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.

Week 43: God Who Took Our Place

Monday: Genesis 44

Tuesday: Mark 15 and 16

Wednesday: Psalm 11

Thursday: Romans 15

Friday: Genesis 44, Mark 16, Psalm 11, Romans 15

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 44

Judah, once involved in his brother’s demise and the deception of his own father, now rises up to intercede for his youngest brother and his entire family’s well being. “Take me instead,” he pleads. Joseph gets to see the compassion of Judah, and we are reminded that this is what the Lion of Judah, Jesus Christ, has done for us. Judah says to Joseph, “I shall bear the blame.” And this is what Jesus says to the Father on our behalf, “I shall bear the blame.”

Joseph’s heart is softened toward his brothers as he witnesses this transformation in Judah. And I pray that when others have wronged us, our hearts might still be softened toward them because of Jesus who bore the blame for us.

Who in your life do you need to offer forgiveness to?

Forgiveness is hard and it takes time, give yourself lots of grace as you walk this path. Focus on Jesus, who forgave us of all sin, who took our place and bore the blame. Allow His grace to enable you to forgive others deeply, from the heart.

Tuesday, Mark 15 and 16

I know we read Mark 15 last week, too, but I pray this scene, this story, this reality would never lose its power. I pray that we would never read these passages without complete and total awe of our Lord Jesus and what He has done for us.

Judah begs Joseph to take him prisoner instead of Benjamin. And Jesus willingly submits to the Father, willingly takes our place. “Save yourself and come down!” The passersby taunted Him – and He could have. It wasn’t the nails that held Him there, it wasn’t the Jewish law that bound Him. It was His great love for us – for you and me! – that kept Him on the cross, took Him to the tomb, and carried Him up out of the grave. It is almost unfathomable, this kind of love, this kind of sacrifice!

“Go tell His disciples that He is going before you,” the angel said to the women at the tomb. “There you will see Him, just as He told you.” Can we hear this message today, too? Can we go into the world to tell everyone He has gone before us? And one day we will see Him, face to face, just as He has promised us?

Sit for a while in this good news, this amazing love of Jesus.

Who in your life needs to hear the message today that Christ is going before us and coming back for us?

Wednesday, Psalm 11

David, hunted and persecuted, hiding in caves and running from enemies bent on his destruction knows there is only one true refuge – the Lord Himself. The upright will behold His face and we are the upright only because of Him. Jesus took our place, giving us His own righteousness, so that we, too, may one day behold the face of God in whom we now take refuge.

What does it look like to take refuge in Him today?

Thursday, Roman 15

I’ve read through Acts and Romans over and over again as our own family has been in a season of transition, and keep wondering how Paul does it – this constant picking up and leaving everything and everyone to go to the next place. I keep getting text messages and calls from the church we have left behind in this season – still meeting in our home, still worshipping in our yard, still having worship practices and Bible studies in our living room.

Our community, and Paul’s words here in Romans have given me a little glimpse into what keeps him going – he loves the church. He loves the body of believers. He is encouraged and spurred on by them even as he seeks to encourage them and spur them on.

I still cry most Sunday mornings. I long for my people. But I resonate with Paul’s words – I am so encouraged because they are full of goodness. They just keep on being the church, just keep on loving each other. We long to be there, but for now, we are needed elsewhere and it gives us great joy to leave a body of believers behind who will keep loving our community and keep sharing His Word even in our absence. And their love compels me to keep boldly loving the people in front of me in this new place, in this new season.

Are there people in your life, near or far, who have spurred you on with the love of Christ? Can you reach out to them with encouragement today?

Praise God for His body! Let us strive to encourage, instruct, and refresh one another.

Friday Reflections

I find different parts of myself all over the story of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection, and I wonder if you do, too?

“Stay awake,” Jesus urges the disciples, only to find them sleeping. How badly I want to stay awake to all that God is doing, and how easily I find myself totally distracted, unable to focus, unable to stay awake to Him in the moment in front of me. Then there is Peter, completely certain that he will go to his grave before he denies Jesus, only to claim not to know Him three times a few hours later. How often do I deny Jesus with my actions, all the while praising Him with my lips?

There is the crowd, that same crowd that praised Jesus and laid their cloaks out before Him just days before, now shouting for Him to be killed and a murder released from prison instead. There is Pilate, deeply convicted that this man ought not to die, and yet pressured and ultimately swayed by the crown, the favor of my far more important to him than the right choice.

