Week 35: God Who Knows My Name

Monday: Genesis 36

Tuesday: Mark 8

Wednesday: Psalm 3

Thursday: Romans 7

Friday: Genesis 36, Mark 8, Psalm 3, Romans 7

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 36

At first glance, this is simply another list of names that we might be tempted to skip over. But spend a few minutes in this scripture and we will realize some greater truths about God and His character. We have seen from previous passages in Genesis that Esau or “Edom” as he is called here, is not the chosen brother, he is not the son through whom the lineage of the Messiah will go forward. In fact, the Edomites will become enemies of Israel, refusing them passage through their territory on their way to the promised land and coming against them with an army. We see Esau has chosen to marry unbelieving women, something the Lord and Esau’s own father commanded him not to do. And yet, the Lord still sees fit that Esau’s family line is recorded, that his name and the names of his family members are written down for many to read for years to come. Our Father deeply cares about every single person He created, even those stuck in sin and walking away from Him. He knows our names. He knows their names. The names of those seeking after Him and the names of those turning their backs. And He purposes to use every single one of us to accomplish His purposes. 

Are there people in your life who you have deemed as unworthy of Gospel love? 

What would it look like to believe God knows their names and they are precious to Him?

Do you ever find yourself feeling insignificant and unworthy?

Spend some time today reminding yourself of your preciousness to God. Rest in knowing that He sees you and He knows your name. He has it recorded in the book of Life for all eternity!

Tuesday, Mark 8

Again and again and again, the Lord has compassion on His people. When He is surrounded by a hungry crowd, He gives thanks and breaks bread. They do not know, but later He will give thanks and let His body be broken for us, our Bread of Life. He breaks the bread for the crowd and the text says they were satisfied. His body breaks for us and we can be most satisfied in Him. It is so easy to shift our eyes and look to other things to satisfy, but none of them will. He alone is enough to satisfy our souls. And even as He satisfies us, He calls us to lay down our lives for Him. So minute by minute, little tiny decision by little tiny decision, each time we surrender our desires and choose Him instead, our satisfaction grows and our joy increases.

How are you finding your satisfaction in Him?

What does it look like in your life today, even in the small, to lay down your life for His sake?

Wednesday, Psalm 3

I read Psalm 3 several times before I noticed the little note under the title, “A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.” Wow, I think I have problems. David’s son is literally trying to kill him. I cannot even imagine how painful that would be. And yet in the midst of it all, David turns his eyes to praise God. He remembers who God is and he sings it aloud for all to hear, “You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, the One who lifts my head high. I call out to the Lord and He answers me from His Holy mountain.” God is the lifter of our heads even in the darkest valleys, even in the most unthinkable circumstances. When we call out to Him, He always answers us.

Can you praise Him today even in the midst of your own heartache?

Remember who He is, dear one! The lifter of your head, the God who answers you!

Thursday, Romans 7

Some of Paul’s language here can be a little hard for me to understand. But as I have mulled over it this week, I think what it boils down to is this – God’s law is not the problem. Our sin is the problem! And God’s perfect law makes it very clear to us just how sinful we are. And I SO relate to what Paul says later in the chapter – the good he wants to do he finds himself incapable of, and the evil he wants to flee from he finds himself drawn to. “What a wretched man that I am!” But we can recognize our sinful nature without despair because this is exactly what Christ came for. He knew exactly just how wretched we were and exactly how much we needed Him. Relying on Him is the only way to the good we long to do, the only way to abundant life!

How are you actively battling sin and temptation in your own life?

Spend some time today repenting for your sin and then praising Jesus who took it all on the cross!

Friday Reflections

I smiled with pride as I watched my kids walk into new schools this week. But at the same time I felt so proud of them in their new adventures, so in awe of their courage to do something so new and unknown, I felt anxious for them, probably even more anxious than they were feeling for themselves.

For the last five years, they’ve attended a school where everyone not only knows their names, but their parents’ and siblings’ names, their birthdays, and often even the most intimate details of their lives. They’ve been in classes with their sisters and a small handful of other children that they have basically grown up with. Their dad’s close friend is their Chemistry teacher. Their good friend’s mom is their math teacher. We have thrived for years in a tiny, intentional, intimate community.

So my breath catches in my throat a bit as I watch one bob away from me down the sidewalk of the crowded college campus. My eyes fill with tears as the high schoolers push their way toward me through the hallway after a long first day. I shake my head and try not to let the thought that has been nagging me all day take root, “We don’t know anyone here.”

But as I read through this list of names in Genesis one, as I think of Jesus having compassion on and distributing food to thousands upon thousands of individuals, wanting each one of them to be safe and well fed, I am reminded that God knows my name and the names of each of my children. He knows their parents and their siblings, their birthdays and the very most intimate details of their lives. He knows what we are walking into and why He has us here, even when we are still a bit uncertain.

