Week 29: God Who Wastes Nothing

Monday: Genesis 29

Tuesday: Mark 2

Wednesday: Esther 6

Thursday: Romans 1

Friday: Genesis 29, Mark 2, Esther 6, Romans 1


Monday, Genesis 29

Even through trials, even in spite of his own sin, Jacob is brought by God to exactly the right place at exactly the right time – where God wants him to be. It would seem like finding a needle in a haystack, to head off to a foreign land and hope to find some long lost relative, and here Jacob finds himself welcomed, brought in, part of the family. God sees Jacob. God hears Jacob. God provides for Jacob.

Then we see God’s tender care for Leah, the less loved of the sisters. Leah names her children exactly what her life, Jacob’s life, your life and my life testify – God sees. God hears. God comforts. God is worthy of our praise.

Where do you feel unseen or unheard by God?

Spend some time looking through scripture and throughout your day for evidence that God does see you. When we are looking for God, we will always see God.

Praise Him for all the ways that He sees, hears and comforts us. Our God never fails!

Tuesday, Mark 2

Jesus has just told the leprous man that He is willing to heal him. This willingness extends to us – He is willing to heal our sins just as He heals the sins of the paralyzed man being carried on the mat. His willingness went even further to healing the man’s legs and causing him to walk for the sake of the doubting onlookers to believe in the Son of Man. God will go to great lengths to ensure that His people know who He is. He is willing to call Levi, the tax collector. He is willing to stop and teach the crowds. He is willing to call not the righteous but the sinners to Himself. What mercy!

Are there things you are holding back from Jesus today? Are you unwilling to ask because you are sure that He won’t? Unwilling to approach Him for fear that He will not answer? I’ve been there.

Allow me to look you in the eyes for a moment and say this – our God will not fail. He will not fail you now. Take courage from this group of men carrying their paralyzed friend (probably quite awkwardly), lowering him through the roof to Jesus. Take courage from this motley crew of sinners gathered around a table, following Jesus with all that they have because they are “sick” enough to recognize they have no other hope. Now ask Jesus boldly for the healing you need, the help that you need. His answer may not come in the exact way that you want it, or in your own timing, but it will come. Our God is willing. Our God wants to heal our hearts, to save our souls. He came not for the righteous, but for us.

Wednesday, Esther 6

We all want the honor that we think we are due. At least I do. The older I get, the more I know, without Jesus my heart is utterly wicked and I am much more selfish than I care at all to admit. And yet we read it all over the Psalms, we see it all over the Scriptures, God will exalt the one who trusts in Him, and the ways of the wicked will perish. Oh, praise Him for redeeming my sinful heart!

When we are in the middle of being slandered, when we are in the midst of persecution or hardship, it can be so hard to believe this. David laments it in Psalm 73 when he says, “I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Does this resonate? It sure has for me in different seasons of life. And yet, God alone justifies us, vindicates us, redeems us. He promises that even if we don’t see it for a long time, even if we don’t see it in this life at all, we will be exalted and blessed eternally by a God who saw it all, knew the truth, and brought us into glory with Him through His son. It is true for Mordecai and Haman in this almost comical story – the righteous and faithful are honored and the wicked fail. One day, it will be true for us as well.

Spend time today in Psalm 73. I love how David begins in lament, but by the end is singing the praises of His God who he calls his strength, his portion, his refuge. I pray that it would be true of us, too. That we would sing and shout, “But as for me, it is good to be near God.”

Thursday, Romans 1

Paul writes his letter to the Romans from Corinth. He hasn’t traveled to Rome yet, but he has heard of the faith of the believers there and longs to encourage them, and be encouraged by them. Paul writes to strengthen “God’s beloved,” even those he has never met.

The words of this text don’t need any explanation from me. How glorious, how unimaginable, that God looked on us while we were still sinners and deemed to die for us. We are going to dive into some deep theology and some beautiful truths together in Romans.

But as I sit here and think about Paul writing to a people he didn’t know, might never know, I just keep thinking of you. Unless you are Tamara (love you!) I probably don’t know you. I might never know you. And as I sit here behind my screen my heart is overcome with love for you as God’s beloved, as a co-laborer in Christ, wherever you are. You are not alone. I am praying for you right now, today, you who are loved by God and called to be His holy people. All grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Live loved and seen and known by Him today, Beloved. Amen.

