows, “You ate from the tree, didn’t you?”

Can you hear Him, speaking it straight to your heart? “Don’t hide, love. I already know.” And in His great loving kindness, He already has a plan to save and redeem even these who rebel against Him. And here in the garden He spares our lives for the first time, because those who He promised would surely die go on to live another day, and in His mercy He clothes their nakedness and still allows the breath in their lungs and the sun on their faces and the warm ground beneath their feet to grow food for their sustenance. If that’s not provision, I don’t know that is. And with it He gives a promise, that this will not be forever. He already has a plan to redeem His beloved children, even from the moment they rebel. He is a good Father, He is trustworthy.

In Matthew the clouds part and there it is – His promise fulfilled. God says He is well please with His beloved Son, the Son He sent to undo all that mess of the garden, the mess of my own heart that time and time again wants to believe the lie that God just might not see me, or just might not care.

I am just like Eve, her lustful heart distracted from the beauty of all God has given her by the one thing He hasn’t given her yet. I am just like the man at the temple gate, in need of Jesus to strengthen my feet and put His praise in my mouth. And it isn’t lost on me that the temple gate is called Beautiful, because of course, this is what our God makes all things.

We serve a God who makes all things beautiful, who redeems our fickle, disobedient hearts and clothes us in His mercy. Who urges us to repent from our sin so that He can wash us clean. Who strengthens our hearts to endure, our stature to persevere, and our lips to praise. Just as the Isrealites restore the altar and the temple, He restores our souls, He rebuild us, He makes us beautiful, and we can join Ezra and His people in their song, “He is good, and His love toward us endures forever!”

It is sobering to read the words of Peter in Acts, “You killed the author of life but God raised Him from the dead,” and yet I know I have killed Him in my heart a thousand times. But we do not despair! “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through Him that has completely healed him, as you can see.”

Beloved, we are healed for our wicked, lustful nature in the name of Jesus. We are made strong. We are clothed in our nakedness, and by His grace we are given another day, breath in our lungs, sun on our faces, bread for sustenance. We are restored, rebuilt, renewed. Let us praise His name!

  • Are there are sins you have tried to hide from God by not openly repenting to Him? He sees, and He is merciful. Make a conscious effort to lay those at His feet and believe that Jesus was enough for even the worst of our trespasses.
  • Where does your faith need strengthening. Ask Him, and believe that He will do it!
  • Can you think of a time in your life when God has taken something broken and awful and made it beautiful? This is what He longs to do for His people!

Week 2: God Who Reveals Himself to His People

Monday: Genesis 2

Tuesday: Matthew 2

Wednesday: Ezra 2

Thursday: Acts 2

Friday: Genesis 2, Matthew 2, Ezra 2, Acts 2

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 2: God’s finished work in the garden is good. His finished work on the cross is good, and His finished work in eternity is good. If things aren’t good now, we can rest assured that that’s because God is not yet finished. The picture of the idyllic garden in Eden where God places the man and the woman is strikingly similar to a passage I read often in Revelation 22, but one phrase is added – “The leaves of the trees were for the healing of the nations.” Naked and unashamed before God, Adam and Eve needed no healing. But this side of Eden we cry out for it, and we rest assured that God will provide it. In the restored Eden, there will be no curse and there will be no night. God who formed us of dust and breathed life into us so desires us to be with Him that we will one day look upon His face forever. And His finished work will be good far beyond what we can imagine.

What areas of your life need His healing and restoration?

God is not finished with His healing work in your life, even in the areas where you cannot see it. Trust Him today that He is working for your good and restoration in His own perfect timing.

Tuesday, Matthew 2: I am struck that it is God’s delight to reveal Himself to His people. He gives His star as a sign to the magi, the appears to them in a dream, He appears to Joseph through an angel and in dreams, He protects His Son and thus His people and His plan to redeem them. Whether through dreams or angels, or, more often through quiet whispers of the Spirit within us, it is His desire to reveal Himself to us too. How beautiful to love a God who desires us to know Him!

