Monday: Genesis 33
Tuesday: Mark 6
Wednesday: Psalm 1
Thursday: Romans 5
Friday: Genesis 33, Mark 6, Psalm 1, Romans 5
Monday, Genesis 33
I can hardly read this story without crying. I can imagine the fear and anxiety Jacob felt as he prepared to meet the brother he deceived, betrayed, and ultimately ran away from. What will he do? What will he say? Will Esau try to kill Jacob and his family? Is he still angry? Jacob prepares gifts for his brother. He is ready to bow down, to grovel, to somehow try to find favor and as he lowers himself to the ground, silently begging God to spare him from the worst… Esau runs to him. He threw his arms around his neck and kissed him.
Unmerited, undeserved forgiveness. It is what Jacob finds in the arms of his brother and it is what we find in Christ, and hopefully in the arms of each other. We can forgive each other freely because of how He has freely forgiven us. And when Jacob realizes the grace of being forgiven like this, he says to his brother, “Seeing your face is like seeing the face of God.” Yes! As we forgive one another as Christ forgave us, we will see the face of God in our brothers and our sisters. As we love and forgive like Him, we will reflect His face, His love, to the world.
Is there someone you need to forgive today? Can you look at the example of Esau and find the courage to forgive, no matter how big the mistake or how deep the betrayal?
Is there someone who you need to seek forgiveness from? Approach them humbly like Jacob. Pray to be received. See the face of God in the one you have wronged and strive to make right the relationship.
No matter where you have been, what you have done or how badly you have messed up, the arms of Christ are open wide in forgiveness. I pray today that you could receive His mercy and forgiveness!
Tuesday, Mark 6
The disciples must be so tired. They’ve been on the road for weeks, driving out demons, healing the sick, staying in the homes of strangers. When they returned they got word that John the Baptist had been killed, and just as they are about to get away with Jesus in a quiet place and rest, thousands of people run after them to hear Jesus. In true Jesus fashion He has compassion on them, teaching them and even feeding them. The disciples have been so faithful in their ministry, and still, they are exhausted. We’ve all been there.
Later, in the boat without Jesus, the disciples are stuck, straining against the wind and the waves, utterly defeated. And do you see what Jesus does? He comes to them. He joins them in their struggle. He speaks courage.
Are you feeling exhausted? Weary? Stuck?
Jesus got in the boat with His disciples and He does the same for us, joining us in our struggles, speaking to us – Take courage! Do not be afraid.
Wednesday, Psalm 1
I imagine this tree, planted by streams of water, steady and strong, spreading out shade and yielding fruit. I long to be like this tree, to delight in the law of the Lord and walk with Him every day, now and in eternity!
Let’s commit this Psalm to memory this week.
Thursday, Romans 5
Having Romans 5:1-11 memorized has carried me through some dark seasons. Especially this – we also rejoice in our sufferings. What a truth we have to hold onto, that He is using everything, even our suffering, to make us into the people of perseverance, character, and hope that He wants us to be.
While we were dead in our sin, He came for us. While we were still guilty, His enemies, He died for us. What love! What grace! Because of Him we have peace with God, that which we do not deserve, freely given to us. And we have the hope of eternity with Him, the hope that His glory will always prevail, and that can pull us through any suffering.
Are you experiencing hardship or suffering?
How is this developing perseverance, character, and hope in your life?
How does focusing on the hope of eternity make hardship and suffering feel lighter?
Spend some time today receiving and marveling at the free, undeserved gift of the grace and mercy of Christ. Stand in awe! And be filled with hope.
I know, I know, I skipped right over Job. Since we only have 20 weeks left and I think Job works best as a full story, we are going to start there at the beginning of next year and I can’t wait. For now, though, we will remind ourselves of the truth of God’s promises through Psalms on Wednesdays. I love the raw honesty of the Psalms. So often I am tempted to mask my emotions when I come to God. Somewhere along the line I have been taught to think that a “good” Christian doesn’t allow all their real hurt, turmoil, and confusion to be seen and known, that I have to “clean it up a little” before I bring it to the Lord.
The Psalms show us how untrue that is. I can lament to God and allow all my raw emotions to pour out before Him without questioning His character. I can believe who God is and still wonder “Why?”, still feel disappointed, confused, even abandoned. There is no emotion that my God cannot handle, and when we look at the life of Jesus, we see there is no emotion our God has not also felt. When we are feeling most desperate, most forgotten, most misunderstood, Jesus has walked there, felt those things, suffered in those same ways.
The Psalms teach us to cry out to God in both raw desperation and unbridled joy. Jesus knows we are needy. He expects us to be needy. We can come to Him with our needs. I don’t know about you, but sometimes this is so hard for me. Both in front of Jesus and in my own community.
I love holding space for other people’s suffering. I love to be the person who opens her home and her heart to the hurting, who drops off a home cooked meal, who sits long into the night to listen and to catch the tears.
I love to be the strong one, the one who helps, the one who gives.
