Week 48: God, Our Certain Hope

Monday: Genesis 49

Tuesday: Luke 5

Wednesday: Psalm 19

Thursday: Galatians 4

Friday: Genesis 49, Luke 5, Psalm 19, Galatians 4

Monday, Genesis 49

God reveals, through Jacob, that from Judah will come a king. King David will come through this line and then ultimately Christ, our eternal King, the Lion of Judah. He will, like Judah, be praised by His people, be triumphant over his enemies, and the nations will submit to Him. What a picture of our coming King!

I was especially struck by verse 18, though. In a long list of predictions and pronouncements about the future of his children, Jacob interjects a small prayer: I wait for your salvation, O Lord.

I imagine a father, knowing his days on earth are coming to an end, looking lovingly at his children and knowing that the road ahead will be packed with both difficulty and triumph, hardship and joy. As he speaks his blessings and prophecies over his beloved sons, he pauses to cry out to the Lord, and then goes right back to prophecy. Jacob knows what we all as parents are learning – without God’s intervention and salvation, even our very best efforts won’t amount to much. We can’t save our kids. We wait for your salvation, Lord. Please let your salvation be upon our children.

Stop to pray for your children today. Pray that God would intervene in their lives and draw them to Himself. If you don’t have children, spend some time in prayer for grandchildren, nieces or nephews, or lock arms with a friend in prayer for their children. I know as a mother I am deeply blessed when friends pray for my children.

All our parenting and predictions and worries and protection will amount to little outside of God’s interventions. We wait for you Lord.

Tuesday, Luke 5

How good is Jesus? I’m reading Luke 5 today and just thinking about the astonishment that must have been on Simon Peter’s face as he pulled in their nets teeming with fish, so full they were breaking, just minutes after he had tried and caught no fish. I imagine the astonishment on the leper’s face as Jesus reaches out to touch him, perhaps the first physical touch he has had in years, and his wounds disappear. I imagine the shock on the faces of the paralyzed man and his friends as he takes his first, trembling steps. And I will confess: sometimes Jesus feels so familiar that I forget to be astonished. Sometimes the gifts all around me feel so commonplace and I fail to be amazed. This Scripture made me pause. And then cry.

I want to be astonished by Jesus’s immense, undeserved love for me. I want to daily stand amazed at the incredible gifts that He has given me. I am blown away that He would invite me to the table, clothed in His righteousness.

How are you standing amazed at Jesus this week?

Take some time today to list a few astounding gifts He has given you. Let your heart fill with gratitude at His amazing grace!

Wednesday, Psalm 19

Before time began, long before we existed, God’s creation proclaimed His goodness and glory. How humbling to serve a God of this magnitude, a God praised by even the sun and the sky! How incredible to serve a God whose testimony is sure, whose teachings are right and true. And what a privilege to be able to call out to Him with the prayer of the Psalmist and know that He will answer:

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer.”

Thursday, Galatians 4

So you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. God has redeemed His people, once under the law, and given us His Spirit, adopted us as sons and daughters and enabled us to call Him Abba! Father!

Redemption. Adoption. Salvation.

We are moved with awe and wonder. Our God has gone to great lengths to rescue us from sin, to give us the Spirit and to make us His family. Again, we stand amazed at the work of Jesus and the grace of our loving Father.

Stand in awe today at the reality that God would send His Son to die so that you could be adopted into His family.

Imagine God as the most loving and perfect Father (He is!). Spend some time in prayer today imagining yourself as a little child, crawling up into this strong Daddy’s lap, able to rest in complete confidence and safety. Rest there a while, Beloved.

Friday Reflections

“So, what are you guys looking forward to right now?” a friend asked the girls and I as we piled on the couch a few months ago. It was an innocent question, but it was met with silence as we all looked uncertainly at each other.

We didn’t even know where we were going to live next. Add to that the fact that the world had been shut down and reopened and then shut down again over the course of the last year and a half, and I wondered if we had forgotten how to look forward to anything with so many expectations going unmet and so much being changed or canceled.