Friday Reflections

The world may call it coincidence, the way the king wakes up at night and just so happens to look through the book of chronicles and just so happens to stumble upon Mordecai’s name there the night before his planned murder. The world may call it coincidence the way Rachel stumbles up to the well at the exact time that Jacob happens to be there, that she just happened to be watering her sheep when it was not time for the sheep to be gathered.

We know better. Or at least, we should.

So often I am tempted to think that my current circumstance is a product of chance, that my struggle is only because of an unfair and broken world, or my victory is only because of my own hard work or maybe even happenstance. But when I sit alone in the quiet I can look back on my whole life, my failures, my victories, my struggles, my disasters and my joys and I can know that God was at work. He was at work all along.

After trying to take things into his own hands for far too long, Jacob acknowledges God at Bethel and God directs him to the exact well, at the exact time where he meets his future wife and furthers God’s promise to his father and grandfather. Esther asks her people to fast and pray and by doing so entrusts herself, her people, her husband, her king to God, and when she does God stirs the heart of her husband and king and moves in ways that Esther never could have orchestrated herself. Paul, having never visited or even met the Romans, writes boldly to them what he believes God wants him to say, acknowledging and trusting God who will later ask him to go testify in Rome where he will meet the people that his letter encouraged.

            Dear one, lean in close.

            Nothing is coincidence.

            Nothing is happenstance.

            Nothing is wasted.

            God is going to use all of it.

I found a picture of myself the other day. I was 20 years old in a baggy t-shirt and braided pigtails. There was so, so much that I didn’t know. I had just become a mom. I had just started a ministry. I was basically just a little girl. And usually, I am so so hard on that little girl, shaking my head at all the mistakes that I made, wishing I had done better, wondering what may have happened if I had done better. But as I looked at the sparkle in that young woman’s eyes, a thought dropped into my mind, “I liked being her.”

Yea, she was naïve. Yea, she made some mistakes. But man, she loved Jesus and she loved His Word and she loved her kids and you know what? He used it all. Even the ugly parts. Definitely the beautiful parts.

And if I hadn’t been so bright-eyed and naïve and if I hadn’t made mistakes and if there hadn’t just happened to be all the ugly and all the beautiful and all the struggles and all the joys, if there hadn’t just happened to be all the right people in all the right places and all the unfairness and brokenness of the world and all the coincidences? Well, then I wouldn’t be where I am today. And I wouldn’t get to be this girl. And I like being her, too.

Because when I look back at her sparkly eyes and the roads that she walked with Jesus, when I remember the seas that He parted, when I remember the battles He won on behalf of my family and the little miracles that made us who we are today, I know – 

Nothing was coincidence.

Nothing was happenstance.

Nothing was wasted.

Oh, friend. He used all of it.

Like Jacob, God chose to use my life even as I continued to doubt. Like Levi, God continued to call me to Himself while I was still a sinner. Like the paralyzed man, He put people around me who pushed me toward Jesus when I couldn’t even drag myself there. Like Xerxes, God whispered to me in the darkest hour of the night. Like Paul, He gave me the courage to obey today, without knowing what that might yield in the future.

I never could have imagined all the things that we would face. And I never could have imagined how good God would be to us through it all. And if that was true then, it will be true again. We can count on it.

Week 28: God Who Is Always at Work

Monday: Genesis 28

Tuesday: Mark 1

Wednesday: Esther 5

Thursday: Acts 28

Friday: Genesis 28, Mark 1, Ester 5, Acts 28


Monday, Genesis 28:

Even after Jacob’s clear sin of deceiving his father, God chooses to continue His blessing, His lineage, His chosen people through him. I sit and think how undeserving I am of His grace, His son, His salvation. 