I see myself clearest in Barabbas – guilty, but released from judgment as Jesus, the righteous one, takes the punishment He deserves.

And in stark contrast to all of these characters, there is Jesus. Silent as he stands accused and mocked and ridiculed, trusting the Father alone for His vindication. He has done nothing, and yet, He does not defend Himself.

We can be the other characters in the story, too – Simon, who bends down to take up the cross of the Savior, knowing a pain that draws us near to Him will be a pain that is worth it. Joseph, who gives the very best of what he has to his Savior. The women who are filled with compassion and come in adoration to anoint the body of their Beloved Friend.

Because of Jesus, we can trust God alone to vindicate us in the midst of false accusation, misunderstanding, or slander. Because of Jesus, we can bend down and take up our own cross. We can face any suffering with joy knowing a suffering that brings us near to our Savior will be for our benefit, and any light and momentary suffering here will lead to an eternal weight of glory that we cannot yet perceive. (2 Corinthians 4:17) Because of Jesus, we don’t need to justify ourselves, we don’t need to achieve some external, earned righteousness. 

Because God gave us Jesus, we can trust that He will indeed defend us, sustain us, and give us everything we need (Romans 8:32). We can trust that He always has our best in mind.

Because of Jesus, the curtain is torn in two and we have direct access to Holy God who will be with us in all our trials and carry us through all our suffering.

And we have a choice – will we be like the sleeping disciples, distracted and unable to stay alert to all God is doing? Will we be like Peter, acclaiming Christ one minute but denying Him the next? Or will be like Simon, bent down and bearing the weight of a hardship that puts us right up next to Jesus? Like Joseph, giving Jesus our very best. Like the women, running to Him in total adoration.

Week 42: God Who Speaks to Us

After a really full week of work, I decided to use my writing time this week to snuggle my babies instead. The good news for us is I fully believe God’s Spirit-breathed Word speaks for itself. Please read along with me this week, and know that I am praying that God would illuminate His word to us and speak to our hearts!

Monday: Genesis 43

Tuesday: Mark 15

Wednesday: Psalm 10

Thursday: Romans 14

Friday: Genesis 43, Mark 15, Psalm 10, Romans 14

Please hop over to my Instagram @katieinuganda_ on Friday and leave a comment on what He is teaching you this week so that we can reflect on His word together.

Week 41: God Who Shows Us a Better Way

Monday: Genesis 42

Tuesday: Mark 14

Wednesday: Psalm 9

Thursday: Romans 13

Friday: Genesis 42, Mark 14, Psalm 9, Romans 13

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 42

Joseph’s mercy toward his brothers is just a small glimpse of God’s mercy toward us. We are like these brothers who hated, mocked, and ultimately betrayed their brother, and yet Joseph’s love for them is so evident as he repeatedly turns to weep. And as the story continues, I notice something about these brothers – they seem to be softening, changing.

Those who once sold their younger brother into slavery now promise to protect Benjamin, even pledging their own lives. They are humbled. In their humility, their hearts are softened, they are given compassion for those other than themselves.

This is what the mercy of our Father in Jesus should do to our own hearts. We who once betrayed and belittled now sacrifice ourselves for the sake of our neighbor. We who once were arrogant are now humbled before the cross. We who once thought only of ourselves are not filled with compassion. Because we have received His love and mercy, we now extend love and mercy to those around us.

In what ways has the mercy of God softened you?

How can you extend His love and mercy toward someone in your life today?

Tuesday, Mark 14

I pray not one of us would be able to read this passage without complete and total awe of the Savior who gave His life for us, who took the punishment we deserved, who allowed His body to be broken and His blood to be spilled so that we could have a relationship with the Father.

Our only response to this extravagant love must be like Mary of Bethany’s, to give Him everything we have, our lives as an offering laid at His feet.

Spend some time today in awe of the Savior and His finished work on the cross. He did it for you.

No matter your circumstance or current hardship, what Jesus did for us on the cross should cause us to trust Him now. 

What can you trust Him with today?

Wednesday, Psalm 9

We rest secure in God’s righteous rule, in His kindness and mercy. Let all who love Him sing His praises!

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” – Psalm 9:10

Commit this verse to memory this week. He is our stronghold and worthy of our praise!