Between a global pandemic, a few medical emergencies, unexpected travel, canceled travel, and then a big move, we had just stopped getting excited. After all, if you don’t hope for anything, you can’t be disappointed. I watched this in my children, and recognized it in my own heart with shock and sadness.

We didn’t know how to make plans anymore without expecting that something would probably change that interfered with them. Looking forward to anything had started to feel like we were just setting ourselves up for disappointment.

Do you feel it, too? Do you feel the individual and collective weariness? Trips have been cancelled. Well laid plans have been thrown out the window. This pandemic has interrupted family gatherings and anticipated reunions and holidays and birthdays – even our ability to hug a loved one or see them smile has been hindered. Some of us have lost loved ones. Some have lost jobs. Many of us feel like we are just trying to keep our heads above water.

Getting excited about something that might happen in the future seems unwise, impossible even.

We need to remember how to anticipate. 

And what better time than Advent?

Because no worldwide pandemic, no global crisis, no racial or political divide, no loss of great magnitude, can cancel Jesus. He doesn’t change His mind and He doesn’t change His plans.

He is coming.

He is coming.

He is coming.

His promises are sure – you are no longer a slave but a son! It is certain! His testimony is sure and His ways are right and true. It is certain!

We could go back to that prayer of Jacob in Genesis 49 – I wait for your salvation, O Lord. And we could wait with great expectation and great hope because we know that we are not waiting in vain, we are waiting for something definite. The salvation of the Lord will come, is coming.

With so much uncertainty in the world, He is our one certainty, our one constant – He has come for us and He is coming for us, Light in the darkness, Beauty in a world of ashes.

So if you feel a little weary today? A little worn out? If you can’t really answer the question, “What are you looking forward to?” because you forgot how to look forward to things when the whole world turned upside down… 

You can count on Him. You can look to Him. You can look forward to Him.

He is the same Jesus who filled the disciples’ nets, even when there were no fish. He is the same Jesus who looked the leaper in the eyes and said, I am willing. He is Jesus who forgives sins and causes the paralyzed to walk, Jesus who eats with sinners like us, who calls us to Himself.

We all need a little extra hope this year and our hope is found in the victorious Lion of Judah who came as a baby and rose from the grave. God’s plan to come for us never changes. He is our certain hope and we can wait in great expectation on the One who will never let us down.

He is coming.

He is coming.

He is coming.

Week 47: God Who Invites Our Thanksgiving

Monday: Genesis 48

Tuesday: Luke 4

Wednesday: Psalm 17 and 18

Thursday: Galatians 3

Friday: Genesis 48, Luke 4, Psalm 17, Galatians 3

Monday, Genesis 48

Jacob, who has struggled to trust God, Jacob who has wrestled with God, has now come to fully trust the promises of God – even the ones he can’t see yet. He is fully confident that God will bring Joseph and his family back to the land God had given them in Canaan, confident enough to ask for a promise from Joseph that is based solely on God’s promise being true. And I wonder, could I be this confident in the promises of God?

Jacob says to Joseph, “I never expected to see your face again, and now God has allowed me to see your children, too.” It makes me think of instances in my own life where I almost lost hope, but then God showed up. Times when He exceeded all my wildest expectations. I never expected _____________ and now God has____________.”

Do you have these moments in your life? While you are waiting on what comes next, while hope is deterred in one area of your life, are you able to look back at other situations and say, “I never expected __________ and now God has _________.”

And as we rehearse His faithfulness, maybe this is how we, we who struggle to trust God, we who have wrestled with God, can come to fully believe His promises and be confident enough to stake our futures and our very lives on them.

Tuesday, Luke 4

Even at His very weakest, Jesus cannot be tempted. And the Word became Flesh now uses God’s word as His weapon to battle the enemy, showing us that we can, too. No matter how much He was dishonored and rejected by the world, Jesus continued to press into the Father, showing us that we can, too.

How do you face rejection? 