In what areas of your life is God clearly revealing Himself to you?

In what areas of your life are you longing for God to reveal Himself to you?

Trust these areas to God, believing that it is His delight to speak to His people.

Wednesday, Ezra 2: Where again we may be temped to skip over what could appear to be a tedious list of names, I am reminded that this is a group of people who has just come out of 70 years of captivity. That’s a long time to wonder if you have been forgotten by God. But our loving, intentional Father knows and numbers His people, not one is forgotten by Him! They are seen, known, prepared for, and provided for – so are we!

Is there someone in your life who may need to be reminded that God sees and knows them, that He has not forgotten them? Reach out and remind them of this truth today.

Thursday, Acts 2: God, who provides everything that we need, sends His Holy Spirit on His people. There is so much lavish provision in this chapter – first, the lavish provision of God as He sends His Holy Spirit, then the astounding provision that all those gathered could hear of His mighty works in their very own languages. He provides Peter, who just days ago was adamantly denying that he even knew Jesus, the courage and strength to share the Gospel with the crowds surrounding him. And out of this abundant provision, God gives the fellowship of believers the grace to provide for one another, so that no one had lack and the body of believers grew.

Stand in awe of His provision in your life today.

Who can you bless today by meeting a physical or emotional need? Do you know someone in need of fellowship, in need of a financial provision, a meal or even just an encouraging phone call?

Friday Reflections:

It continually blows me away that God would desire to reveal Himself to us. In Genesis, God looks at all that He has made and it is good. All that He does, all that He makes, is pleasing to Him, but most of all His children, created in His image. God’s trustworthiness began even before the garden existed. As He tenderly planted it, as He breathed His life into Adam and Eve, He affectionately thought of us, of you and me and His faithful plan to bring us into glory with Him. He planned to be faithful and kind and merciful even then, even before we existed.

            I read the first chapters of Genesis and I imagine God preparing all of creation for the beloved children He is about to speak into life. I remember preparing for the birth of our first son, setting up the crib and arranging things just right. Washing and folding tiny onesies and arranging miniscule diapers with such great anticipation of who this little life kicking inside of me would be. And here in the beginning, our loving Father, creating every tree and plant, every bird and beast, the perfect home to bring His children into, the perfect way to point them back to His glory time and time again.

By the time God finally created man and woman in His own image, and blessed them and instructed them, He had already given them everything they would need for life with Him in the garden. Earth and sky and waters teeming with fish, fruits and plants in abundance, light to make the seasons and the days, to warm their skin and light their paths. Abundant provision in clear in just these few verses, and as He abundantly provides the tangible things that His creation needs, God already plans to provide the mercy they will soon need even more.

Imagine the great satisfaction of God, when He saw all the beauty He created and declared it so good. I imagine Him gazing on His very favorite part – His children.

Benji and I often put our kids to bed, only to sit in our own bed and tell stories of all the darling things they’ve done throughout the day, frequently pulling out photos and videos we have taken on our phones to show one another. “She is just so precious,” we will say and, “I can’t believe how fast he is learning!” We have spent the whole day with them and we have only just sent them to their own rooms so that we can be alone together and yet we sit and dote, amazed by these humans that we get to shepherd and shape. Sure, they are far from perfect, but I doubt you’d know it if you heard our late-night conversations or saw the delight in our eyes as we watched the video of the baby saying “bye-bye” for the hundredth time.

In this way I imagine God sits back and declares His creation good, His children beloved, His delight fully in them and theirs in Him. There they stand, naked and unashamed in front of their loving Father, just as He created them to be. Fully designed for relationship with Him, and fully designed for His glory.

This is the same tenderness with which God looks on his people as they come out of captivity from Babylon. He knows each one of them. Each one of them was hand selected by Him to be part of the remnant of His people brought out of captivity and back to Jerusalem to worship Him, to know Him and be known by Him. The same is true of the magi in Matthew and the crowds in Acts and they receive Peter’s testimony. We are seen and known by the Almighty God! We are precious, prepared for and provided for.