Who can you tell today of the wonderful work of Christ?

Thursday, Romans 13

We can walk in the kind of love Paul describes because we have the kind of hope he describes in verse 11 – salvation is near. Our God is coming back to right and restore all things! This compels us to love our neighbors and even our enemies, to pray for those who hurt us, to honor our governing bodies and authorities. We put on Christ, we put off all else. It is a high calling, but we rest in the great assurance that because of His work on the cross we will one day live with Him forever!

Can you pray today for someone who is hard to love?

Can you pray today for someone in authority, even if you don’t personally agree with them?

Friday Reflections

Owe no one anything except love. Joseph’s brothers might have deserved imprisonment or death. We, in our sin, certainly deserve death. But our God gives mercy.

Once we have fully accepted this, we can live in extravagant love of our neighbor, showing the mercy of Christ to those we encounter in our days. We must love each other with a love so otherworldly that people take notice. We must forgive each other the way Joseph forgave brothers who caused him a whole lifetime of misery. We must reach out our hands and break bread even with those who are different from us.

Let us remain watchful and not asleep to what the Lord is doing around us. Let us affirm and never deny that we are people who have known the Lord, and it is our desire to share His love and mercy. Let us, like the woman who anointed Him, pour out all we have for Jesus. He alone is worthy.

            God shows us a better way.

He gives Joseph the strength to endure much hardship and never turn away from the One true God. He gives him the grace to extend forgiveness to his brothers, and we watch as their hearts begin to soften. He gives Mary the trust she needs to pour her entire life savings out before her Savior.

Paul encourages us to embrace a love that can only come from Christ – a love that honors others above self and fulfils the law.

And as the very ultimate example, Jesus, denies His own desire – that the cup would pass from Him – and submits in joyful obedience to the Father, to save us.

I pray that we might walk in this kind of love today!

Week 40: God Who Will Make Us Forget Our Troubles

Monday: Genesis 41

Tuesday: Mark 13

Wednesday: Psalm 8

Thursday: Romans 12

Friday: Genesis 41, Mark 13, Psalm 8, Romans 12

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 41

Years after being forgotten, Joseph finally has his moment. He doesn’t waste our waiting, friends. And once again, God takes hardship and uses it for good. Not just for Joseph’s good but for the good of a whole nation, and then many nations.

Joseph looks at his newly born children and names them what he knows to be true: “God made me forget my trouble” and “God made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.” Oh, could we believe it? That one day in Heaven we will gaze at His face and forget all our trouble, that all of our suffering is achieving some eternal glory that we cannot yet see (2 Corinthians 4:17)?

The waiting isn’t wasted. The hardship isn’t for nothing. The presence of Jesus will outweigh any trouble.

Think of a time that God has used a season of waiting to teach you something or draw you closer to Himself.

What are you waiting on today? Can you trust Him to draw you close while you wait?

Think of a time God has used your hardship or suffering to encourage, bless, or teach others. I can testify that some of my greatest ministry has come after I have suffered in a particular way in which someone else will later need encouragement. He will make us fruitful in the land of our suffering. Can we believe it?

Tuesday, Mark 13

When we are in Christ, we need not fear the future or even the destruction that will one day come on the earth. Instead we are called to look forward to our eternity with Jesus and live each day here with great purpose, readiness to serve, and immense trust in God’s power to save us and to one day make right all the evil and suffering that we witness here on earth.

Ask yourself: What is it that you want to be doing when Jesus does come back to take us to the glorious place He has prepared for us? If you aren’t already, what’s stopping you from doing that today?

Wednesday, Psalm 8

What a beautiful song of praise to our truly majestic creator! Indeed, the day is coming when the whole earth will recognize His majesty, when every knee will bow before Him. But today, we His people are called to worship Him and sing His praises.

Choose two lines of Psalm 8 to commit to memory, and use these to worship Our Creator this week!

Thursday, Romans 12

Isn’t this what we all long for? To be able to discern and know the perfect will of God? How does Paul say we can? By keeping ourselves from the ways of the world, the noise of the world, and staying in tune with our Father. By loving one another, by holding fast to what is good. By praying continually as we wait on Him patiently. We don’t do any of these things dutifully, but rather because of His great mercies and the extravagant love He has lavished on us.

