Monday: Genesis 3
Tuesday: Matthew 3
Wednesday: Ezra 3
Thursday: Acts 3
Friday: Genesis 3, Matthew 3, Ezra 3, Acts 3
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?
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!