I don’t know if you are anything like me, but I long for the approval of others (often too much) and rejection wounds me deeply. The only way I know to combat that pain is to remind myself of what my Father has to say about me.

In order to counter the lies of Satan with the Word, we have to know the Word deeply. Spend time memorizing God’s word so that when the enemy throws lies your way you are able to combat them with Truth.

There isn’t one right way to do this, but here are a couple things that have worked for me:

When my children were little we listened to lots of Scripture put to songs (We love Seeds Family Worship). To this day, I can recall most of the songs and sing them to myself when I need some encouragement.

A few years ago, while my bestie and I were both spending inordinate amounts of time nursing and rocking little ones, we began a simple challenge. We would pick a passage of Scripture to memorize. We would write it on a piece of paper to hang on the nursery wall, and save it as the screensaver on our phones. Any time we reached to scroll through our phones, we would instead dedicate that time to reciting and memorizing Scripture.

You don’t have to do it this way, but do make it a point to have memorizing Scripture as a part of your life. Nothing fights the lies of the enemy like the truth of God’s word.

Wednesday, Psalm 17 and 18

Speaking of Scripture memory, if you need a great passage to start with, grab Psalm 18:1-3. When you wake up in the morning and feel completely overwhelmed by the day ahead, whisper, “I love you, Lord, my strength.” When you feel frustrated at all the little details that aren’t going your way, remind yourself, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer.” As you grieve whatever loss this holiday season might bring up, “call to the Lord who is worthy of praise.”

His Word never fails!

Thursday, Galatians 3

I am more like the Galatians than I care to admit. Though I know the saving, immeasurable grace of Christ, I’m still often tempted to think I can earn my way into God’s good graces, that enough service, enough do-gooding, enough ministry will somehow cause Him to love or approve of me a little bit more.

I’m still tempted to make the Gospel a checklist – Bible time, Scripture memory, good works, fruit of the Spirit: check. God and I are good.

Daily, hourly, I need to be wrecked by the unmerited grace of the real Gospel. God and I are good, only because of the selfless death of His Son, My Savior. Jesus alone has justified us. Jesus alone has made us righteous. Faith in Him alone has saved us.

Spend some time today reflecting on your own sin and depravity and what it means that Jesus took the punishment for those things. Allow this to cause you to worship a God who saw the depth of your heart and chose you and loved you anyway.

Friday Reflections

I like to spend the day after Thanksgiving reflecting on things I am deeply thankful for.

Would you join me in doing that today?

  • Name a few times in your life where you could fill in these blanks:
  • I never expected ______________ but now God has ____________. Praise Him for answering prayers in ways we never could have imagined!
  • List a few ways that God has grown your trust in Him this year. Spend time thanking Him for drawing us to Himself!
  • List a few Scriptures that have been lifelines for you. Spend time meditating on the truth of His Word and thank Him for being a living and active Father who speaks truth to His children!
  • Thank Him for His Son Jesus, who has reconciled us to Himself and given us the miraculous gift of Eternal Life!

He is good and kind and faithful, friends. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.

Week 46: God, the Giver of Good Gifts

Monday: Genesis 47

Tuesday: Luke 3

Wednesday: Psalm 14-16

Thursday: Galatians 2

Friday: Genesis 47, Luke 3, Psalm 14, Galatians 2

Monday, Genesis 47

Even through much hardship, God has continued to provide abundantly for Joseph, Jacob, and their family. Not only are they finally reunited, but God has given them, through Pharoah, the very best of the land. 

Spend some time today reflecting on all that God has given you

Take time to write down some ways He has provided for you or some things He has given you recently. I love making these lists and reading them years later to remind myself of all the ways He has provided for us, while remembering He will continue to give us good gifts because that’s who He is.

Tuesday, Luke 3

John prepares the way for Jesus, fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. John calls people to repent and turn from their sin, which is only possible if they (and we) will recognize that they are sinful in the first place. John makes it clear that true repentance is a work that happens in the heart, not just in our outward actions. We can’t “good works” our way to salvation. It is a gift, freely given, that transforms not just our actions, but first our hearts and minds.