I am tempted to shake my head a bit at the disciples in Mark 8. It’s nearly the exact same scenario that they lived through weeks or months before, with different numbers of people and a different number of fish. They had seen Jesus do this before. And yet, when Jesus suggests to the disciples that the people need something to eat, their response is the same.

            “Where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”

Seriously? How can they ask Jesus this? They had just watched Jesus feed a crowd even larger than this, basically conjuring up a feast from just a few bites. A feast with twelve baskets left over, abundance, far more than they started with. Don’t the disciples know that Jesus will do this again? And He does. Once again, He takes nothing and makes it something, He takes lack and makes it abundance, He takes the starving and He satisfies.

Jesus, who knows our names, will satisfy the starving again. He will take our lack and make it abundant again. This is who He is. This is what He does.

So we walk through a town full of people we have never seen before. We smile at strangers. We don’t know the names of the baristas or the grocers, and they don’t know our coffee orders or let us pay later like they do at home. But a waitress chases me down the street out of the restaurant with the water bottle and toy truck that we left behind and I feel like God is reminding me – we will be known again. We will find intentional and intimate community because this is what He designed us for. But in the meantime, He knows our names and He knows us more intimately than anyone on this earth ever will.

I don’t know where you are today? I don’t know if you are surrounded by your people and praising God for them or if you are more like us, feeling displaced and lonely. It’s easy to feel like the disciples looking at a couple loaves of bread and thinking, “How are you going to do this, Lord?” God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is going to keep working now like He did before. God who has taken our nothing and made it into something before is going to do that again. And here in our lonely seasons, He knows our names. He knows each hair on our heads and every ache and dream in our hearts.

He sees you, love. I pray you hear Him call your name today.

Week 34: God of Undeserved Grace

Monday: Genesis 34-35

Tuesday: Mark 7

Wednesday: Psalm 2

Thursday: Romans 6

Friday: Genesis 34-35, Mark 7, Psalm 2, Romans 6

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 34-35

Even in the midst of hardship and suffering, Jacob remembers God as “God who answered me in the day of my distress, and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” Can we? I am reminded as I read that remembering can be an act of worship. God takes Jacob back to the place He first revealed Himself, and so often He takes us back, to remember the places He revealed Himself to us, the places He carried us through, the battles He fought on our behalf. And Jacob names the place where God first spoke to him, the place where God now speaks to him again, Bethel or “House of God.” 

There is suffering for Jacob on the journey and there will be for us. But everywhere we remember Him can be a House of God, too. There are places where we will doubt, where we will wrestle, where we may momentarily lose our way. Can you hear our Father whisper, “Remember? Remember how I sustained you before? Now let me sustain you again.” When we trust in His promises, any place can become a House of God.

What parts of your journey feel unexpectedly hard?

What are you wrestling with?

Can you spend some time today remembering ways God has shown up for you in the past, ways that He has sustained you through hard times before?

How might that give you the courage to face whatever is in front of you today?

Tuesday, Mark 7

Following the rules without relationship with Jesus means nothing. The Pharisees are arrogant, believing that their own righteousness will somehow save them, somehow bring them to God. I fall into this trap too. But the Phoenician woman is full of humility, acknowledging her place before Jesus and thus, Jesus heals her daughter. We will finally be healed, finally be set free from our sin, when we stop striving, quit pretending that we can make ourselves righteous, and instead surrender to Jesus who owes us nothing but gives us everything. It is those who come humbly to Jesus longing only for Him who will receive His blessing.

And I got stuck repeating it over and over to myself, that one thing everyone was saying about Jesus in verse 37. Even as I say it out loud it feels like an exhale, “He has done everything well.” Say it. Say it again. Say it until you believe it, until you know it to be true in the very core of your being because it is. 

“He has done all things well.” Do you feel a weight lifted?

I don’t do all things well. I have not done all things well. The weight of that could swallow me if I spend long enough thinking about it. But our promise and our hope is that Jesus already knows that and He comes and He does indeed do all things perfectly. I can come with my need and my lack, my empty hands and my empty cup and I can trust He will still do all things well.

Are there places where you are carrying the weight or burden of doing things well all by yourself? Work? Parenting? Marriage? Ministry? You won’t always do everything right and that is ok. Allow yourself some space today to feel and rest in the grace of God that makes up for your lack.

Let He has done all things well be your mantra, your prayer for this week. Repeat it to yourself when things seem to be spinning out of control, when things aren’t going as planned, and believe it. Nothing is outside of His reach.

Wednesday, Psalm 2

Blessed are we who take refuge in Him.

The evidence of human rebellion against God is everywhere. Turn on the news, take a quick scroll, you will see death and destruction seemingly around every corner. People are hurt, and hurting others. We have been wronged, and we have done wrong to others.

And yet, amidst all the hurt, we can take refuge in Jesus, the coming King who will destroy  death, mourning, and suffering. This broken world is simply a stepping stone to the Kingdom where we will live with Him forever.