How can you let love be genuine in your own life today? Is there an act of mercy to be done with cheerfulness? Is there someone in need of hospitality? Is there an enemy you could pray for, someone you could rejoice or weep with?

Friday Reflections

The last few months have held more life-altering decisions for my family and myself than I could probably count. Some days, it has felt like we are faced with one decision after another, each with huge ramifications and consequences. Several weeks ago, when I was feeling completely overwhelmed by choices and unreasonably anxious that I might, in fact, make the wrong one, I felt the Lord prompt me with the question, “What do you want to be doing if I come back tomorrow?”

It is probably a question I should have been asking myself all along, but suddenly, I began to filter every new decision we faced through that one question. “If this was my very last day on earth, what would I want to be doing? What do I want to be doing when Jesus comes back?” 

The answers were the same for me as they have been for years – I want to be loving my people well. I want to be serving the church. I want to be sharing the Gospel. I want to be a light in my community. I want to be present enough in the day I have been given that each day has, even if just for a few minutes, these things included. I want the decisions I make now to be leading myself and my family down a path of increasing service, hospitality, and love.

It didn’t make all of the decisions easier, but it gave me a lot more freedom and a lot less anxiety. As we took baby steps in one direction I would ask myself, “Is this what I want to be doing if Jesus comes back?,” and as long as the answer was still yes, we would keep moving forward. As long as this was a place where we could still love, where we could still hold fast to what is good, where we could still contribute to the needs of the church and practice hospitality, then we were still on the right path.

And as we kept making decisions and taking steps in the direction we believed God was leading us, I began to wonder – How would we live differently if we truly believed that a loving Father was overseeing every event, every hardship, every step of our lives down to the very last detail? How would we live differently if we truly believed this and we believed He was doing it with the utmost tender care and concern?

While it’s easy to type these things out, to repeat them to myself as “head knowledge,” I wonder what would look different in my life, how much less anxious I might be, how much more joy I might have if my heart truly and deeply believed these things. He is teaching me to trust these promises, and His heart, a little more each day.

Joseph acknowledges these truths through tremendous waiting and trial. Even when he is brought before Pharoah, he takes no credit for the ability to interpret dreams – “I cannot do it, but God will give Pharoah the answer he desires.” Joseph knows that God is in all the details, even the seemingly strange dreams, and God will reveal exactly what He wants Pharoah to know. God has tenderly, lovingly carried Joseph through every bit of trial and suffering to bring him to a place of favor now.

And Joseph continues to give God credit in all the details throughout the rest of the story: “God has revealed this to Pharoah,” and “Since God has shown you this…” Joseph lives the way Paul instructs us in Romans 12 – joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Could it be that the cupbearer and the baker just happened to be imprisoned with Joseph and both have dreams? Could it be Joseph just happened to be put in power over all of Egypt just before his brothers came, in need, to Egypt? No, it is far more likely that Joseph’s God, our God, was always working all the details together for Joseph’s good and for His own glory.

It’s true for you and me, too. He is in all the details, He is guiding our steps. Through the suffering and the desert places, through the places of great favor and joy and abundance. All we have to think about is living these Romans 12 lives of love and service and constant prayer.

When Jesus comes back, I want Him to find me loving my people, serving my family, my church and my community, doing acts of mercy with cheerfulness (Romans 12:8) and wholeheartedly trusting and believing that He is in every detail of my life. Whether I am in a season of suffering and waiting or in a season of immense favor, I pray my hope and trust in His promises does not waver. 

Someday, like Joseph, He will make us forget our troubles. Let’s live worthy of His name until then.

Week 39: God Who Wants All of Us

Monday: Genesis 40

Tuesday: Mark 12

Wednesday: Psalm 7

Thursday: Romans 11

Friday: Genesis 40, Mark 12, Psalm 7, Romans 11

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 40

Joseph’s total confidence in hearing from the Lord to interpret the dreams of the cupbearer and the baker can indicate one thing for sure – through years of waiting, terrible trials and hardships, persecution and false accusation, Joseph has remained in communication with His Father. He knows exactly where interpretations come from – God – and he is certain that God will give him the interpretations. 

His hardship and waiting have not diminished His trust in God, but increased it.

Do hardships, trials and waiting cause you to press further into God and seek Him more, or do they tempt you to doubt God’s goodness and love for you?

How can you remain steadfast in your trust of God even in the midst of life’s hard seasons?