God who gives us good gifts gives His Son and His Spirit to dwell in us, to change our hearts and minds. His kindness and love lead us to repentance.

Is there a need for repentance in your life? Ask the Spirit to help you, rather than just going through the motions.

Is there good fruit in your life that overflows from a changed heart?

Wednesday, Psalm 14-16

Let’s memorize this beautiful Psalm together this week:

   Keep me safe, my God,

for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;

    apart from you I have no good thing.”

I say of the holy people who are in the land,

    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”

Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.

    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods

    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;

    you make my lot secure.

The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;

    surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;

    even at night my heart instructs me.

I keep my eyes always on the Lord.

    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;

    my body also will rest secure,

because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,

    nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

You make known to me the path of life;

    you will fill me with joy in your presence,

    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Psalm 16

Thursday, Galatians 2

As I read Galatians 2, I am reminded that God gives each of us different callings, different personal ministries. Ephesians 2:10 comes to mind, “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” He has created each of us for a purpose. He has put us in a specific place for a purpose. He has put certain people in our paths for us to love.

Paul isn’t looking at Peter and the other disciples wishing he had their ministry, wishing he had been called to the Jews instead (which many at this time would have considered “real” ministry). He is confident in his call to the Gentiles, confident enough to encourage Peter and spur him on to even better ministry.

We live in an age of comparison. Thanks to social media, everyone else’s life is almost as in our faces as our own. It is tempting to look at another’s life, job or ministry and compare, wish for something God hasn’t given us or feel discontent in what He has given us. It is tempting to live feeling less than.

But can you imagine what good we might do, how the Kingdom might spread, if we would fix our eyes squarely on Jesus and the few things He has called us to, created us for, and do those things so well, as unto Him? If we could cheer others on in their ministries and lives instead of wishing we had them or comparing ours to them? Let’s fix our eyes on what He has called us to today, where He has placed us today, who He has given us to love today, and let’s be each other’s biggest cheerleaders along the way.

Are you prone to comparison?

How can you fix your eyes on a good work He has called you, specifically, to today?

How can you encourage someone else in the good work that God has called them to today?

Friday Reflections

My journal from September looks unusual for me. My usual verbose and rambling pages turned into short bullet points in a season of grief and transition. As I flip back I read:

–       God gave us a place to rest

–       God gave us affirmation

–       God gave us schools for our children

–       God gave us the “retreat house”

–       God gave us intentional friends, near and far

–       God gave us family

–       God gave us sunshine

–       God gave us glimpses of joy in this place

–       God gave us free dentistry!

–       God gave us kindness from strangers

–       God gave us a rainbow

–       God gave us deer and ducks and turkeys

The list goes on and on for pages. I know it is November and gratitude lists seem to uptick in popularity this time of year, but as I read back through those first pages of a brand new journal in a brand new place, I’m not looking at a popular fad or even just a habit – I am looking at my lifeline.

In the days when I couldn’t see clearly at all what God was doing, naming what I could see, what He was doing, reminded me of His goodness when I was tempted to doubt it. You probably can’t tell from the list, but as I look back, I could fill whole pages with the stories of what each bullet point means to me – the ways He gave us little glimpses of hope and joy on the hardest days, the way He provided both tangibly for our needs with a house and furniture and food and school, and the way He provided for our hearts with little reminders of His presence, conversations with kind people, encouragement from friends and family who were intentional to keep reaching out or just showing up when we couldn’t keep our heads above water.

My heart and my emotions are fickle, and I know myself well enough to know I am so often tempted to dwell on what we don’t have, what God hasn’t done, even what He might never do. And yet I sit here with my September list and it is hard to even comprehend all He has done, all the good He has already given.

He has given us good. He is giving us good. Do we have eyes to see it?