Blessed are we who take refuge in Him.

Thursday, Romans 6

We who were once dead in sin are now raised to new life in Christ! Now, we must die to sin, which for me is not a one time death but a daily, intentional turning of my heart from the things of this world to the things of God.

We will be resurrected! And yet, how often do we forget to live as those who have been given new life in Christ? We will have a resurrection like His! This is an incredible promise. So how do we offer ourselves to God – every part of us, in every thing surrendered and offered up to Him? His grace alone enables us to live like this. Daily, hourly, minute by minute. When we remember our life isn’t just the here and now but is forever, we fix our eyes on Jesus and everything else falls away.

How are you surrendering to God today?

How are you dying to sin today?

How might you live in the gift of God – eternal life – here and now?

Friday Reflections

The world feels heavy this week, friends, and I am finding it hard to type words that have meaning while so many around the globe face unspeakable horrors. My heart has been heavy for those in Afghanistan and Haiti, for my dear friends and neighbors in Uganda who find themselves jobless and unable to attend school for yet another year due to the pandemic, and it has led to a heaviness for others around the world facing oppression, persecution, and disaster.  

The stories of the Bible, even the stories of the Lord’s servants who He loves and favors, are full of sin, pain, suffering, and brokenness. You might feel yours is too, and there is good news for us – Our God runs toward pain and suffering, not away from it. And He comes with undeserved grace and favor for all who put their trust in Him. And so as we sit in the heaviness this week, as we feel the weight of our suffering brothers and sisters around the world and maybe the weight of our own pain or our own sin, I am thankful we are not without hope. We can carry the weight of the sadness, yes, but we also carry a hope that far outweighs this burden. The hope that the same God who spoke with Jacob and met with Him, the God of compassion who healed the daughter of the Phoenician woman, is here with us now and intends to come back, making all things new. 

He didn’t make Jacob, Israel, many nations, because of Jacob’s lack of doubt. Jacob, the God-wrestler, the deceiver by his very name, was chosen by God because God loved him, because he would return to God and put his trust in Him again and again.

“Come let us go…” Jacob says, “I will build an altar to God who answered me in the day of my distress and who has been with me wherever I have gone.” This is still who God is today, and this is still our reminder – wherever we are, whatever hurt we are facing or weight we are carrying, we can return to the God of grace who answered us before and will be with us again.

Jesus didn’t heal the Phoenician woman’s daughter because she deserved it, but rather because she came to Him humbly and put her trust in Him. He didn’t heal the deaf and mute man because of anything the man did, but rather to display His glory so that the man and those around him might know Jesus does all things well. As Jesus comes to these individuals, and as He comes to us, we are no longer limited by ourselves, the weights that we can carry alone or the battles we can fight solo. His grace is too good, too big to comprehend, and when we let it, it does indeed make our burdens light.

I am often tempted to believe that my good works, my own faithfulness, my well constructed plans will lead me closer to Jesus. We all are. We stumble over our own feet chasing after what we think might get us closer. And yet, our God runs toward us with lavish grace. Our God purposes to use our lives and ordains our steps even in the middle of all our sins and our mistakes.

I think of God who spoke to Jacob at the place where they had met before. I think of Jesus who goes to those who can’t speak well or listen well, can’t get there on their own. We need God to meet us like this. We need Jesus to give us wise words, to make us quick to listen and slow to speak. We need Him to come and right all this suffering and we have hope that He will.

We can’t earn it. We can’t muster it up or work our way there. So we surrender. He knows we can’t and He knows it is too heavy and He comes. He comes into our limitations, our defeat, our real life circumstances with grace that saves us and makes us whole. 

God, You are the God of undeserved grace, and you do all things well. We trust You.

Amen.

Week 33: God Who Meets Us in Our Need

Monday: Genesis 33

Tuesday: Mark 6

Wednesday: Psalm 1

Thursday: Romans 5

Friday: Genesis 33, Mark 6, Psalm 1, Romans 5

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 33

I can hardly read this story without crying. I can imagine the fear and anxiety Jacob felt as he prepared to meet the brother he deceived, betrayed, and ultimately ran away from. What will he do? What will he say? Will Esau try to kill Jacob and his family? Is he still angry? Jacob prepares gifts for his brother. He is ready to bow down, to grovel, to somehow try to find favor and as he lowers himself to the ground, silently begging God to spare him from the worst… Esau runs to him. He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.

Unmerited, undeserved forgiveness. It is what Jacob finds in the arms of his brother and it is what we find in Christ, and hopefully in the arms of each other. We can forgive each other freely because of how He has freely forgiven us. And when Jacob realizes the grace of being forgiven like this, he says to his brother, “Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” Yes! As we forgive one another as Christ forgave us, we will see the face of God in our brothers and our sisters. As we love and forgive like Him, we will reflect His face, His love, to the world.