Back in the garden, Adam and Eve stood naked and they were not ashamed. Do we believe that we can come to our Heavenly Father like this? Do we believe that He looks on us tenderly, as individuals precious to Him, with a love for us and a desire to provide for us and protect us? We are His precious children and it is His delight to reveal Himself to us!

– It is often difficult for me to believe that God adores me unconditionally, regardless of my performance, my struggles and my sin. In what areas of your life are you having trouble believing that God adores you?

-What do you need to bring to God, “naked and unashamed”? Whether it is a dream or plan, a sin, a struggle, a past mistake, imagine laying it down at His feet. Imagine His eyes on you, still loving you, His precious son or daughter.

Week 1: The God of New Beginnings

Monday: Genesis 1

Tuesday: Matthew 1

Wednesday: Ezra 1

Thursday: Acts 1

Friday: Genesis 1, Matthew 1, Ezra 1, Acts 1

Reflections:

Monday, Genesis 1: Here, we begin. Darkness, chaos, formlessness, emptiness. And here God hovers. Here, He speaks. Here, He holds His wonderous plans, His desire for beauty and light and life. All that He does is good.

Where do you see His goodness right now? Make a habit of noticing God’s goodness, even on the not good days.

What areas of life feel dark, void, chaotic? Can you trust that God is right there, hovering near, in perfect timing making something beautiful?

Tuesday, Matthew 1: At first glance, I often skip right over genealogies. But here, it strikes me how Matthew starts. “This is the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah the son of David, the son of Abraham.” This is God fulfilling all the prophecies of the Old Testament, all the promises His people had been waiting on for thousands of years. God is who He says He is, and Matthew writes to prove it. “You will call Him Jesus,” the angel says, “because He will save His people from their sins”

If God in His mercy can fulfill this promise, then we have certain hope that He will fulfill all His promises to us through His Son Jesus. Chose a promise from scripture today that feels hard to hold onto. Some examples might be  – 

  • God is working all things for my good (Romans 8:28)
  • God who began a good work in ___________ (yourself, your child, your family member/friend/neighbor who is struggling) will bring it to completion (Philippians 1:6)
  • I will live with God forever in eternity (John 10:27-28)
  • My light and momentary troubles are achieving eternal glory (2 Corinthians 4:17)
  • God is with me (even through the hard, even if I do not feel Him) (Matthew 28:20, Matthew 1:23)
  • God will never leave me (Hebrews 13:5)

Cling to this promise today. Write it down. Repeat it to yourself. Cling to His truth.

Wednesday, Ezra 1: We might need this reminder now more that ever: no king or ruler is beyond the ability of God to move in his or her heart. What may seem like a funny list of matching bowls at first glance, is in fact another show of God achieving His purposes and keeping His promises, even when He uses an unbelieving King to do so. This story really begins at the end of 2 Chronicles, where we read that God’s people mock Him, disobey His commands, and turn their backs on them. And yet, He loves them. And yet, He carries His remnant into exile (fulfilling Jeremiah’s prophecy) where one day He plans to move the heart of a Persian King for the good of His people.

Throughout all of Scripture, God declares His plan to bring His people back to Himself. His mercy is astounding. Isaiah 45:5-6 tells us that God intends for His people to know Him, no matter what it takes. Today, rest in a love that will do whatever it takes to get to you.

Thursday, Acts 1: Acts feels like a new beginning almost as much as Genesis or Matthew. In some ways, it must have felt like a sorrowful beginning, the beginning of the disciples’ ministry on earth without their Lord and Teacher. But Jesus had promised them a gift, one that He had said was “better” than Himself, The Holy Spirit. While they disciples wait, rather than let their grief overtake them, they “joined together constantly in prayer.”