Surely it would have been easy for Jacob’s family as they settled into Goshen to lament their long journey and their new and unfamiliar home. It would have been easy for Jacob and Joseph both to lament the years they had lost together instead of rejoicing in the restored relationship they might now enjoy. They moved all this way and the famine keeps getting worse and things keep getting harder. It would have been easy to look at God and wonder, “What are you doing?” But Joseph knows what Jesus will prove once and for all: God’s goodness is seen and God’s people bear fruit, not just in prosperity, but also in affliction. Joseph knows how far God brought him, how He saved him from danger and promoted him in unlikely places. Is this what gives Joseph the confidence to continue trusting Him?

It would have been easy for Paul to look at what the other disciples had been given, their ministries, their time with the Lord, and bemoan his own, different ministry. This type of comparison is rampant in our world today, even among believers, always looking to the left and the right, longing for what someone else is doing for the kingdom or comparing our ministries, our churches, or even our days to someone who is doing it differently or “better.” Instead, Paul chooses to embrace what God has already given him – a different ministry, a different group of people to serve and preach to, but the same justification in Christ. Can you imagine what might have happened to Paul’s message if he would have focused on what he didn’t have instead of what he did?

God gives good. And in every season of my life, but especially the most difficult seasons, recognizing the good He gives has been the lifeline that fixes my eyes on Him, The Giver, instead of my outward circumstances. And if the goodness all around us isn’t enough, or when our eyes and hearts can’t see good around us at all, we have this Luke 3 promise – Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth, and all people will see God’s salvation.

On the hardest days, on the darkest days, He is still the Giver of Good because He has given us our salvation in His Son. His Beloved Son, with whom He was well pleased, took on sin for us, died the death we deserved, and rose again so that we can live with Him eternally. And if you can’t find anything good to fix your eyes on today, fix your heart on that, the greatest gift of all time.

Week 45: God Who Sees the Full Picture

Monday: Genesis 46

Tuesday: Luke 2

Wednesday: Psalm 13

Thursday: Galatians 1

Friday: Genesis 46, Luke 2, Psalm 13, Galatians 1

Monday, Genesis 46

My eyes fill with tears to imagine such a glorious reunion! After so many years, the son that Jacob thought was dead and gone is restored to him! And through this son, Jacob and his family are richly blessed and provided for. His greatest sorrow has become his great joy and God’s great provision.

And on the cross, our greatest sorrow – separation from God because of sin! – became His greatest joy and now ours. 

And I know, it can be hard to translate this to the every-day. Sometimes we look at our great sorrows and we just can’t imagine how God is going to use them, how He even could turn them into joy or provision. But His word says “our trials make us partners with Christ in His suffering so that we will have the wonderful joy of seeing His glory” (1 Peter 4:13) and that “our light and momentary troubles (even when they don’t feel light and momentary) are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all (2 Corinthians 14:17). Because of this, because of Christ, we can believe that one day, all of our greatest sorrows will reap joy and provision in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Through years of tears and grieving Jacob had no idea that he would one day embrace his beloved son again. He had no idea that in fact, one day this beloved son would save his entire family from famine and death.

It is safe to say we have no idea right now what God might bring about as a result of sorrow that we are carrying today. But we know enough about His character to know He will bring about our good, our joy, and our provision, too.

What is causing you deep sorrow today?

Can you trust that God will use even this for good (either here on earth or in eternity)?

What does it look like to press into Him for joy even now in the midst of sorrow?

Tuesday, Luke 2

Quietly, humbly, the Savior is born into the world. Tiny, helpless, wrapped in cloth and placed in a feeding trough, He is the picture of vulnerability. And yet for those who have eyes to see, He is the picture of power, glory, and strength. The shepherds trust God’s message enough to run and see, and they behold joy. Simeon trusts the Lord enough to wait and believe, and he beholds Jesus.

When we believe Him, we will behold Him.

Pay attention to where you see Christ at work today.

How can you believe His promises and behold Him in your every day?