Is there someone you need to forgive today? Can you look at the example of Esau and find the courage to forgive, no matter how big the mistake or how deep the betrayal?

Is there someone who you need to seek forgiveness from? Approach them humbly like Jacob. Pray to be received. See the face of God in the one you have wronged and strive to make right the relationship.

No matter where you have been, what you have done or how badly you have messed up, the arms of Christ are open wide in forgiveness. I pray today that you could receive His mercy and forgiveness!

Tuesday, Mark 6

The disciples must be so tired. They’ve been on the road for weeks, driving out demons, healing the sick, staying in the homes of strangers. When they returned they got word that John the Baptist had been killed, and just as they are about to get away with Jesus in a quiet place and rest, thousands of people run after them to hear Jesus. In true Jesus fashion He has compassion on them, teaching them and even feeding them. The disciples have been so faithful in their ministry, and still, they are exhausted. We’ve all been there.

Later, in the boat without Jesus, the disciples are stuck, straining against the wind and the waves, utterly defeated. And do you see what Jesus does? He comes to them. He joins them in their struggle. He speaks courage.

Are you feeling exhausted? Weary? Stuck?

Jesus got in the boat with His disciples and He does the same for us, joining us in our struggles, speaking to us – Take courage! Do not be afraid.

Wednesday, Psalm 1

I imagine this tree, planted by streams of water, steady and strong, spreading out shade and yielding fruit. I long to be like this tree, to delight in the law of the Lord and walk with Him every day, now and in eternity!

Let’s commit this Psalm to memory this week.

Thursday, Romans 5

Having Romans 5:1-11 memorized has carried me through some dark seasons. Especially this – we also rejoice in our sufferings. What a truth we have to hold onto, that He is using everything, even our suffering, to make us into the people of perseverance, character, and hope that He wants us to be.

While we were dead in our sin, He came for us. While we were still guilty, His enemies, He died for us. What love! What grace! Because of Him we have peace with God, that which we do not deserve, freely given to us. And we have the hope of eternity with Him, the hope that His glory will always prevail, and that can pull us through any suffering.

Are you experiencing hardship or suffering?

How is this developing perseverance, character, and hope in your life?

How does focusing on the hope of eternity make hardship and suffering feel lighter?

Spend some time today receiving and marveling at the free, undeserved gift of the grace and mercy of Christ. Stand in awe! And be filled with hope.

Friday Reflections

I know, I know, I skipped right over Job. Since we only have 20 weeks left and I think Job works best as a full story, we are going to start there at the beginning of next year and I can’t wait. For now, though, we will remind ourselves of the truth of God’s promises through Psalms on Wednesdays. I love the raw honesty of the Psalms. So often I am tempted to mask my emotions when I come to God. Somewhere along the line I have been taught to think that a “good” Christian doesn’t allow all their real hurt, turmoil, and confusion to be seen and known, that I have to “clean it up a little” before I bring it to the Lord.

The Psalms show us how untrue that is. I can lament to God and allow all my raw emotions to pour out before Him without questioning His character. I can believe who God is and still wonder “Why?”, still feel disappointed, confused, even abandoned. There is no emotion that my God cannot handle, and when we look at the life of Jesus, we see there is no emotion our God has not also felt. When we are feeling most desperate, most forgotten, most misunderstood, Jesus has walked there, felt those things, suffered in those same ways.

The Psalms teach us to cry out to God in both raw desperation and unbridled joy. Jesus knows we are needy. He expects us to be needy. We can come to Him with our needs. I don’t know about you, but sometimes this is so hard for me. Both in front of Jesus and in my own community.

I love holding space for other people’s suffering. I love to be the person who opens her home and her heart to the hurting, who drops off a home cooked meal, who sits long into the night to listen and to catch the tears.

I love to be the strong one, the one who helps, the one who gives.

It’s been the work of many years and much wrestling with my own selfishness to cultivate a lifestyle of giving generously and opening our doors and our hearts to the hurting. At times it has been uncomfortable and stretching, but it has always been worth it. A few months ago, I would have told you that living intentionally, giving of myself intentionally, cultivating a lifestyle of inviting in the broken, the stranger, the outcast, has been the hardest, most worth-it work of my life.

Until God placed me here. Due to an emergency that we didn’t see coming, a health scare that nearly left us flat on our faces, we packed up our family in less than 48 hours and headed to the other side of the world with nothing but the clothes in our suitcases and a strong conviction that this was God’s next right step for our family and He would provide. I resonated with Jacob this week as he walked toward the unknown with everything he owned, everything he had built and worked for at stake, headed toward a brother who may or may not still be angry at him, not sure what would happen next.