(Hint: stay in His Word. Stay in communication with Him. Remember His promises. He is trustworthy! And He wants all of you, even in the difficult, in-between seasons.)

Tuesday, Mark 12

True significance doesn’t lie in what we can give to God, what we can do for Him, but in how we come to Him. He doesn’t need our pretense, our showy works or our lengthy monologues. He wants our hearts. He wants what He received from the widow, everything she had.

What would it look like to truly give Jesus everything you have this week?  

Wednesday, Psalm 7

David’s song to the Lord as he is persecuted might help us answer the question we asked ourselves on Monday. In the midst of great hurt, great confusion, and long waiting for salvation, David cries out to God, His refuge.

And after he tells God how he honestly feels, after he laments all the things that seem to be coming against him, he gives thanks. Due to his circumstances? Nope. Due to God’s righteousness. 

Couldn’t you just rest there a while?

No matter the trial, no matter the suffering, no matter the waiting, His righteousness doesn’t change. When things go as planned and when they really, really don’t, His righteousness doesn’t change.

And remembering His righteousness, David sings praise to the Lord Most High. Can we?

Commit this to memory this week:

“I will give the Lord thanks due to His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” Psalm 7:17

Rejoice in the Lord, our refuge!

Thursday, Romans 11

I was reading Revelation this week and marveling at all that I imagine Heaven will be (and of course, it will be far better than anything I can possibly imagine). Every kind of people, every color of people, every language, every culture, all mixed up together with none of the angst or awkwardness that sometimes comes from interacting cross culturally. I can’t wait.

How gracious of Jesus to graft us in, to add to His family those who were outside it. God’s word has not failed and He has not rejected His people. He is kind and merciful and working all things for good, even when this doesn’t appear to be immediately true. We can trust in His good plans and His good promises.

In celebration of being grafted into God’s family, is there someone you can invite into your home or your life this week?

Friday Reflections

“How did Joseph know what the dreams meant?” asked our youngest daughter over her plate heaped with spaghetti. “That’s so cool.” 

I waited on Benji to answer, and he wisely went back to the text. “Well, let’s look at what it says.”

“Do not interpretations belong to God?” Joseph says, “Tell me your dreams.” 

Joseph is so confident in his connection to the Father, so confident in his communication with God, that he knows God will reveal to him what the dreams mean. I long for this kind of connection with God. To most of us, the interpretation of dreams sounds so foreign, almost magical, but Joseph is so connected to His Father that it comes almost second nature. Yes, this is a gift that God has specifically given to Joseph, but it stems from Joseph’s communication and closeness with God.

I long for this, but as I examine my own life, I am convicted that even as I pray for God to speak to me, I am often not making space for Him to do so. We are so distracted. Probably the most distracted generation of all time. We wake up in the morning and reach for our phones. We pause at a stoplight and check just in case. We mindlessly scroll through other people’s lives as a way to escape from our own.

We are letting the world speak to us far more than we are letting God speak to us. 

I know I am. Holy God who created us and adores us wants to speak with us like He spoke to Joseph. He wants to reveal Himself to us the way He did to Paul. He wants to give us wisdom for these crazy days, whisper encouragement to calm our anxious hearts, rejoice over us, His beloved. He wants to give us words of love and life to share with the hurting world around us.

Are we giving Him our ears, our attention, long enough that He can?

I saw myself so clearly in the widow who offered her two small coins. These last years have been hard on my family, and the world as a hole. We have been taught by our culture to isolate, to build up walls, to become angry any time we disagree. We are tired. We are anxious. So often I come to the Lord feeling that I have nothing left to give, nothing to offer. That’s the thing though – God doesn’t need me to show up with anything to offer other than myself. He doesn’t want my performance or my stuff as much as He just wants me.

The widow put in everything she had.

I might not have much to offer Him today, but I can offer myself, I can offer my time. Instead of reaching for my phone, I can reach for His word. Instead of fixing my eyes on everything I don’t have, daily brought to me by television and my Instagram feed, I can fix my eyes on Jesus, I can steady my heart on Him. I can whisper to Him about the longings of my heart.

In a season of weariness, we have all sorts of options for reprieve – we have screens and distractions, things to do and people to call. We want God to speak to us, to reveal His plans to us, to give us words of encouragement for our hurting neighbors. But are we making space for Him to do so?