Wednesday, Psalm 13

I imagine David’s cry may have been similar to Jacob’s cry to the Lord when he thought his son was dead. It is certainly similar to my cry out to the Lord in my own suffering. This is gut-wrenching honesty from a man in deep pain. Graciously, God allows even David’s complaints and questions to draw him into greater faith. While the beginning of Psalm 13 finds David questioning His Lord, by the end David feels confident in God’s steadfast love once again. His circumstance hasn’t changed yet, but his heart posture has, because he chooses to sing in the middle of his storm.

His honest cry out to God draws him into praise of the Lord and trust in His certain deliverance.

Where in your life are you still waiting for resolution?

Can you sing and praise God even before resolution has occurred?

I invite you this week to practice honestly expressing your pain to God, honestly asking Him the deep questions of your heart, and then praising Him even when you do not have the answers yet. I believe that in our deep heart cries He will draw us closer to Himself, deeper into His steadfast love.

Thursday, Galatians 1

There is no other Gospel but the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And, unfortunately, we are living in a culture where the Gospel has become cheapened and distorted. This isn’t new, though. Even thousands of years ago, faithfulness to the true Gospel often resulted in hardship and persecution. Paul makes the bold decision to choose pleasing God over pleasing people, and he invites us to do the same.

We are all hard-wired for approval, and we often seek it from those around us. Is the free love, acceptance, and approval of God in Christ enough for us? Can we live fully satisfied by the Gospel even if it brings momentary hardship or persecution our way? If this Gospel can save Paul, who tortured Christians and sought to destroy the church, then surely this grace is sufficient for us. How can we live content in the sufficiency of the Gospel today?

Friday Reflections

I love that it was after Jacob stepped out in faith, after Jacob packed up all His belongings and “set out with all that was his,” after he made his first sacrifices to God, that God spoke to Him. Those words that The Lord is most famous for, “Do not be afraid,” weren’t spoken before Jacob started out, but after he was already on His way.

I am learning in these strange, in-between days, that while sometimes God does give us complete direction on the front end, often we must take the step that we think He has called us to and then He will continue to give direction and guidance. Proverbs 3:5-6 comes to mind: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

When we trust Him enough to move, even when we don’t see the whole plan yet, He will direct our paths. When we acknowledge that He is God and we are not, He is in control and we are not, He promises to show us the way.

It wasn’t until Jacob started his journey that God revealed to him the rest of the plan. It wasn’t until Peter stepped out of the boat that he was enabled to walk on water. It isn’t until we reach out in humility that we can truly be part of reconciliation. It isn’t until we make ourselves vulnerable that we can enter into deep, meaningful relationships. Often, it isn’t until we take the first step that God begins to reveal more of the plan to us. 

The shepherds obey God and run to Bethlehem, and behold the Savior. Paul obeys God and goes to Arabia (instead of consulting with other men) and God reveals the full Gospel to him. Imagine the joy the shepherds would have missed if they had not followed the angels instruction, or the joy Jacob would have missed if he hadn’t started toward Goshen. Imagine the thrill Peter would have missed out on if he had never gotten out of the boat, or the millions who would never know the Gospel if Paul hadn’t begun his journey. They didn’t know the whole plan, but they took the first step.

Usually, the first step is the scariest, especially when we can’t see what is up ahead. I like to know the whole plan, the whole path, the whole story. But I can say with confidence that the best and most meaningful choices of my life have been the baby steps of obedience I’ve taken, fully trusting Him when I can’t see the whole picture.

And no matter what our next step is, this is our great assurance, this is what the Lord, our God, says to us: Do not be afraid. I will go with you.

Where is He asking you to step out in obedience in this season?

Week 44: Trustworthy God

Monday: Genesis 45

Tuesday: Luke 1

Wednesday: Psalm 12

Thursday: Romans 16

Friday: Genesis 45, Luke 1, Psalm 12, Romans 16

Monday, Genesis 45

Judah’s great love for Benjamin brings Joseph to tears. I wonder about all that must be going through Joseph’s mind in that moment as he watches his brothers, totally transformed, as he realized all his hardship and trial has culminated in this – beautiful transformation in his family and God’s sovereign protection and provision for them now. We so rarely get a glimpse into all God is using our pain to accomplish, and now after so many years, Joseph can see all the good God is bringing out of his many trials.

