Week 8: God Who Remembers Me

Monday: Genesis 8

Tuesday: Matthew 8

Wednesday: Ezra 8

Thursday: Acts 8

Friday: Genesis 8, Matthew 8, Ezra 8, Acts 8

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 8: That first line – “God remembered Noah.” He remembers us! He sees us, He knows us. No storm, no flood will last forever, but even in the midst of the struggle we are not forgotten by God. I think of how patiently Noah waited – years of building the ark, months of rain, months of waiting on the earth to dry up. Did he ever wonder if the rain might never stop? Did he ever question if God would truly bring him safely to the end of the flood? God does! He dries up the earth and He calls them out! Noah praises the Lord for His faithfulness and God’s love and mercy is clear.

Think of a “storm” you have endured in your life and praise God for the ways He remembered you and brought you through it.

Now look at a storm you are currently facing or may face in the near future. You are never forgotten by God! Can you praise Him, even now, knowing that He will bring you safely through?

Tuesday, Matthew 8: Jesus is willing to heal us. Willing to heal the leper, willing to go with the centurion, willing to restore the demon possessed man, willing to heal Peter’s mother and all who are brought to Him, willing to save the disciples from the storm.

I can fall into the trap of feeling like Jesus is unwilling to give me what I want, even unwilling to answer me, but this passage clearly shows us that this is not true of His character. In areas of our lives where the Lord seems unwilling, I believe instead He is giving us something better, teaching us something, and drawing us to Himself. When He withholds the things we want, it is not due to an unwillingness, but rather for a better purpose!

Is there anything you are asking God for that He seems “unwilling” to give? Knowing that is not true, what could He instead be trying to teach you?

Wednesday, Ezra 8: I love reading through these lists of names and being reminded that God sees, knows, remembers and protects each of these people individually. I love the example here as the people humble themselves before the Lord, not looking to soldiers or the king to protect them, but asking that the hand of God Himself would be their protection. Good, faithful and merciful God guides and guards them on their journey and delivers them to safety. The people of Israel are remembered by Almighty God!

Have you ever felt forgotten by God? Is this something you are currently feeling? Take a moment to meditate on these truths:

  • Deuteronomy 31:6 – Be strong and courageous. Do not fear, for it is the Lord your God who does with you. He will never leave or forsake you.
  • Psalm 55:22 – Cast all your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.
  • Romans 8:28 – And We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
  • Psalm 73:23 & 26 – Yet, I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand… My flesh and my heart may fail bit God is the strength of my heart and my protion forever.

Thursday, Acts 8: I love the way Phillip hears from the Lord, and I love that God is so intentional to give Phillip instructions regarding just one man. It is so important to God that this Ethiopian man hears the true Gospel that He gives Phillip very specific instructions to get them together. I think there are two very important truths in this passage that we can apply to ourselves. 

First of all, we can hear from God, through the Holy Spirit living inside us, when we take the time to listen. He gave Phillip very specific instructions to lead him to the Ethiopian man, and Phillip was quick to obey.

I also think of the lengths God went to in order to get to this one man. Our loving Fathers cares so intentionally and so personally for each of His children. You are included in that. I pray that causes you to feel seen, known and cherished today.

Take some time to just be quiet today. Stop scrolling, set down your phone, quiet your heart. Listen for the still small voice of God telling you that He loves you.

Is there a decision that you need to make, or something that you need to do? You can hear from God. Ask God how you can love Him today, how you can love your children or your neighbor or your co-worker today, how you can share His Gospel today. Allow the Spirit to speak from within you, and don’t discredit what comes to mind. He will lead you to the next right thing.

Friday Reflections: 

When we are very familiar with the stories in the Bible, it is easy to skim over them without fully imagining the details. But as I take time to read this week and try to see these stories with fresh eyes, I am astounded by just how difficult the situations we are reading about must have been. Let’s take a minute and imagine ourselves in each of the passages we are reading.