We have spent eight weeks of this year so far living in a stranger’s home, on an unfamiliar, smooth, paved road, in a community we know nothing about. I’ve felt like the disciples, weary from ministry, desiring to rest, but tossed by the wind and waves instead. But then the next door neighbor told us we could come over any time and use their playground. And a woman I had never met, the sister of a friend of a friend, dropped off dinner.

A stranger lent us her car, packed full of all the necessities and lots of treats. Friends and family members stocked us up on groceries and did our laundry and sat with us in the long silence after hospital visits where there was no good update to give.

And in these slow and disorganized days I am seeing maybe the harder part of the equation is being the one who receives. The one who asks for help. The one who shows up vulnerable and empty-handed and says, “Yes, I am in need.”

Maybe one of Jacob’s greatest blessings on this long journey will be receiving the forgiveness of his brother. Surely one of the disciples’ greatest blessings was having Jesus look them in the eyes and say take courage. It is what He says to us as we come to Him honestly in prayer, giving Him our need and being willing to receive what He gives – Mercy. Grace. Courage. Salvation. Peace.

I’m learning to be needy, friends.

I am learning that maybe in all my work cultivating a space where people could come and be vulnerable I built up a pride and identity of being the one with something to offer – a safe place to land, a glass of cold water on a hot day, a listening ear and a hand to wipe away the tears.

But to have true and lasting community, we need to be both. We need to be the helper and we need to be the one in need of help. We need to be the giver and we need to learn to receive. Real relationships and true community happen when we can also be the person who doesn’t have a place to go and cannot afford her groceries. We have to start coming to Jesus, and then to each other, as needy people ready to receive.

I’ve cried bitter tears in the last six weeks in front of more strangers and casual acquaintances than I care to count. But God is slowly taking away my embarrassment and showing me the beauty here. Because I realize I never would have been able to learn to listen and lean in to someone’s suffering unless that someone had shown up vulnerable and allowed me to. I never would have had to do the hard work of opening up my home to a stranger in need if that person hadn’t been brave enough to show up needy. Jacob never could have received that amazing forgiveness of Esau if he hadn’t first needed to be forgiven. The hungry five thousand would have missed the miracle if they hadn’t been in need. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we are still needy, still messy, still broken, Christ wants to meet with us.

There is no learning to serve others or to give generously unless someone has the courage to show their brokenness and lack and allow me to serve. There are no tears to wipe away unless someone has the courage to cry them in my presence. There is no honest relationship with our Savior unless we show up with our need, ready to receive.

I don’t yet like being the needy one, but I am leaning into this place God has us and believing that maybe my need will become someone else’s place of ministry. Maybe God will teach them the beautiful wrestling He taught me if I allow myself to receive instead of pretending I am not in need.

“Can I bring you groceries?”

“What do you need from Target?”

“I put cash in the center console.”

“We are coming for dinner – and bringing dinner.”

“What if you take a break and I’ll go to the hospital tonight.”

“Thought you guys might like some pizza.”

I can’t even list all the messages I have gotten like these. And honestly, at first, my gut reaction is to say, “No, we are ok!” or “Oh my goodness, you shouldn’t have done that!”

But when people have shown up needy in my life, it has given me an opportunity to know the Father’s heart in giving. And now I get to learn His heart for me in receiving. I get to learn the courage it takes to show up in need, the courage it takes to cry real tears in front of another human being, the courage it takes to be ok with not having the answers. And it is teaching me more about the heart of Jesus, the heart of our Father who gives good gifts to His children and is delighted when they freely receive them.

So I am learning to believe He calls us to both giving and receiving in ministry. Paul needed healing and was able to heal. He had to receive the Gospel message before he could share it. He both was ministered to and ministered to others. Peter needed his feet washed before he could go and do likewise. Jacob needed the forgiveness of Esau before he could move on to all God was calling him to. The disciples needed the refreshment of Jesus before they could go minister again.

And above all, all of us need to receive from the Lord. While we are still powerless. While we are still uncertain. When we are broken and things are messy and we do not know what is next, God invites us to come to Him in our need and receive His goodness.

This is hard work, vulnerability. Maybe the hardest, most worth-it work of my life.

Week 32: God Who Meets With Us

Monday: Genesis 32

Tuesday: Mark 5

Wednesday: Esther 9-10

Thursday: Romans 4

Friday: Genesis 32, Mark 5, Esther 9-10, Romans 4

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 32

After decades of living apart, Jacob is about to meet the brother he deceived all those years ago. Shame wounds deep. Past mistakes can haunt us. And Jacob is afraid. But in great fear and distress he doesn’t run, instead he reminds himself of who God is and who He has been to him before.

He remembers who God is, and what God has instructed him: “God of my father Abraham, God of my father Isaac, Lord, you who said to me, ‘Go back to your country and your relatives and I will make you prosper.’”

He remembers who he is in light of God’s majesty, that without God and before God he had nothing: “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan.”

He asks God for help: “Save me, I pray.”

