Monday: Genesis 23
Tuesday: Matthew 23
Wednesday: Nehemiah 13
Thursday: Acts 23
Friday: Genesis 23, Matthew 23, Nehemiah 13, Acts 23
Monday, Genesis 23:
Abraham calls himself a foreigner and a sojourner. Even after many years of living in Canaan, it isn’t fully “home.”
Abraham knows a greater truth, that he “looks forward to the city with foundations, a city whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). And even as Abraham looks forward to his secure eternity, he lives in such a way that the people around him clearly see and know that he has a special relationship with God, that He has been set apart by Him.
We, too, are foreigners in this land. We will never be fully at home on this earth, and we shouldn’t be. We were designed for that same city as Abraham, the one where we get to behold the face of God forever. Does this change the way we live? I sure hope so. I pray that like Abraham, all those around us, whether they know our God or not, know that we love Him by the way that we live.
Is your focus today on your earthly home or your eternal one?
How does shifting your gaze to Heaven, our forever home, impact the way you live today?
Tuesday, Matthew 23:
There is firm instruction here from Jesus that cannot be ignored. I am convicted that so often I seek my own recognition, my own respect, my own honor, rather than His. I am humbled today by this call to exalt our Lord and our neighbor above ourselves. And, I am in awe of His mercy! Even in the midst of a strong warning, He longs to gather His people – us! – to Himself! He longs for us much like a mother hen desires to gather her chicks to herself and protect them underneath the safety of her wings.
His love for us, even while we were still sinners, is far beyond our comprehension.
Are there areas in your own life where you are seeking your own recognition, glory, or respect?
How can you make a conscious decision to value others above yourself?
How can you elevate the importance of God and promote His glory and respect?
Wednesday, Nehemiah 13:
Again and again we watch Israel fall back to her old patterns of sin. I wish I couldn’t relate. Does Nehemiah feel guilty as he catches his people in sin? Does he feel responsible? His plea is that God would remember him and show mercy as he reinstates the rules and repents on behalf of his community. But just as in yesterday’s text, there is God’s mercy, even amidst the direst of situations.
In verse 2, in parenthesis and easy to miss, it says this: “Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.” This is who He always is. This is what He always does. We will see Him save Israel time and time again though she continues to sin. And it is true for us, too, though we mess up and turn away and do the unspeakable, God in His mercy reaches for us, blesses us, gathers us to Himself. He really does make beauty from ashes. He does not forsake His people, nor will He ever.
Is there a habitual sin that you need to repent of today?
Lord, have mercy on us according to your great love.
Take heart, dear one. God’s desire is still to bless you, still to call you into a relationship with Him.
Thursday, Acts 23:
In the midst of what probably looks and feels like the end, God assures Paul that it isn’t. And as we have seen over and over again in Genesis and throughout the rest of Scripture, when God promises, He keeps His promise. Paul will continue to testify about Jesus. And even when it looks bleak, God continues to equip Paul – giving him all he needs to accomplish His purposes, thwarting all the plans of Paul’s enemies (even at the last minute!), pouring out His favor through unlikely officials.
The same is true for us today! He has purpose for us and nothing – not persecution or opposition, not sickness or broken relationships or lost jobs or deep hurt – will stand in His way.
What in your life seems to be keeping you from what God has called you to?
Spend some time in prayer over that today. Believe that He who promised will accomplish His purposes in your life!
If I am honest, “home” is a topic that causes both my greatest delight, and over the years, more than a bit of angst. I think we are designed to long for a home – a safe place, a shelter from the harsh world, a place where we are nourished and comforted and can grow with those we love.
All my favorite memories are of “home” – whether gathered around my parents’ kitchen island laughing with family, or walking through the front doors of my own home to my children’s mess and chaos and laughter. I can imagine our children, crowded on the couch for a movie, holding hands in prayer around our giant farm table, running through the kitchen as I stir a big pot of soup for dinner, swinging from the trees in the backyard. I hope and pray their favorite memories will be of home, too – their favorite meal, the smoke of a bonfire on a hot, July evening, laughter too late into the night.
I love spending time and intentionality making our home comfortable and functional, a safe space that people feel welcome and safe, a place that even our grown children will want to come back to for years to come. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; we are called to love our people and this is one way we do it.
Yet over the years, as my children have grown and many of them have moved halfway across the world to a foreign country, as my parents have aged and family events have taken place far from where I live, I have waffled a bit. Is this truly where we should be making our home?
I resonate with Abraham when he calls himself a foreigner and a sojourner, even after 60 years of living in Canaan. No matter how long I live in Uganda, there is always more to learn, I am always just barely scratching the surface of cultural understanding. And yet, when we visit the United States, we feel like foreigners there, too, hardly knowing how to keep up with a culture we have grown unaccustomed to. There is a sigh of relief when we walk back through our own front door and crawl into our own beds, but there is always a twinge of sadness about leaving our parents, brothers, sisters, and daughters on the other side of the ocean.
When I am here, there is always a subtle longing for that home, our people. And when we spend time there, there is always a longing for this home and all the people we adore in this place. The more He moves us around this world, the more and more I know the truth that I think Abraham, Nehemiah, the disciples, and Paul knew deeply – home isn’t really a place we will ever find here.
Hebrews 11 says Abraham went out, “not knowing where he was going.” By faith, it says, he went to a foreign land and lived in tents, “because he was looking forward to the city whose designer and builder is God.” It continues, “[Abraham] acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on this earth”…”they desired a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared for them a city.”
He has prepared for us a city.
He has prepared for us a home.
Abraham knows it as he humbly asks the Hittites to sell him a piece of land on which to bury his wife. Nehemiah knows it as he rebuilds a city and then begs the Lord to have mercy as its people continue in rebellion. Paul knows it as he declares that to live is Christ and to die is gain. The rest of the kings and prophets mentioned in Hebrews 11 know it as they endure all persecution and hardship “so that they might rise again to a better life.”
So friends, make your home. Fill it with memories and the people you love. Fill it with praise and laughter, things that are so glorifying to the Lord. But hold all loosely. And when your kids move out or your besties move away, when you take a new job or move to a new city, when you are just feeling a bit displaced even in your own home, be reminded: we are citizens of a better country, a heavenly one.
Let’s be present to wherever we find ourselves while remembering that we are truly just passing through, on our way to that glorious place that will be forever.
Read Hebrews 11 over the weekend and be filled with encouragement by all those who have gone before us, who have forsaken all else to race toward this Heavenly home.
Shift your eyes to Heaven, beloved. This is all temporary, but our life with Him is forever.