And when the world would say Joseph has every reason to seek vengeance, he gives only mercy, assuring his brothers that “God sent me here.” There is nothing man can do to us without God allowing it, and when the most unspeakable happens to us it is not outside of God’s good plan and purpose even when we do not see it yet.

Imagine the relief of Joseph’s brothers as they hear he is not angry with them! Imagine their utter astonishment when they hear that not only has he forgiven them, but he wants to provide lavishly for them! This is just a little glimpse of what God has done for us in Jesus! Not only has He mercifully forgiven us, but He has lavished us with provision both now and in the age to come.

Rest for a minute in the mercy and grace you have found in Jesus. Feel the deep relief of your sins not being held against you! Feel the utter astonishment of God desiring to lavish you with provision of all good things!

Is there someone you need to forgive? Someone difficult you need to reach out to in love?

Allow the astonishing grace and mercy of God, exemplified here in the story of Joseph, to encourage you as you reach out to that person or people in His love and forgiveness.

Tuesday, Luke 1

Everything God instructed the angel to communicate to Zechariah happened exactly as God said it would. Everything God relayed through the angel to Mary happened exactly how God said it would. What more proof do we need to trust Him? Throughout the rest of the Gospel of Luke, throughout the entire rest of Scripture, every prophecy and promise is fulfilled, exactly as God says it will be. If this is true, then certainly all His promises to me today will also be fulfilled. Certainly things will be for us exactly as God says they will be. This means:

We will always be loved.

We are eternally forgiven.

Nothing can separate us from our Father.

No weapon formed against us can prosper. Nothing can harm us without God’s permission.

We will live with Him forever in a perfect place with no sadness or hurt or destruction.

The Gospel calls us to believe and to trust in God’s promises. The Gospel calls us to bear witness to and trust in God’s extravagant grace. The Gospel calls us to stand in awe of the unconditional love of God in Christ.

Who in your life needs to hear the message of the Gospel today?

Wednesday, Psalm 12

I bet Joseph felt similarly to David sometimes, betrayed by his own family, now hunted as he hides in caves. He cries out to the Lord to deliver him, to make things right in the world.

It’s so easy to look at our world right now and feel the same things – hopeless, discouraged, certain that there are no righteous leaders left. This is why we need a Savior. Keep us, Lord, and guard us. This is David’s prayer and it must be ours. We are not hopeless because we know the Righteous One and we know He is coming back to restore all things and make all right again. Until then, let us be those that are a light in this generation, those who cry out to the Lord like David – save us!

Spend some time today in prayer about current world issues that are troubling you. Be encouraged that we have a Savior who is coming back to make all things right again! Ask the Lord to make you a light in an often-dark world.

Thursday, Romans 16

I love the way Paul loves his people. I found myself asking myself as I was reading: Do we love people this much? 

This is how it should be. Not only does Paul love his people but he acknowledges their shared ministry – Paul cannot share the Gospel like he does without the help of all his beloved friends and co-ministers. These people have worked hard and some even risked their lives for the sake of the Gospel and Paul honors them. Paul acknowledges that it hasn’t been his effort alone that has advanced the Gospel, but the collective work of many who have gone before him, walked beside him, or who will come behind him.

Because of our current circumstance, God has been impressing this on my heart often lately. The amazing friends-turned-family we left in Uganda for this season not only continue to share the Gospel with our community, but have encouraged me in the Gospel on countless occasions. Ministry wasn’t meant to be done alone, but in community. And as I think of our church and as I think of Paul, I know this is how I want to love and minister no matter where God sends us – together. With His people. With our people.

If you left your workplace, your church, your school, or your community right now, do you have a list like Paul of those you would send greetings to, those you would honor, those who helped you along the way?

First of all, if the answer for any of us is no, I pray we would be encouraged by Paul’s example to cultivate a lifestyle and community where we could begin to have a long list like this.