He reminds himself again of what God has promised him: “But you have said ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea.’”

And God comes to meet with Him.

Yes, they wrestle. Yes, there is struggle. But God does not leave Jacob in his shame and fear alone. He meets him there. He meets us here. And He does not not leave until He has blessed Jacob and Jacob can confidently say, “I have seen God face to face.”

What shame or guilt are you carrying into this week? What fear of the unknown or the future is filling your mind? Can we follow the example of Jesus and:

Remember who God is and the promises He has given you.

Remember who you are in light of God’s majesty (He has been merciful and kind to us!)

Ask God for help.

Trust in His promises – He has never broken them, not one!

Tuesday, Mark 5

I imagine the tenderness in Jesus’s eyes as He looks into the faces of each of these people that society has utterly given up on. First, there is the man with the impure spirit. Let’s take a minute to imagine this guy: he is so ostracized by his peers and community that he has chosen to live among the tombs. His community is clearly terrified of him because they have been binding his hands and feet with chains. He is cut-up, bruised, and bloody from breaking out of the chains and cutting himself with stones. He is a picture of complete hopelessness.

            And Jesus asked him his name.

Then there is the woman with the issue of blood. The culture of the day would have deemed her “unclean” and therefore not allowed to be around other people. She was expected to separate herself from her peers and community until she got her issues under control, but she couldn’t. For 12 years she has been sick, isolated, and now she has nothing left after spending it all trying to find a solution. She is desperate, and her reach through the crowd proves it all the more.

            And Jesus looks for her. And then He looks at her.

Last we have Jairus’s daughter. Beyond hopeless, beyond desperate, she is dead.

            And Jesus takes her by the hand.

This is the Savior who wants to meet with us, who came for us. Who looks us in the eyes. He calls us by name – He knows us. He looks for us – He sees us. He takes us by the hand.

Where are you feeling hopeless? Jesus knows your name.

Where are you feeling desperate? Jesus sees you.

Where is your spirit feeling dead and defeated? Jesus takes you by the hand.

Wednesday, Esther 9-10

While it’s a bit of a gory picture at first glance, it is also such a clear and profound picture of how God protects His people. In the course of just a few days, the Jews have gone from victims to victors! From the brink of annihilation to honored and exalted. God’s chosen people triumph over their enemies, both then and now. If we are in Christ, no matter our circumstances, no matter who or what comes against us, we are not victims. We will be victorious, maybe now, definitely in eternity.

Verse 22 of chapter 9 says their sorrow was turned into joy and their mourning into a day of celebration. This is what God promises to do for us, as well.

What is coming against you in this season?

What challenges seem insurmountable?

We are not victims of our circumstances and trials but victors in Christ Jesus. We can endure and overcome all things because our hope lies in Him and our eternity is secure.

Thursday, Romans 4

Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness. I have just read this over and over because it jumps out at me that Abraham didn’t just believe in God, but he believed God. Believed what God said. Believed what God promised him. Believed God even when it didn’t make sense, even when he couldn’t see it yet. And with just that one line, I am so convicted that I often walk through my days believing in God, but forgetting to truly believe Him. Believe that even when I can’t see or understand, all things are working for my good. Believe that even when things don’t go according to my plan, they will go according to His plan. Believe that none of this life is beyond His reach, outside of His power and sovereignty.

When we believe God, like Abraham, our sins will never count against us. When we believe God, like Abraham, we will receive all of God’s promises. Not because of who we are or anything we have done but because we have a loving Father who gives life to the dead (that was us!) and calls things that were not (we are not righteous on our own) as though they were (now we are made righteous in Him!). Paul says that Abraham did not waver in unbelief regarding the promise of God – even when it looked impossible! Oh Lord, help us to not waver, help us to not simply believe in you but to believe you.

Where are you having trouble believing God this week?

Are there promises of God that you know to be true but they just don’t seem true right now?

Our word today says that Abraham was fully persuaded that God was able to do what He had promised. And friends, He is still able. Let us be fully persuaded of His goodness and Faithfulness toward us.

Friday Reflections

“I need to walk.” It’s a kind of SOS text message that I have been sending to my best friend for over a decade. When she lived down the street from me, it inevitably meant that she would show up at some point within the next thirty minutes, sneakers laced and stroller ready. These days she lives an ocean away but sometimes I still send the text, put on my shoes and pull out FaceTime. “I need to walk,” I text, but what I really mean is “I need to talk.” I need to share my heart with someone who knows me – all of me – and loves me anyway.

I got to spend time with my bestie this week. We got to walk and talk, laugh and cry. After a few really hard years, I don’t think I realized just how unlike myself I had been feeling until we were together and everything felt right again. It is amazing how even in the midst of the dark and the hard, someone who has truly known us can remind us of who we really are. We need this. I am deeply grateful to have a few amazing people in my life who do this for me.

