Monday: Genesis 26
Tuesday: Matthew 26
Wednesday: Esther 3
Thursday: Acts 26
Friday: Genesis 26, Matthew 26, Ester 3, Acts 26
Monday, Genesis 26:
Look at how graciously God provides for Isaac! Isaac has a decision to make – there is a famine in his land. Will he go down to Egypt? Will he stay even though all seems bleak? God instructs him to stay. It’s a choice that doesn’t make much sense by most standards. Why would you stay in a land with no food? Because the Lord asked you to. Isaac trusts God and does as God instructs him, and he is abundantly blessed. He plants and harvests a hundredfold that same year! God provides for him and his family, probably in ways he never could have imagined.
We can do what God asks of us. We can follow His instruction even when it doesn’t make sense to a watching world. He will always give us what we need for what He has called us to do.
Is there a difficult place where He is asking you to stay, to press in, to not grow weary, even if it doesn’t make much sense?
Hear Him whisper to you today, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”
Tuesday, Matthew 26:
This chapter is gutting and yet is so beautiful, our Savior, fully God and fully man, giving up His life for us. “Not considering equality with God something to be used to His own advantage” (Philippians 2) but laying it all down, for His Beloved, for His betrayer, for me, for you.
My words feel inadequate against the awe of this chapter. Jesus, calling the woman’s act of sacrifice beautiful. Jesus, giving thanks before He allows His body to be broken and His blood poured out for us. Jesus, serving the very one who would turn on Him. Jesus, planning to use the very one who would disown Him. Jesus, singing with His beloved just before asking the Father to please make another way. Jesus, obeying His Father in the hardest moments, for you. For me. Jesus.
Like the woman at Bethany, spend time today standing in awe of our Savior. Let the tears fall, if they come. There is no greater love than this.
Lord Jesus, may this never be just another story. May we always stand in awe of what you have done for us. May we never grow tired of this testimony, this outrageous love.
Wednesday, Esther 3
Haman seeks after one thing: his own honor and glory. I’ve been there. He shamelessly uses pride, flattery, and even bribery to get what he wants, and what he knows is wrong. Esther gives us several very straightforward examples of what it looks like to be the people of God and what it looks like to be an enemy of God.
The Jews, especially Mordecai, are a sharp contrast to Haman. They keep themselves “separate from the ways of the other peoples.” Isn’t this our call today? Isn’t this how we should live? Not conforming to the ways of the world around us but looking only to God and His word to inform our customs and our decisions? We are to live in the world but not to be of the world. We are to live with the people of the world but stand out among them because we have a joy, a peace, a confidence that is different because it is from Jesus.
Are there areas of your life where it is easier to seek your own glory and honor than to lift up others or to seek the glory of God?
Are there areas of your life where you are tempted to conform to the culture around you, even when it is in opposition to God’s Kingdom culture? (There are a lot of these for me and often they are subtle.)
Let this be your encouragement to live in the world but not of it, with the world but set apart. Ask the Lord to help you!
Thursday, Acts 26
Paul testifies again and again. He never tires of telling what God has done for him. How many times have we read this account so far in Acts? How many more times will we read it in other letters? What Jesus did for Paul doesn’t seem to ever get old or stale or boring for him. I so badly want this to be true of me.
Has the Gospel lost its luster in your life? Does it feel like the “same old story”?
I pray we would never tire of speaking of God’s goodness, both in our salvation and in the little details of our lives. I pray that we would never get over His goodness to us, that we would never stop boasting of who He is and what He has done for us!
I thought I was brave once. At 18 years old I decided to move across the ocean to a village in East Africa with a suitcase full of crayons and construction paper and a heart determined to change the world with the Gospel. I was bright-eyed and optimistic; I felt like Abraham, on the cusp of this exciting new adventure with the Lord, ready to go and do whatever He called me to in an exotic, foreign place.
And yes, it is beautiful and brave to set off for a foreign land, to follow His calling into the new, the unknown, the exciting. But lean in close and I’ll tell you something else: sometimes the thing that is just as brave? To stay. To dig in where it seems old, familiar, and unexciting. To not grow weary in the good that He has placed right in front of you, right here, right now.