If your answer is yes like mine is (by the grace of God alone – thank you Jesus for our people!), reach out today to your people. Remind them of how they have loved you, encouraged you, spurred you on. Remind them of how you couldn’t do it without them.

Spend some time thanking Jesus for His body. The Gospel goes forth in community.

Friday Reflections

I want to respond to the Lord like Mary did. That willing yes, even in the midst of fear and uncertainty. That humble trust that He will do good even when our circumstances don’t look good or don’t make any sense.

Often, though, I approach life a lot more like Zechariah. It is just so hard for me to believe when I cannot see. Zechariah has suffered. He has grieved for years his inability to have children which has likely led to reproach from others in his community. Pain changes us. It’s hard to keep asking for that same thing when we feel God isn’t answering, when we feel we might have been forgotten. It’s hard to believe God still sees us and still loves us and still cares about the desires of our hearts after days or months or in Zechariah’s case years of hurting.

Can you relate?

We already know the whole story and how John the Baptist, the child of Zechariah and Elizabeth, will prepare the way for Jesus our Savior. We already know God is taking Zechariah’s pain and making it his place of testimony and prophecy, because we have already read the end of the story. But Zechariah doesn’t know yet. He doesn’t know behind all his pain and long-suffering God is working out a perfect plan of grace and redemption for him personally and for the whole world.

Friends, lean in close: God still has a good plan for us even when we can’t see it.

God is using our pain and our heartache to work out His perfect plan of grace even when it doesn’t make any sense.

Zechariah just can’t quite believe it. I don’t know if I would either. He’s looking at an actual angel, one who has seen the face of God, one who is telling him not to be afraid and bringing him this long-awaited good news, and even faithful, godly priest Zechariah looks at the angel and wonders, “Are you sure?”

“That’s not possible,” he seems to say and begins to list the reasons.

I read about Zechariah and just keep thinking, I do this, too. I list to the Lord the reasons that His plan isn’t good, isn’t working, can’t happen, doesn’t make sense.

Have you found yourself there? Just like Zechariah, I’m prone to look at all the obstacles standing in God’s way rather than trusting that God can do anything that He wants to.

But I don’t want to miss this about our gracious Father – even in disciplining Zechariah by silencing him, God is working His good plan. God is perfecting in Zechariah a deeper, greater faith than he has ever had before. God is preparing Zechariah for great ministry, great testimony, great prophecy. Soon, Zechariah will speak the whole Gospel (v. 67-80) even before the Savior is born.

Even in our doubt, God is merciful. Even our mistakes cannot thwart His plan. Even when we mess up, God can use consequence and hardship to draw us into a deeper faith, to perfect our testimony that will one day point to Him.

Can we trust Him even when we can’t yet see the good through our veil of tears?

Angel Gabriel then goes with a similar, even more shocking message to Mary. And while Mary’s response is similar at the beginning, the heart and faith behind it is different.

“How will it be?” she asks. And I think we see here that it’s ok to wonder how the Lord might accomplish His purposes when we can’t see them yet. But immediately she follows with, “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” 

It is ok to ask questions, as long as underneath all our wondering we are trusting deeply in our Father who calls us to believe Him.

Rather than give God the list of reasons why this isn’t possible, isn’t convenient, or isn’t good, Mary opens her hands and her heart to what God has for her even in the midst of uncertainty and probably immense fear. Certainly she knows that this is going to be hard. And yet, in the midst of uncertainty, she sings praise. Can we?

Can we sing with Mary, “He who is mighty has done great things for me and holy is His name. His mercy is for those who trust Him from generation to generation.”

Friends, He doesn’t need our perfection, but He needs our trust. Like Joseph, like Paul, like Mary, we can believe that He is working good even out of the seemingly impossible. And on the days we lose sight and our wondering turns into doubts, God in His mercy can use even our missteps to draw us back to Him.

We can trust Him. Even here, even now. He is trustworthy.

Wherever you are right now, pause. Close your eyes and open up your hands, stretching them out, palms up. Can you whisper it like Mary, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as He has said.” Lord, let it be.