And as I read through our Scriptures this week, I am reminded that our God wants to do this for each of us – for Jacob, for the demon possessed man, and the woman with the issue of blood, for Esther, and for each one of us today. The God who knows us more intimately than even our closest friend wants to meet with us, to remind us of who we really are, and who He made us to be. He makes it right again.

It is simple but true, when my mind is racing and my heart is thumping, I can send out that same SOS to my loving Father – I need to talk. As my head hits the pillow at the end of an over-full day or as I wake up in the morning already feeling overwhelmed, I call out to Him, “I need to meet with you.” And even quicker than the most loyal friend, here He is. He wants to meet with you. He wants to remind you who you are.

In great fear and distress, Jacob calls out to the Lord, “God, save me.” After being freed from his anguish, the demon possessed man begs Jesus for the chance to stay with Him. In his darkest moment, Jairus pleads earnestly with Jesus to come with him. In total desperation the woman with the issue of blood reaches out to Him.

And I can, too. In my darkest moments, in fear, distress, anguish and desperation, I can send up the SOS, “Jesus! I need to talk.” And my God, the God who came down and wrestled with Jacob. The God who wasn’t repulsed by a demon-possessed man or an “unclean” bleeding woman but looked them in the eyes and knew their names, the God who took the little girl’s hand in His own, will come to meet with me. He knows me well enough to remind me of the truth of who I am because of the truth of who He is.

How would it change the way we approached God if we truly believed He wanted to meet with us? If we began to call Him, speak to Him like a treasured friend and knew He cared to listen to every little detail? It might drastically alter our relationship, moving Him from someone we view as far-off and unavailable to a God who calls us by name, who desires both to listen to us and speak to us. We might say with Jacob, “I saw God face to face.”

So, friends, let’s try it. Next time you find yourself alone, even for a moment, can you pause and talk to the God who loves you, knows you, and wants to meet with you? Can you see Him looking into your eyes the way He did with the demon-possessed man, the woman with the issue of blood, the dead little girl? I pray that you would feel His tenderness toward you, His love for you, and that He would remind you of who He created you to be.

Week 31: Always Faithful God

Monday: Genesis 31

Tuesday: Mark 4

Wednesday: Esther 8

Thursday: Romans 3

Friday: Genesis 31, Mark 4, Esther 8, Romans 3

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 31

When Jacob left Canaan and his family 20 years earlier, God appeared to him and promised that He would one day bring him back again. Now 2 decades, 2 wives, 12 children and countless flocks later, God instructs Jacob to return. False accusations and envy are building against Jacob, but instead of protesting in self-defense, Jacob recounts the faithfulness of God through much hardship and struggle.

And yet, just after Jacob has encouraged his wives of God’s past faithfulness to them, we read that Jacob tricks Laban by leaving hurriedly without telling him. Is he afraid? Rachel seems to agree with Jacob’s testimony of God’s faithfulness, and yet she grabs her father’s household gods to bring along. Is she worried now that God won’t protect them as they go? I can be fickle, too, trusting God one minute and overcome with fear and worry the next. But God remains faithful, to Jacob, to Rachel, to us.

What are you afraid of today? 

Like Jacob, or Rachel, are you making a back-up plan just in case God doesn’t come through?

Meditate on His faithfulness to you today. Think of times that He has come through for you before. Rest assured that He will be faithful again.

Tuesday, Mark 4

Jesus calms the raging sea with just one word – Peace. I know so truly that this is what my heart needs. This peace is available to me, to you, because the same God who calmed the sea, who has power over all of nature, has that same divine power over our hearts. I hear Him asking me today the same question He asked the disciples – “My Child, why are you so afraid? Why do you fret and worry? Don’t you know Who I am? Peace, be still.”

I don’t know about you, but my heart needs to rest in these words today. So often I feel like I, too, am sinking, the storm and the waves of every-day life and its struggles crashing all around me. And the truth that I need to grab ahold of is that Jesus is not far off. He is in the boat, in the middle of the storm, right next to His disciples. And He is here with me as well.

What are you currently worrying about? What is causing you to be anxious?

Take heart, Beloved. Jesus is in the boat with you. He will not let the storm overtake you. Sit with Him in the quiet and hear Him whisper to your heart. Peace, be still.

Wednesday, Esther 8

God, always faithful, uses the bravery of Esther and the obedience of Mordecai to save His people. He keeps His promises, just as He always does. God can change the hearts of kings, of government leaders, of enemies. God can use seemingly insignificant people to further His plans. God always triumphs over evil and He always saves His own. He uses the most unlikely to achieve His purposes, He lifts up His faithful servants, and He restores joy to those who mourn. These are His promises to us throughout all generations!

Which promises of Scripture does God use to encourage you?

Spend some time today thanking God that He uses our bravery and obedience to further His mission. Spend time thanking Him that He always keeps His promises. He is a good and faithful God and worthy of our praise and worship!