Early in my adult life God did a lot of big things. Together, we grew a big ministry and a big family in the beautiful place I now call home. He used that bright-eyed optimism, blind trust and often naivety in ways that I never could have imagined.
At the time, I did not know the beauty that would find me in a life poured out for Him, the joy of calling little ones “daughter” and pressing into Him to learn what courage really meant, the exhilaration of true and undefiled worship in a sea of people who did not speak the same language but worshiped the same God, the thrill of witnessing a life changed due to basic and simple provision of such things as medical care and nutrition assistance.
I did not know the pain that awaited me on the other side of the ocean, on the other side of humility where I would recognize just how little I had to offer. I did not know that I would carry the responsibility of looking into a mother’s face and telling her that her child was not going to live. I did not know that I would forge deep friendships with people imprisoned by addiction that I could not help them fight, no matter how I tried. I did not know that I would provide care, for months at a time, for people living with HIV, desperately begging God to spare their lives, only to later find myself holding their hands as they slipped into eternity with Him on the other side.
And I did not know that in the middle of much pain and grief and loss, I would experience a joy and a peace that far surpassed human understanding. The Lord would take the most dark and difficult places of my life and make them the places where I knew Him more intimately and deeply than I had ever fathomed possible.
Over the years of motherhood and ministry the “big” things got smaller and the loud things got quieter and as a family we settled back into a pattern of life that wasn’t quite so flashy, wasn’t quite so bold, wasn’t quite so exciting. I hung laundry on the line a lot more than I cared for the dying and I made huge pots of spaghetti and changed diapers and mediated sibling rivalries as my amazing team of Ugandan staff worked on the frontlines providing for and sharing the Gospel with our community. And on lonely nights I would tuck warm little bodies into bed and sit on the couch planning tomorrow’s spelling lesson and wonder what, if anything, I had accomplished that day.
And in the quiet, God whispered a secret: obedience is always the bravest.
He taught me that just as Mary of Bethany poured out her life’s savings in perfume over her beloved Savoir, my life poured out for Him was enough, even when no one was watching. This daily laying down of myself for my family, my neighbor, my community, was just as beautiful to the heart of God as any grand gesture or dramatic move.
I’ve wrestled as I have folded mountains of laundry with a longing to do something “bigger” for the Kingdom. I’ve wondered as I’ve chopped carrots and checked homework and wiped noses if this is what I am supposed to be doing for the Gospel. I’ve dreamt of something a little more bold, a little more adventurous, a little more exciting.
Paul shares his testimony again.
Jesus goes to the cross in obedience to the Father.
Jesus said of the woman who anointed Him in Matthew that wherever the Gospel was preached in the world, “what she has done for me will also be told.”
When I look at my children and ask myself what I want them to remember of me, what I hope that they will tell people when asked about their mother, all I want is them to picture me like that woman, all that I have poured out for Jesus, genuinely, quietly, without any fanfare, my tears of gratitude falling on His feet. I have spoken on big stages. I have built a “big ministry”. I have opened schools and I have lived in a foreign country, and I have written bestselling books. (Oh please hear my heart here, all and only by the grace of God.) But those are not the things I want to be said of me one day when I am gone. Those are not the images I want my children, my friends, and my community members to have of me one day.
I want them to remember me here in the messy kitchen chopping that pile of carrots. I want them to remember me there curled up on the couch with my Bible. I want them to remember a warm smile when they walked in the door and a warm meal on a cold night. And most of all I want them to remember that in all of it, the big and the small, the miraculous and the mundane, my Joy was found in Jesus alone.
I want to be the one who stayed.
I want to be the one who shared about what God had done for her again.
I want to be the one who did the little things in obedience to the Father.
Friends, He might call you to something big and grand today. There are seasons for that. There are mighty works and growing ministries and miracles that are so far beyond what we can imagine. But also, He might call you to be right here. To grow those roots deep. To love extravagantly and not grow weary doing the good and the seemingly small right where you are with the people right in front of you.
And if He is, obedience is always the bravest.