What if my offering is a mere two minutes of whispered prayer as I wait for the pasta water to boil, what if my offering is a few minutes of sitting in the quiet to listen for His voice in the carpool line, what if my offering is to reach for His Word and remind myself of His opinion instead of reaching for my phone and the opinion of a loud world.

We can hear from God like Joseph did. We can speak the things of God to others. We can be so confident in our relationship with Him, our communication with Him, that we can share truth to this often dark and hurting world. But first, we have to come like the widow. We have to bring Him our minutes. Our whispered cries for help in the pauses of our day, our laments for the things that hurt, our desires for control over the things that make us anxious, our rejoicing when we succeed.

The tiny, quiet prayer, the call for help, the scripture you repeat to yourself in the middle of the night. These may feel insignificant, as trivial as two copper coins. But these are the things that shift our hearts toward a Father who is singing over us in love. These are the things that tune our hearts to hear from Him even as the world around us seems increasingly chaotic.

I feel I can say this with certainty – it isn’t going to get any easier. The distractions are increasing, not decreasing. We have to make space for Him now. We have to make it our habit to cry out to Him, to look for Him in the pauses of the day, to hear Him in the still, quiet moments. 

We want to fill the silence throughout our days with distractions. What if instead, we make the silence our offering to Him? An offering of prayer, of worship, of listening, of seeking. 

What if we filled up all our middle minutes with seeking Him, talking to Him, listening to Him that we started to look more like Him? That we could be so confident in our ability to hear from Him that we could reach out and encourage and speak life over those around us? This is what the world needs. This is what our hearts need. Jesus came for us because He wants all of us.

My challenge to you is my challenge to myself this week – what if we practice giving God our best, not our leftovers? What if we praise Him for His righteousness (not our circumstances) in the middle minutes of our days? What if each time we reach for the phone to scroll or the remote to check on world events, we spend a few minutes talking to Him instead? It might sound negligible on paper, but I believe it has the power to change our hearts.

Week 38: God Who Doesn’t Let Go

Monday: Genesis 39

Tuesday: Mark 11

Wednesday: Psalm 6

Thursday: Romans 10

Friday: Genesis 39, Mark 11, Psalm 6, Romans 10

Reflections

Monday, Genesis 39

Even in the midst of all sorts of trials and temptations, God remains faithful to Joseph and Joseph remains devoted to God. The Lord was with Joseph. As I think of Joseph, I think that my own temptation in similar circumstances would be to complain to God, even to question Him. “Lord, how could you allow this to happen?” or even, “Ok, God. I’ve been faithful and devout. I have done my best to flee temptation, and as if being a slave wasn’t enough, now I am in prison?” I recognize the foolishness even as I type it, but I know my own heart enough to know these thoughts might sneak in. “I learned how to persevere in trial already, God. Can we be done with trial now?”

But Joseph isn’t so foolish. Joseph’s trust in the Lord and His devotion to Him doesn’t waver in slavery, doesn’t waver in temptation, and won’t waver now, even in prison. And the Lord was with Joseph as a slave in Potiphar’s house (v. 2) and everyone could see that the Lord was with him. The Lord is with Joseph in the midst of false accusations from Potiphar’s wife, for though he is thrown in prison, he could have easily been put to death. The Lord is with Joseph even in prison (v. 21). The Lord is with Joseph everywhere He goes, in every hardship, showing him mercy and granting him favor. It’s clear that the secret to Joseph’s perseverance in trial is God with him. And in Christ, the same is true for us! No matter what depth of hardship we find ourselves in, the Lord is with us and wants to show us mercy and give us favor. Can we have eyes open to see Him at work?

Are you facing a trial or temptation today that feels too big to overcome?

Make a list today of the ways that you have seen God with you, even in the midst of hardship or trouble. Rejoice that He is with us always! His constant presence is the secret to our endurance.

Take heart, the Lord is with you even in the midst of hardship! He is reaching out to show you mercy and favor. We can trust Him for that.

Tuesday, Mark 11

Riding into the city on a colt, Jesus comes as a man of peace, as a servant. Jesus is celebrated as a victor, and rightly so, for soon, He will be triumphant over death. The people however have a different expectation of what triumph should look like. Often, we do, too. We think that victory will look a certain way, that God will be good if and when we experience a certain outcome that matches up with what we think is best.