Thursday, Romans 3

I am so grateful that my unfaithfulness cannot nullify the faithfulness of God. What grace! Not one of us is righteous and not one of us has not sinned, and yet though we fall short, time and time again, God in His faithfulness continues to use us and bring about our good and His glory. We cannot do good without Him. We cannot know peace without Him.

The laws and guidelines of God serve to make us aware of our sin, aware of our desperate need for a Savior. But only the love and kindness of God can save us. Only Christ’s death and resurrection could justify us before the Throne of Holy God. He has indeed given us grace upon grace upon grace.

Are there areas of your life where you might be striving to prove yourself to God, to earn your own salvation?

Out of love and awe, we strive to follow God’s guidelines but this can never earn us His favor. In His grace and His faithfulness, He has already poured out His favor on all who are in Christ! We rejoice at His goodness and mercy!

Is there someone in your life who needs to hear this message, who needs to be encouraged that they can cease their striving to be “good enough” and rest in the arms of the Father who knows their sin-struggles and chooses to impart the righteousness of His Son? Reach out to them! Let’s run into this broken world to share the message of this great grace. 

Friday Reflections

In Genesis Chapter 31, Jacob’s faith that God will be with them is certain, even amidst unfair treatment and false accusation from Laban’s family. Oh, how I long for a faith like this! God promises to go with Jacob even in times of fear and uncertainty, and He promises the same to us today. And even in dreams, God who spoke to Jacob before now speaks to Jacob again. His faithfulness is clear. His provision is clear. Jacob and his family obey.

And yet, just moments later, Rachel tucks her pagan gods in her pocket, “just in case.” Was her trust in God and Jacob in the last paragraph genuine? Was she just pretending to trust, all the while having a back-up plan? Or did she just grab the household gods in a moment of fear and weakness?

Jacob sneaks out of Haran without telling Laban. Is he worried that Laban might not let him go? Does He not believe that God who has kept him, protected him, and used him thus far, will do so again?

Haven’t we all been there? My head knows God will always be faithful, always be with me, always provide. And yet my flesh wants to make an alternate plan, “just in case.” My mind races ahead with anxiety over things that haven’t even happened yet, trying to come up with solutions to problems that may not even present themselves.

Like the parable of the seeds, we know we are called to be those who allow the Word to grow up in us, to have hearts that are consistently attentive to God and accepting of Him, to bear fruit for His glory. But in order to do so we must fight the temptations to believe Satan’s lies, to run when persecution and trial arise, to let the cares of the world, deceitfulness, and desire choke out our passion for God and His glory.

Jacob testifies of God’s faithfulness to him as Laban stands to falsely accuse him and I realize, this is what I must do. This is how I move God’s faithfulness from knowledge of a truth in my head to internalizing a truth in my heart and living out this truth in my days. God who spoke to Jacob at Bethel appears to him now in his struggle. Jesus who sits with His disciples in the middle of the storm speaks peace and calms the wind and the waves. And God who has whispered to me in the quiet before, God who has been faithful to me and my family before and carried us through all manner of storms and hardship, well, certainly He will whisper to us again, be faithful to us again, carry us through again.

Jacob testifies that if His God had not been on his side, he would never be where he is today. That is true of me and I hope you can see it is true of you, too. God who was faithful to you that one time? He is going to be faithful to you now. God who carried you through that long struggle? He is going to carry you through any struggle you face now and any struggle you will face in the future. God who provided for you in your moment of desperate need? Oh, yes, dear friend, He has already thought of how He will provide everything you will need for all that you will face.

We can stop making back-up plans. We can stop letting our imaginations run wild with worry and planning solutions for what is not-yet, coming up with all the “just in case” fixes. Because as I examine my own heart, I ask myself, “just in case what?” And the painful answer that I can barely choke out is the reality of the lie I am striving to fight, “just in case God doesn’t come through.” And isn’t this what the enemy wants us to believe? That God might forget us? That maybe Jesus will stay asleep through this one? That maybe somehow all our carefully crafted plans and answers and resolutions will protect us and keep us? That we, left to our own devices, might be able to somehow control the narrative and keep ourselves and our loved ones safe?

            Peace. Be still.

I need a Jacob faith to counteract my Rachel nature. And I know only one way to find it – in God Himself. We read God’s promises in our times of fear and uncertainty and are reminded that He is the same God today who will keep these promises to us. We listen for His whisper in times when the lies get loud and know that God who called out to us before will speak to our hearts again. We testify of what He has done for us, reminding our hearts and our spirits that God who was faithful before will always be faithful, even in the unknown, even in the struggle, even in the hard.

Jacob will fear for the future again. The disciples will find themselves in another boat, facing another wind, and they will again panic. So will you, so will I. But Jacob and the disciples will cry out to the God and Savior who helped them before, who never let them down, and who kept all His promises. And we can, too.
“Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23