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!

10 thoughts on “Week 1: The God of New Beginnings

  1. How refreshing to hear your words sharing God’s love and grace like a life-giving fountain in 2021.
    Keep writing…you are gifted!

  2. I am encouraged even more to read the bible an allow God to take the dead parts of my life an add life to them,just like your tree,thanks for sharing

  3. I truly enjoyed this week. I especially like how you pulled each chapter together to show God bringing beauty from ashes. Those who wait upon the Lord. Thank you.

  4. Katie,

    I love this.

    And this probably sounds crazy, but I still think about your Christmas blog from years ago. I think it was called “Jesus in the muck” or something like that? Could you please share again if you have time? I can’t find your old site at all, and I’ve been dying to read it again.

    Blessings,

    Mary Madeline

  5. Thankyou Katie for all the amazing effort and faith that you put into each day and show us how you do this, you are such a blessing! You have inspired me greatly to be more selfless and to truely seek God out.
    J esus first
    O thers in between
    Y ourself last

  6. It’s such a joy to read your devotional from the other side of the world and feel the unity of God’s love and mercy in the words He gives you to share.

    I look forward to reading your blog and devotional! Thank you for sharing!

  7. Oh Katie, thank you so much for being faithful and writing these words!! I have prayed for many years for my prodigals and it’s so hard to keep believing they will return. These passages and your wise words have given me new hope! God is faithful and I can trust Him to have mercy on my kids. God bless you and yours!!! Please keep writing ❤️
    With love,

    Sarah 😊

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