Monday: Genesis 19
Tuesday: Matthew 19
Wednesday: Nehemiah 9
Thursday: Acts 19
Friday: Genesis 19, Matthew 19, Nehemiah 9, Acts 19
Monday, Genesis 19:
Lot’s heart to protect and serve strangers is evident as we begin this passage. Lot seems to believe the warning of the angels as he urges his sons-in-law to hurry and leave the city, and yet even he hesitates to actually obey their command. Then we have the ever-elusive verse about Lot’s wife. The text says she looked back – did she long for that old way of life? Did she yearn for the sin behind her? Did she simply look back over her shoulder, regarding the old life she enjoyed or did she actually turn back and actually become consumed by the flaming sulfur falling from the sky? I’m not fully sure but it begs the question, do I long for the life behind me more than I long for the eternity with Christ that is ahead of me? How often am I tempted to value this temporary life with its momentary comforts and fleeting security more than I long for the life ahead of me with Christ?
Let’s spend some time today examining our hearts, not out of fear of punishment, but because we desire to be people who are longing for the better life that is ahead of us in Christ.
In what ways are you tempted to “look back” or to hold onto temporary comforts instead of longing for the life ahead?
What “little” sins are you unwilling to let go of?
What comfort – physically, financially, emotionally – may God be asking you to give up for the sake of the Kingdom ahead?
Tuesday, Matthew 19:
The rich young ruler bears a striking resemblance to Lot’s wife – someone who longs to move forward, but can’t quite leave his earthly comforts behind. Just as Lot and his family are instructed to leave their home at all costs, this young man is instructed to set aside anything necessary to follow Christ with his life. And he went away sad because he just couldn’t bring himself to do it.
As I examine my own heart through our readings this week, I identify with both the rich young man and Lot’s wife. God has given me a lot of wonderful, physical blessings in this life, and, truth be told, sometimes they can get in the way of my desire for Him. Sometimes just my own sin and selfishness can get in the way. I don’t believe that Jesus intended to say here that those with material blessings cannot be saved, but there is a warning against valuing our material blessings too much, in a way that would hinder us from following Him sincerely.
To be honest, as someone with so much material wealth, when I read this, I can be tempted to despair.
But then, His amazing, saving grace: what is impossible for man is possible for God. With God, all things are possible. All things are possible, even my salvation and eternity with God because of Jesus!
Friends, let us read this with great conviction, but also with great assurance. Go back to those questions from yesterday. Reflect on what might be keeping you from following Him wholeheartedly, and then, rejoice! Because He is merciful and He will save us, even from ourselves and our own selfish desires. What is impossible for us is possible for God. Lord, may it be!
Wednesday, Nehemiah 9:
“They stood where they were and confessed their sins.” This is where the impossible starts. God, in His grace, beckons us to confess our sins and turn from them. The Israelites read from His word and then they worship. They exalt the Lord. As we read through the history of the Israelites in the rest of these verses, we see clearly their rebellion and disobedience, and we see how God continues to save them, protect them, and carry them through. The same is true of us today, friends.
Look at verse 19: “Because of Your great compassion, You did not abandon us in the wilderness.”
Whatever impossible you are facing, He will not leave you there. He does not abandon us, and His love for us will never leave us.
Find a quiet space today and stand where you are. Use Nehemiah 19 as a guide to worship our good God who saves us.
Thursday, Acts 19:
Again we see the juxtaposition of material possessions or cultural traditions and the way of Jesus. Those who believe in Ephesus confess and even burn their scrolls, denouncing their old practices in favor of Jesus, even though it costs them greatly. Then there is Demetrius, concerned that the way of Jesus is going to take away his business and that his false gods will be discredited. This leads only to chaos.
As I think of the sorcerers with their scrolls on fire, I reflect on how much they are “giving up.” Much like Lot and his family, their whole life is in flames in that moment. And yet they have lost it all to seek something greater, the way of Jesus.