It is almost laughable to imagine being Noah or a member of his family in the ark packed with all those animals. But there are realities in this story that the children’s editions skip over. Besides the few family members that you are with, everyone else is gone. Any other relatives or friends these people had have died in the flood. They have watched the earth be utterly destroyed, or, worse, if they couldn’t see out, they have only heard the rain beating against the ark, the waves slamming against it’s sides. 150 days is a long time to be alone with your thoughts, in the dark, in the rain. I can hardly conceive the relief they all must have felt when Noah removed the covering of the ark and laid eyes on dry ground. They have a long way to go, a whole life to rebuild on this destroyed and desolate earth, but for the moment, one feeling prevails: He remembered us.

And they offer their praise and worship to the Lord.

Now imagine being a first century Christian in Acts, in the months and years after Jesus died. First, they killed our Lord and Savior. Now, they have violently killed our bold and gentle friend Steven. If we keep sharing the Gospel, keep living as Christians, it is likely that they will kill us, too. Our friends are scattered and it is nearly impossible to know if they are safe from the persecution or not. Saul is brutally destroying the church, everything we have worked for. This Gospel, this love, it is costly, it is uncomfortable, and it requires tremendous amounts of courage. And yet, God remembers us. Miracles are still happening and the Gospel is spreading. The things the enemy intends to use to destroy – even death! – God is using to spread the Gospel to the nations. 

Picture being the Ethiopian eunuch alone on the desert road, desiring to understand the Scripture but still utterly confused. And God sends Phillip to him to tell him the good news about Jesus. After Phillip disappears, the desert road is still long and life as a eunuch would have still been immeasurably challenging, but as he goes on his way he rejoices at this one thought: God remembers me.

As you read through the Scriptures today, I invite you to imagine yourself as a Levite in the book of Ezra, making the long, dangerous journey from Babylon to Jerusalem. Imagine yourself as the leper, cast our from society and scorned by all, as the centurion desperate to help his suffering servant, as the disciples terrified to be drowned in the storm. Imagine their thrill, their surprise, their delight that God sees and remembers them, delivers them to safety and heals them or their loved ones.

It is hard for me to imagine living in any one of these scenarios, as I feel like the weight of it all – the fear, the uncertainly, the worry, the devastation – would take me under. But if I could see the bigger picture, the way I see it now, thousands of years later reading about the events, I would clearly see that God is using all of these difficult situations to write His story of redemption. When He feels far away, when we feel long forgotten or overlooked, we serve a God who will never leave or forsake us, and we rejoice in this promise: God remembers me.

The difficulties you are passing through today may never be recorded on pages for people to read about in thousands of years, but that doesn’t change the fact that God is using them to write a bigger story, a story of redemption and love, a story in which He remembers you, His beloved child.

Week 7: God Who Keeps Us Safe in the Storm

Monday: Genesis 7

Tuesday: Matthew 7

Wednesday: Ezra 7

Thursday: Acts 7

Friday: Genesis 7, Matthew 7, Ezra 7, Acts 7

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 7: I think they skip that part in the children’s story – that Noah was inside the ark for seven days before even a drop of rain started to fall. People must have thought he was crazy, maybe he even wondered if he was crazy, to trust these seemingly strange words of God in a land that had never even seen rain before. I’ve been here before, too, blindly trusting God long before seeing the “rain.” But God answers! The earth and sky burst open with flood waters and God keeps Noah safe in the ark. He will answer us, and ultimately, we will be safe from any storm in Jesus.

Are you waiting on Him for something right now? 

Is there something you thought He has calling you to, but you are still waiting to see the fruit of your labor and wondering if you even heard Him correctly?

Beloved, we are safe in Jesus just as Noah was safe in the ark. We can trust in God to fulfill all His promises, even when we can’t see the end result.

Tuesday, Matthew 7: We ask, we seek and we knock, and then we must wait with patience on the Lord to give us what we need. He does always give us what we need, even when He doesn’t give us what we want. God always gives good, even when it doesn’t look like what we expected. The road may seem narrow and long and harrowing, and yet, when we are seeking Him the road will lead us to Him, and to eternal life. Jesus is indeed our firm foundation. Though the storms rage and the winds blow, we will not be shaken when our faith is in Him.