Are there areas of life right now where you feel as if Jesus is “hidden from your sight”? Or areas where you are waiting for Him (and maybe feel as if you have been waiting for a very long time?

Spend some time today taking these circumstances to the Lord in prayer. Reach out to a friend or fellow believer who can join you in those prayers. Ask God to give you joy, even as you wait.

Friday Reflections: 

I always hated that dead, unsightly tree next to our front porch. It was there in it’s ugly blue plastic container when we moved in, and its roots had grown so far down into the cement foundation of our house that I couldn’t dig it up to move it. I made plans in my head to cut it down limb by limb, but with so much to do, that just never made it up very high on the priority list. Even worse was the fact that every one of my children and nearly every guest we had in and out of our home seemed to think that the plastic container holding the tree was actually a trash can. And so, for the first full year we lived here, that ugly dead tree sat in its ugly garbage-can container full of banana peels and candy wrappers and half-eaten peanut butter sandwiches and drove me crazy.

I walked by it so often that I didn’t even notice when the leaves started turning green again. I didn’t notice as the branches started to come back to life, reaching for the sun. And then one morning I walked out and there was our dead tree – completely alive, and completely covered with little pink mulberries. I ran to get the kids and showed them excitedly. “This tree was totally dead!” I kept saying, shaking my head.

We waited patiently as the sour little berries turned into plump, juicy treats that stained our chins purple as we scarfed them by the handful. Now, several times a year, the tree fills completely with berries. At other times of the year it buds more slowly and our little ones search the trees for berry that is just right and squeal with delight when they have found this small, sour treat. The mulberry tree is still in its ugly blue plastic container, its roots still grown straight through the bottom and into the cement, but I have worked hard to teach our people to at least not throw trash into the pot. Usually, I don’t even really notice it, but sometimes I look at that tree for an extra minute as I run in and out of our house. I look at that tree and I remember the mercy of God.

This is who our God is: He turns our trash into treasure. He creates everything out of nothing. Order out of chaos. Light out of darkness. And from this, the very beginning, God has in mind this glorious plan – mercy. He will take my nothing, my chaos, my utter darkness, and He will send His Son. He breathes life into things long dead. He resurrected my mulberry tree, and He is resurrecting me – both daily in my dark and sinful heart, and one day in the life to come.

We see examples of this piece of God’s character all throughout scripture, even in places where it might seem unlikely. In Ezra, God’s people have been in exile in Babylon for 70 long years. It is their own doing – at the end of 2 Chronicles, God’s people mock Him and turn from Him. And yet, the Lord loves them! It is the desire of His heart to bring His people back to Himself. Years before the book of Ezra is written, both Jeremiah and Isaiah (Jeremiah 29, Isaiah 44 & 45) prophecy that God will indeed rescue His people, by softening the heart of an unlikely, unbelieving King Cyrus. God will have mercy on His people. God will accomplish His purposes.

From the moment God breathes the world into being in Genesis, through the repeated rescuing of His people in the Old testament, in the birth of His only Son sent as a human baby, to the promise of the Holy Spirit as Jesus is taken up to Heaven, God if faithful to fulfill His promises and God is merciful to use all things for His pleasure, for His people, for the glory of His name.

Genesis 1:2 says that God hovered over a formless and void earth, the surface of the deep waters. He came near to the darkness and the void and the chaos and He spoke Light. Throughout all of time, this is our God. Always coming near, always drawing close to the chaos and the brokenness and the darkness, bringing light, speaking life, growing shoots out of the black of the earth, breathing life into dry bones, making a way in the wilderness and streams in the desert and ultimately raising life out of the death of the tomb. He takes our little and He makes it much. He takes our ashes and He makes them beautiful. He takes our not-good and makes it His very-good. This is who God is. Trustworthy.

As we look through His Word, as we look back over our own lives, and as we look to the promises He has made us for a future with Him, both here and in eternity, we can trust that He will take all our dark, dead, and dry places and resurrect them, use them to bear fruit in our lives that draws us to Himself and brings Him glory and praise.