Jesus uses the illustration of the fig tree, a tree with the appearance of fruit but no actual fruit, to teach his disciples a few lessons. Even in the midst of destruction – the fig tree that produces no fruit and is cursed, and the temple that has been abused by thieves – Jesus encourages His disciples to remain faithful. “If anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go throw yourself into the sea,’…it will be done for them.” This is an assurance that God can overcome any obstacle, any trial, any problem. And it warrants the kind of faith Joseph had in Genesis to believe that God was with him in every dire circumstance. The kind of faith Jesus wants His disciples to have as they enter into a season where their faith will be tried and tested, where they might not get the outcome or resolution they were hoping for. This is the type of faith He wants us to have today, to believe that no matter our mountain, our obstacle, our hardship, He can overcome. He can triumph because He has already triumphed over sin and death!

What are the “mountains” that need to be moved in your life?

How can you trust Him even when the resolution you thought was best isn’t in plain sight?

Do you truly trust that God can overcome any obstacle? Can you pray in faith that He will meet all of your needs, show you mercy and favor in times of hardship, and move your mountains? Can you believe that God can use even times of destruction to bring about His perfect plan?

Wednesday, Psalm 6

Psalm 6 affirms what we have already read and studied both in Genesis and Mark – the Lord has mercy on His children, and He hears our cries of help in times of trouble. He is with us through all situations and He answers our prayers in His unfailing love.

Even in deep grief, David turns toward the Lord. We, too, can allow our grief and sorrow to drive us into the loving arms of our Savior and not away from Him. David leans into God’s steadfast love, and the Lord hears him and welcomes him home to rest in His loving arms.

Repeat it to yourself this week – “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

Thursday, Romans 10

When we seek to establish our own righteousness, we are just like the Pharisees Jesus speaks against in Mark. We are like the people who worship Him as He enters the city, but crucify Him just days later. Just like the fig tree in Mark, it is possible to be zealous on the outside, to appear to bear fruit, but lack true faith. 

This faith isn’t something we muster up. We cannot rely on our own strength but only on the finished work of Jesus, the work that tore the temple curtain into and the only way we have access to our loving Father. We believe He can do the impossible, believe He can move any mountain and overcome every obstacle – He can redeem us, He can raise the dead, He can give us new life – and that is our righteousness. 

Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.

Who can you share the good news of the Gospel with today?

Friday Reflections

“Levi! Levi!” Our 5-year-old son Noah is calling out to his brother from the middle of the biggest puddle in our yard. Levi is standing at the edge, soaked by the rain, but uncertain if he wants to venture into the puddle.

“Hey Levi!,” it’s really deep here. Grab my hand!” Noah makes his way toward the end of the puddle and reaches out for his little brother. Trusting, Levi grabs on and follows Noah into the puddle that almost reaches his waist in the deepest part. I watch them walk away from me, hand in hand, and all I can think of is Jesus’s hand reaching out to me in the midst of the waves.

“It’s deep here, love. Grab my hand.”

The waves have pummeled us in the last season; the water has felt deep as we have navigated all sorts of big life transitions and unexpected grief. So much so, that I don’t feel I have much to offer in the way of teaching. But I will share with you what I know to be true, what the Savior has proven to me again in the recent months:

In the deepest waves, in the darkest night, in the hardest season, Jesus reaches out His hand to us. And He doesn’t let go.

He didn’t let go of Joseph as he endured slavery and then prison. He didn’t let Joseph stop believing in Him, hoping in Him, and no trial could thwart God’s good plan for Joseph.

He didn’t let go of Israel, though they were fickle, worshiping one day and blaspheming the next, defiling the temple and appearing full of fruit though they were not. He died for them anyway, longing, always longing to draw them to Himself.

He didn’t let go of David, though the world was against him, though he would hide in caves and run for his life from his own son, though he cries out in anguish and floods his bed with weeping. The Lord hears His cry and uses his life regardless of his doubt or despair.

Anyone who believes in Him will never be put to shame.

Do the waves feel big, dear one? Does the water feel too deep? Jesus reaches out His hand and says, “Grab on! Trust me.”

Even when we can’t see Him, even when we can’t feel Him, even when things don’t seem to be going our way, He is with us and we can trust Him.

When the waves are too high and the night is too dark, we can trust the one who gave it all to draw us to Himself. He will never let go.