Is there an area in your life where you can see that He gave you what you needed, even if it wasn’t exactly what you wanted?

Is there something specific you are asking Him for in this season? Do you believe that He will give you good, even if He doesn’t answer that specific request in the way you are imagining?

Wednesday, Ezra 7: After 70 years of exile, God’s people are badly in need of instruction, but of course, their faithful God does not leave them in their desperate condition. God raises us Ezra to begin the four month journey to His people, placing His hand upon him all the way. Our God, who can use anything or anyone, even moves the heart of the king to keep Ezra safe and provide for him on his journey. I love the way Ezra blesses the Lord for His rich provision at the end of this chapter. God works out every detail, extends to us His steadfast love, and because of this we take courage! Take courage, dear one, He is with you on this journey and giving you all you need!

Are there people in your own life God uses to share His instruction when you are downtrodden, or to provide for you on your journey? Take a moment to pray for those people, or reach out and thank them for the gift they are to you.

Thursday, Acts 7: As I have been pondering this week the God who keeps us safe in all of life’s storms, I am all too aware that my definition of safe isn’t always the same as His. I like when safe lines up with Ezra’s experience – lavishly provided for with silver and gold at the hand of the king. But what about Steven? It would be easy to shake our heads and say that God didn’t rescue him. But as I read it again, I see that God gave him the courage for the task at hand, the most important work of his life, to share the Gospel, and even as Steven is stoned and meets his death, he calls out for the Lord to receive his Spirit, and the Lord brings him safely, securely into eternity.

When our hope is in an eternal God, there is no danger that can truly harm us, because our eternal future is ever secure. Take some time today to name the things in your life that feel unsafe or uncertain. Allow some quiet space to let those things feel small in comparison to the knowledge that your eternal future with Jesus is secure no matter what.

Friday Reflections: 

This is our God – the God of Noah, of Ezra, of Abraham and Joseph and Moses. This is the God who keeps us safe on all life’s journeys and through every raging storm. It is not lost on me that in the very same week that we read about the flood waters overtaking the earth and destroying all of  God’s creation as Noah and his family rest securely in the ark, Jesus warns His followers of other storms that will come and wash away houses – anything – not built on the firm foundation of His Word.

The rain fell.

The floods came.

The wind blew and beat against the house.

But the house did not fall, because it was built securely on the rock. And we will not fall when we have put our trust fully in Him.

As I read again the words of Steven, I see this truth written all over Scripture. God gives His promises to Abraham, and even as God takes him out of his homeland and all that is familiar, even as Abraham has no children in his old age, He trusts in the firm foundation of the promises of God. There was no inheritance that Abraham could see, just like there was no rain when Noah shut himself in the ark. God promises Abraham that his offspring will indeed suffer, but ultimately that they will be safe in Him.

Then God’s hand is on Joseph, keeping his safe through the devastating hatred of his brothers, through false accusations and persecution, through famine and hardship. God uses even the bad in Joseph’s life for good as Joseph will later testify to the very brothers who sold him into slavery.

Again, God’s people are oppressed and again, God sends rescue, this time through Moses. When Moses should be killed by Pharaoh’s decree, God protects him through adoption by Pharaoh’s own daughter, later raising him up to lead His people out of captivity.

Though His people mess up, hurt each other, turn from Him, God still faithfully shepherds His people, leading and guiding them into His promises. And those who are faithful wait on Him.

Did you see how many years of waiting there are interspersed throughout these stories? After Noah waits seven days for the rain to start and through 40 days of flooding, the water prevailed on the earth for another 150 days. That’s a long time to be in a confined space with a lot of animals. Abraham’s wait is much longer! Isaac is born at least 15 years (maybe many more) after God first promises Abraham that he will have many descendants, numbering more than even the stars in the sky. The second part of this promise, that Abraham will become a great nation, is fulfilled several hundred years after Abrahams death. Joseph waits for years in slavery and then years in prison, all the while believing that God will give him good in the midst of the trials and redeem his situation. The Israelites spend decades in slaverly, Moses waits for 40 years in Midian before returning to his people, and then they spend 40 years in the wilderness before entering the promised land. For centuries, God’s people wait and wait on His promised Messiah. And yet, God never removes His hand from His servants.