That vast and formless Earth shone with light and teemed with life. That humble, dirty feeding trough held the Savior of the World. And right here on my front porch, my kids’ trash turned into new life for our beautiful, once-dead tree.

I read these words and I stare and my tree and I think – Look at us. Look where we have been. Look what He has made us, what He is making us. In His mercy, He is using all things to grow us to new life.

  • What places in your life and your heart feel dead and dry, in need of His resurrection?
  • What would it look like to surrender those things to Him today, trusting that He will make something out of nothing, as He did in Genesis, or provide what you need, the way He did with Ezra?
  • Read Jeremiah 29:10-14. We can trust Him to bring us out of our dark and hard places and to use all of it to give us hope for a future with Him!

His Word in the New Year

Well, I think I am not alone in feeling like that was a long year. And then in some ways, such a short year. And, let’s face it, probably for most of us a pretty bizarre year. But there is no question that it was also not without good. In the midst of chaos and division and even global pandemic, we serve a good God who is always giving good, if we can chose to see it.

Now it is a new year and I want to do something new, with you.

During our first lockdown in Uganda (in March), I was feeling unusually spiritually dry. I restlessly flipped through my Bible, hoping it might just fall open to something that jumped off the page at me. I picked multiple devotionals up off our bookshelves, only to tire of them after a few short days. I need you to speak to me I would whisper to God.

At my husband’s encouragement, our family started a new Bible reading plan. No commentaires, no bells and whistles, just the Word. We started with Genesis, Matthew, Ezra and Acts, reading a chapter of each every day. Some of the reading we did together around the table and some we did in our own quiet time. It only took me about a week to realize that this was what my heart had been craving. It didn’t come with extra commentaries, opinions or explanations. What my heart and been longing for was God’s Word, in much larger pieces than I had read in a long time. And, while I know it might sound cliché, the more I read, the more I wanted. At the end of what had felt like a particularly dry season, thumbing through a Bible I felt I had read a hundred times, asking God to please make it new and exciting to me again, I was suddenly hungry for these large chunks of time in His Word like I hadn’t been in a very long time. Because He hears the prayers of our weary hearts. Because He longs to be near His people, to remind us of His love for us.

As I read, I couldn’t get over the very obvious truth that the character and magnificence and love of God remained the same through Genesis, Ezra, Matthew and Acts. And then later through Exodus, Nehemiah, Mark and Romans, and so on. While these passages weren’t intentionally selected to “go together,” so often a theme or aspect of God’s character jumped out of each passage as if they had been hand-picked in some kind of topical index. There it was, the Word of God, and my loving Father the same, yesterday, today, and forever. God’s character seemed to jump off the page at me as if to say, “See! He loves you! He has always loved you! He will always love you!” or “Look! He is merciful, He has always been merciful, He will always be merciful.”

In the midst of a long and weary year, while I was looking for spiritual encouragement from reading about other people’s encounters with God and other people’s opinions or interpretations of His Word, my old, worn, falling apart Bible that I “already knew all the stories in” was waiting for me to come back to the basics, waiting to reveal new facets of God’s character to me. Morning  after morning I poured over the Word, filling pages of my garage sale College Ruled spiral notebook with all the evidences of God’s mercy and grace and gentleness and love that were the same to Abraham and to the Isrealites rebuilding the wall and to the Samaritan woman at the well and to Saul the Pharisee who became an apostle. And as if it was all new to me, I stood in awe.

And friends, He is just too good not to share.

So I am going to start over again, back at Genesis, and I would love you to join me.

I wish I could send you all a beautiful journal, but my encouragement would be to get one to keep next to you as your read, and jot down things that stand out to you.

Each Monday, I will post what we are reading for the week with a few encouragements that jump out to me and sometimes a few questions to challenge us. My prayer is that you would be filled with joy in His Word like never before, and stand with me in awe of His unchanging, unending love.

Katie