Lord, thank you for saving us from our sin, from our culture, from our selfish way of life. Lord, help us to give it all to you, remembering that what feels impossible to us is indeed possible with you.
Lot invites these strangers into his home and insists they rest. He places a fine feast before them; he protects them, even at the expense of his own family. I wonder if he knows they are messengers from the Lord? It is one thing to protect those we know and love – that comes easily to me. But to protect and serve strangers can feel altogether different, more risky, more uncomfortable.
Lot has no way of knowing yet that these strangers in turn will save him and his family from complete destruction. It’s risky, inviting them in, protecting them from the depraved world outside that says he should leave them to suffer and protect his own reputation instead, but I am sure Lot realizes that his bold hospitality was worth it when His own family doesn’t go up in flames with the rest of the city the next day.
And did you see that? Even when Lot hesitated to follow the angels’ instruction, even when his own comfort momentarily outweighed The Lord’s instruction, the angels pulled him from danger for the Lord was merciful.
The Lord was merciful.
I can’t read this story without thinking of strangers that God, in His abounding mercy, has used to shape my own life, even bring about my own healing and heart-work, when I have been willing to open my door a little wider, to prepare the feast even when the world outside is saying maybe it’s too risky.
I can’t read this story without seeing the face of my friend Mack – once a stranger, but one who taught me more than most friends and soon became like family.
It’s a long story, but it races through my mind now. Mack stumbled up to our doorstep just over ten years ago, drunker than anyone I have ever seen, a gaping hole in his leg from a burn that had charred it to the bone. Logic would have said to send him away, definitely to keep him far from my family of little girls, but when he fell asleep on our front porch I covered him with a blanket instead, and I didn’t know that one small decision would change my life, all of our lives for the better.
Later than evening I bandaged his leg. I did it the next evening, too, and the next and the next. And then I bandaged it every day for the next ten months. As Mack began to heal, and began to sober up, our once silent hours of bandaging turned into longer conversations. About him, about me, about a God who is good in our pain and our suffering.
Not only did Mack’s leg heal, but he got sober, accepted Christ, and became a man that my children called Uncle, a staple guest at all holiday meals and birthdays. Mack got a job and a place down the road, but joined us for Bible studies and dinner and jumped on the trampoline with the kids in the backyard. It seems like a beautiful ending but it certainly was far from perfect. Addiction still roared its ugly head, plaguing his mind and often his health. Eventually, his addiction is what killed him. The day we buried him, I peeked my head in his room and found his Bible laid open atop his copy of the Alcoholics Anonymous and I wept.
I wasn’t crying because he died. There is no doubt in my mind that no one was happier to meet Jesus in eternity than Mack was that day. I wept because the Lord was merciful. In His mercy he took a man so unlikely, the opposite of everything I would ever look for in a friend, and he made him a part of my every day. In His mercy He allowed me to walk alongside him in his battle against addiction, and as I watched the Lord heal Mack’s heart He taught me deep lessons about my own. In His mercy, He snatched Mack out of this brutal life and took him to the next where addiction has no grip on him. In His mercy He allowed Mack to continue calling out for Jesus, even in the deepest darkness. And in His mercy, He rescued me from my temptation to remain comfortable and instead prompted me to drape a blanket over a strange man who in turn blessed my life in more ways than I can possibly write here.
The Lord is merciful, because just as those two books juxtaposed each other on His bedside table, He allows us to experience pain and joy, both hardship and blessing.
He saves us, so often from ourselves. He saves us to live in eternity with Him.
What could it look like in your own life today to invite a stranger in, or to declare that an outcast is under the protection of your roof like Lot did?
Can you think of a time that you thought you were serving someone, but when you look back you see that it was God granting you His mercy?
What stands in the way of us living with the open hospitality and service of Lot? Risk? Fear? Opinions of others?
In what ways has the Lord been merciful to you, even amidst the hard and the pain of this life?