Sometimes the storms feel long, dear one. Sometimes, we can’t imagine the promises of God could be true for us, in the midst of days or years or decades of waiting. And yet, here we are, safe in His loving hands. The Lord gives us courage to endure the journey, to face the storm. He is our unshakable foundation.

  • What are you waiting on in this season?
  • How can the stories we read this week encourage you to wait in great hope, your future secure in Him.

Week 6: God Who Sees in Secret

Monday: Genesis 6

Tuesday: Matthew 6

Wednesday: Ezra 6

Thursday: Acts 6

Friday: Genesis 6, Matthew 6, Ezra 6, Acts 6

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 6: Man is utterly wicked – every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil. I am so quickly reminded of my own sin and depravity. And yet here God speaks to the one who walks with Him. Noah was righteous and blameless, and so God spoke to him, revealed His plans to him, established a covenant with him, and promises to save Noah and his family. Because Noah trusts in God, He does everything God commands.

Let’s recenter our hearts today – trusting Him even in the midst of uncertainty. The God of Noah is the same God today, desiring to speak to and make a covenant with His people.

Tuesday, Matthew 6: So much rich instruction from Jesus today! I am convicted that often my sinful nature desires to be seen by others and loves the accolades of men, but Jesus gives us a better way. When we give, when we serve, when we fast, when we pray, we do it all out of love for the Father, out of a desire to know Him more deeply – oh, how I long for this to be true in my own life. I know from experience that my most intimate times with Jesus have often been in the “secret” places of my life, the places where I feel most unseen by others. I know that as I come to Him in the quiet places, and as I obey Him quickly even without the fanfare or applause of others, I am storing up treasure in Heaven.

I love Jesus’s example of prayer in Matthew 6. Pray this prayer (v 9-15) aloud today. Then spend some time writing out your own prayer, based on His example:

Praise His Name!

Ask for His Kingdom and His will in your life and the world.

Ask Him to provide all that you need, believing that He always does.

Seek forgiveness, and freely offer it to any who come to mind who have wronged you.

Ask Him to guard you from temptation.

He is our treasure!

Wednesday, Ezra 6: What astounding provision! Not only does Darius allow the work to continue, but he decrees that the treasury be emptied to provide whatever is needed for the work of rebuilding God’s house. God again uses an unbelieving King to provide for the needs of His people and make a way for them to finish the work He has assigned to them. We read yesterday in Matthew that our Heavenly Father sees and knows what we need – and it is confirmed here too. I can imagine the great joy as the Jews finally finish and dedicate the temple! They praise and celebrate and sacrifice, for He has given them all that they need to finish their work! And He does this for us, too – He gives us joyful work to do and we can trust that when we are doing the work of the Lord, no matter how big or small, He will provide what we need – the grace, the patience, the sustenance, the courage – to complete the task at hand.

What work has He given you to do in this season? It might be to faithfully raise your children, to diligently provide for your family, to love a specific neighbor or community or neighbors, to live the Gospel more intentionally. He will provide all that you need to finish the work He has given you!

Thursday, Acts 6: So often I get this backward, putting the active ministry of charity and service before my devotion to prayer and His Word. But the disciples seem keenly aware that without devoting ourselves to time with Him, our public ministry will only be a distraction. We desperately need this wisdom that Steven has, and we can possess it if the Holy Spirit is dwelling in us.

Are you, like me, a “doer” before you are a listener?

How can you prioritize time to be with God, to listen to Him and receive His love for you?

None of us can pour from an empty cup. We must first fill up on His Word before we can serve those around us. How can we shift our focus from doing things for God to simply being with God?

Friday Reflections:

“Yea, he’s the real deal. What you see – that’s who he is in real life, too.” A friend of mine is talking about a famous pastor he happens to know well. We have been discussing the very strange space of Christian celebrity, putting ourselves out there for the world to see while trying to keep our intimacy with Jesus alive in the hidden and quiet places, desiring people to glorify God for our life’s work, but not allowing the praise and accolades of others to cause us to swell with pride.