It’s been the work of many years and much wrestling with my own selfishness to cultivate a lifestyle of giving generously and opening our doors and our hearts to the hurting. At times it has been uncomfortable and stretching, but it has always been worth it. A few months ago, I would have told you that living intentionally, giving of myself intentionally, cultivating a lifestyle of inviting in the broken, the stranger, the outcast, has been the hardest, most worth-it work of my life.
Until God placed me here. Due to an emergency that we didn’t see coming, a health scare that nearly left us flat on our faces, we packed up our family in less than 48 hours and headed to the other side of the world with nothing but the clothes in our suitcases and a strong conviction that this was God’s next right step for our family and He would provide. I resonated with Jacob this week as he walked toward the unknown with everything he owned, everything he had built and worked for at stake, headed toward a brother who may or may not still be angry at him, not sure what would happen next.
We have spent eight weeks of this year so far living in a stranger’s home, on an unfamiliar, smooth, paved road, in a community we know nothing about. I’ve felt like the disciples, weary from ministry, desiring to rest, but tossed by the wind and waves instead. But then the next door neighbor told us we could come over any time and use their playground. And a woman I had never met, the sister of a friend of a friend, dropped off dinner.
A stranger lent us her car, packed full of all the necessities and lots of treats. Friends and family members stocked us up on groceries and did our laundry and sat with us in the long silence after hospital visits where there was no good update to give.
And in these slow and disorganized days I am seeing maybe the harder part of the equation is being the one who receives. The one who asks for help. The one who shows up vulnerable and empty-handed and says, “Yes, I am in need.”
Maybe one of Jacob’s greatest blessings on this long journey will be receiving the forgiveness of his brother. Surely one of the disciples’ greatest blessings was having Jesus look them in the eyes and say take courage. It is what He says to us as we come to Him honestly in prayer, giving Him our need and being willing to receive what He gives – Mercy. Grace. Courage. Salvation. Peace.
I’m learning to be needy, friends.
I am learning that maybe in all my work cultivating a space where people could come and be vulnerable I built up a pride and identity of being the one with something to offer – a safe place to land, a glass of cold water on a hot day, a listening ear and a hand to wipe away the tears.
But to have true and lasting community, we need to be both. We need to be the helper and we need to be the one in need of help. We need to be the giver and we need to learn to receive. Real relationships and true community happen when we can also be the person who doesn’t have a place to go and cannot afford her groceries. We have to start coming to Jesus, and then to each other, as needy people ready to receive.
I’ve cried bitter tears in the last six weeks in front of more strangers and casual acquaintances than I care to count. But God is slowly taking away my embarrassment and showing me the beauty here. Because I realize I never would have been able to learn to listen and lean in to someone’s suffering unless that someone had shown up vulnerable and allowed me to. I never would have had to do the hard work of opening up my home to a stranger in need if that person hadn’t been brave enough to show up needy. Jacob never could have received that amazing forgiveness of Esau if he hadn’t first needed to be forgiven. The hungry five thousand would have missed the miracle if they hadn’t been in need. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. While we are still needy, still messy, still broken, Christ wants to meet with us.
There is no learning to serve others or to give generously unless someone has the courage to show their brokenness and lack and allow me to serve. There are no tears to wipe away unless someone has the courage to cry them in my presence. There is no honest relationship with our Savior unless we show up with our need, ready to receive.
I don’t yet like being the needy one, but I am leaning into this place God has us and believing that maybe my need will become someone else’s place of ministry. Maybe God will teach them the beautiful wrestling He taught me if I allow myself to receive instead of pretending I am not in need.
“Can I bring you groceries?”
“What do you need from Target?”
“I put cash in the center console.”
“We are coming for dinner – and bringing dinner.”
“What if you take a break and I’ll go to the hospital tonight.”
“Thought you guys might like some pizza.”
I can’t even list all the messages I have gotten like these. And honestly, at first, my gut reaction is to say, “No, we are ok!” or “Oh my goodness, you shouldn’t have done that!”
But when people have shown up needy in my life, it has given me an opportunity to know the Father’s heart in giving. And now I get to learn His heart for me in receiving. I get to learn the courage it takes to show up in need, the courage it takes to cry real tears in front of another human being, the courage it takes to be ok with not having the answers. And it is teaching me more about the heart of Jesus, the heart of our Father who gives good gifts to His children and is delighted when they freely receive them.
So I am learning to believe He calls us to both giving and receiving in ministry. Paul needed healing and was able to heal. He had to receive the Gospel message before he could share it. He both was ministered to and ministered to others. Peter needed his feet washed before he could go and do likewise. Jacob needed the forgiveness of Esau before he could move on to all God was calling him to. The disciples needed the refreshment of Jesus before they could go minister again.
And above all, all of us need to receive from the Lord. While we are still powerless. While we are still uncertain. When we are broken and things are messy and we do not know what is next, God invites us to come to Him in our need and receive His goodness.
This is hard work, vulnerability. Maybe the hardest, most worth-it work of my life.