“He’s the real deal.” This sticks with me. This is what I want the people who really know me to say about me behind my back one day. In a public sphere, on social media, I am often known or recognized for my ministry, for the “unusual” choices I have made in life at a young age, for living in a foreign country. On some level, the world teaches us that we will be known for what we do.

But a handful of people in my life know me for who I truly am, and see the parts of my life that others don’t – the laundry piled on the couch for days waiting to be folded, the way I always burn the rice, the times I get impatient with my children when they interrupt me. These people – my kids, my co-workers, my neighbors – they get to know my heart.

And it is my deep desire that if one day they would be asked what I was really like, they would be able to say about me, “She’s the real deal.” Because in so many ways, it is the ordinary moments of our days and our lives that count so much more than the extraordinary choices that we make. Yes, it was important that Noah obeyed God and did the extraordinary, built the ark, but long before that were all the little decisions, ordinary moments of faithfulness, and quiet obedience that allowed Noah to hear from God in the first place.

While the world sees us for what we do (Isn’t the ark the first thing you think of when you think of Noah?), God knows our hearts. He knows who we are. He sees all that others don’t – the thousandth read-aloud or dirty dish or diaper, the longing for restoration of a broken relationship or the patient conversation with the difficult person. He sees us faithfully doing the hard things when no one is looking, faithfully looking to Him and seeking after Him desiring to please Him in the small. He sees us faithfully doing the hard things when no one is looking. When ministry isn’t growing or when family is struggling. He sees the small. He sees in secret. He sees our hearts.

And hopefully, a handful of people close to you get to see and know your heart, too – and this, far more than any public ministry or internet presence, will be the ministry that matters – that the few people close to you, in your home and your life, saw you keep doing the little things, the hard things, long after the public eye was looking. That you sought after God, that you opened your eyes to Him, that you turned to Him for sustenance when things were tough. I doubt that anyone in my close circle would describe me as righteous or blameless, and I think that’s ok. But I hope with all my heart that they would be able to say that I kept going, that I kept seeking Him, that it was my true desire to love as He loves and to know Him more.

Beloved, by His grace alone, we have found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Let’s be the real deal.

Here is a prayer for today:

Lord Jesus, we acknowledge that it is our hidden reach for you that matters so much more that any public ministry. Place a longing in our hearts for time with you, to hear from you and feel your loving gaze upon us. Give us the wisdom of Steven, the faithfulness and trust of Noah, the perseverance of the Jews in Ezra. Give us this day, our daily bread, Oh Lord, everything we need found only in You.

Amen.

Week 5: The God Who Builds His Kingdom (in Me!)

Monday: Genesis 5

Tuesday: Matthew 5

Wednesday: Ezra 5

Thursday: Acts 5

Friday: Genesis 5, Matthew 5, Ezra 5, Acts 5

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 5: God will not let sin and suffering be the end of His people. All that God does is intentional, purposeful. He numbers the days and years of each of His people, always intending to bring about His good purpose. God sends Noah, his name meaning comfort and rest. The family line begins again, over and over, God continuing to create a people for Himself.

How can you take comfort and rest in Him today?

Tuesday, Matthew 5: These are some of the more famous words of Jesus, words I have had memorized since I was little, words that I teach my children to memorize as well. But even as I read them again this morning, they seem so contrary to the teaching of the world. Blessed are the meek? Blessed are those who mourn? Blessed are those who make peace instead of fighting and arguing? Yes, if we are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, we have to live contrary to the world around us. This isn’t easy. To truly love my enemies, to not retaliate when someone hurts me, to not nurse anger, envy or unforgiveness – this is next to impossible without God’s Spirit working powerfully in my heart. And yet, this is exactly what we are called to, and this is how God’s Kingdom will come on earth, as it is in heaven.

Which of these instructions of Jesus is most difficult for you?

In Him, we are given everything we need for life and Godliness. He will enable us to live contrary to the world, building and upholding His Kingdom!

Wednesday, Ezra 5: After a long pause, the Jews begin again to build the house of God. And again, they face opposition. But did you catch that? When asked who they were, they replied, “We are the servants of the God of Heaven and earth and we are rebuilding…” Yes! Couldn’t that be our answer, too? We are rebuilders, always rebuilding His great Kingdom, made in the image of the Great rebuilder who is always renewing and rebuilding us.

In a world full of idols, the Jews do not hesitate to proclaim that they are serving the God of the Universe and not a local deity. Are we this quick to proclaim our faith in Jesus?

Thursday, Acts 5: As Peter and the other first believers continue preaching the Kingdom of God, they are persecuted and even imprisoned, but rather than despair, they go on teaching and preaching. Even after being beaten they rejoiced! And they didn’t just rejoice in spite of their suffering, they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer because of His name! And they did not stop preaching but instead continued all the more, their joy not tied at all to their circumstance but to the good work He had called them to.

Is there a circumstance of suffering that is preventing you from rejoicing? Even when our circumstance is not good, our GOD is. We can always rejoice in Him!

Testify today, to others or even just to yourself, what He has done for you – His salvation alone is reason to rejoice!

Friday Reflections:

Standing at the top of this hill, there is rarely a time when tears don’t fill my eyes. It is impossible to stand here, a place that was once only grass, and not be overwhelmed with His goodness and faithfulness. As I look down from the edge of our property, I remember when it was just a field, filled with children each Saturday as we laughed and played and worshiped God under a lone mango tree. Later came the chapel as we outgrew the shade of the tree, and then a playground and sports fields, houses for the staff and a kitchen to accommodate the growing number of children that ate lunch with us each week.

Today I see all of this and all the classrooms of the primary school, where children will come not just to learn to read, but to learn their preciousness in the sight of a God who loves them unconditionally.

As I let the tears of gratitude fall, I know deep in my soul that He didn’t just grow His Kingdom here, in this village and on this land. But here in this village and on this land, He grew His Kingdom in my heart.

Here, He taught me what it truly meant to persevere through people who faced immense hardships with unshakeable faith and joy. Here he taught me what it meant to give with abandon and really never expect anything in return. Here in this place He was my only companion during seasons of intense loneliness, and my true guide and teacher when I had nowhere else to learn. He taught me the joy of mercy, the beauty of meekness and humility, the treasure of having nothing and yet having everything in Him.

Many have come to know the Lord here in this place – bright-eyed and eager children, old and weary grandparents, those struggling with insurmountable poverty and terrible illness, those with plenty and those with nothing, those with incredible hopes and dreams, and those too tired to even hope for tomorrow.

Our ministry tagline at Amazima speaks of transformed lives, and yes, they have been – but I know the truth, the life and heart that He has most transformed is mine.

I think of the Scriptures we have read this week. Over and over, He blesses us. Over and over He is good. He is the God of new beginnings, the God who is always building His Kingdom everywhere, but most importantly in our hearts

Again, in Genesis, we are reminded that humankind is made in the likeness of God. He created them and He blessed them, and they continued to bear children in the likeness of God, over and over again God choosing to create life and breath out of nothing. God choosing His people as His vessels. In Ezra, the building of the wall begins again after a 15-year-long pause. They begin again. Aren’t we always beginning again?

Again they face opposition, but it says the eye of their God was watching over them. Oh! How attentive He is to us. How merciful to keep choosing a sinful and broken people. And Ezra and His people? When asked who they are? They answer that they are servants of the most high God. We are rebuilding, they say. And aren’t we always?

The longer I live, the more I know my need for it, His grace to begin again. To rebuild. To start over. And each time I am astounded that God would choose me to grow His Kingdom here on Earth as it is in Heaven, both through me and in me.

  • What do you need to “start over”? Receive His grace, the God who grows His Kingdom in us!
  • Take some time today to praise God for His attentive and careful eye, always watching over us.
  • In what ways is God using you to grow His Kingdom? In what ways is He growing His Kingdom in you?