God doesn’t just reiterate His promise to Jacob, though that would have been enough. He speaks to him personally in this dream of the ladder. For Jacob, this ladder was a reminder that God was still coming to make the earth His dwelling place. In John 1:51, Jesus identifies Himself as the ladder, our eternal link between heaven and earth. I think of Jesus, my ladder to Heaven. Not a ladder that I have to climb up, but one where He Himself comes down to get me, to rescue me. We don’t have to climb. We don’t have to strive. We can’t reach heaven on our own. Jesus Himself comes not just to carry us up the ladder but to be our ladder, our only way to stand righteous before God.

Meditate on John 1:51, “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Are there ladders you are trying to climb today, thinking that if you are just good enough, wise enough, kind enough you might somehow earn the favor of God?

If so, spend some time in prayer laying these things on the altar. Praise Jesus for being our ladder, our only way into the Kingdom, our King who comes for us.

Tuesday, Mark 1

Here He comes, our Savior. Heralded by John, tested by Satan, beloved of God. Mark was likely writing this Gospel account to a group of persecuted Roman Christians. He writes to give his readers hope that Jesus is, indeed, exactly who He says He is. Here in this first chapter, we learn so much about Jesus. He is baptized by locust-eating John and calls poor and uneducated fishermen to Himself. He loves to use the unlikely. It is His delight to heal the outcast, the demon possessed and leprous, and it is His delight to find solitude with His Father. Who is this strange and wonderful Savior? He is one bringing an upside-down Kingdom and calling the unlikely to Himself – even you, even me.

Where can you look for Jesus in the unlikely today?

How does the Gospel of Jesus give you hope?

Who can you share this unlikely, upside-down Gospel of Grace with today?

Wednesday, Esther 5

I wonder if Esther’s knees were knocking, if her heart was beating too fast as she waited in front of the king’s hall. If this went well, it could save her people. If this went poorly, it would cost her life.

And when the king does agree to see her, Esther is wise and patient in her presentation of her requests. In stark contrast, Haman’s pride and haste, and his delight in the demise of others, blind him to the reality of what is going on.

This passage caused me to think of Psalm 119:

Blessed are those whose ways are blameless,

            Who walk according to the law of the Lord.

Blessed are those who keep His statutes

            And seek Him with all their hearts – 

They do no wrong

            But follow His ways

Oh that my ways were steadfast

            In obeying your decrees!

Then I would not be put to shame

            When I consider all your commands.

I will praise you with an upright heart

            As I learn your righteous laws.

I will obey your decrees;

            Do not utterly forsake me.

If you are like me, you might get a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach when you first read these verses – who is blameless and keeps all His statutes? Certainly not me. If you are like me, you might identify a little more with Haman than Esther – more often blinded by pride and haste than strengthened by patience and wisdom. There is good news for those of us who fall short, for those of us who cannot truly say that we “do no wrong” – Jesus! His grace categorizes us as blessed. His grace makes us blameless. His grace gives us the strength, patience, and wisdom of Esther, and makes our hearts upright that we may declare His praise!

Take a few minutes to meditate on the passage above from Psalm 119. 

Thursday, Acts 28

Once again, God protects Paul. This time from a deadly snake’s poison, saving his life to fulfill His purposes.

As we wrap up our time in Acts, I am utterly amazed at the way Paul has poured out his entire life to teach the Gospel of Jesus and proclaim His Kingdom. He has been persecuted, beaten, imprisoned, shipwrecked, snake-bitten. He has lost all of his comfort, his physical health, many of his friends. And we know that he would say that it was worth it all for the Kingdom. Lord, please, give us such boldness.

And finally, he arrives in Rome, just as the Lord promised. It was a long and winding road, but God was with him all the way, leading him all the way, accomplishing His purposes all the way.

What promises of God are you still waiting on?

Does the road feel long and winding for you today, too?

I pray Paul’s journey gives you the confident trust to believe that God is still working, even in the detours. I pray we would all find the courage of Paul to forsake anything for the sake of our Lord Jesus.

Friday Reflections

Jacob is basically homeless. Running from a brother who hopes to kill him, running toward extended family who are basically strangers to him, he begins the 550 mile trek to Haran. And when he is too weary to hold his head up any longer, in desperation he makes a stone his pillow.

Have you ever experienced this kind of weariness? The kind where you are fairly certain that you just cannot go on?

But as the last of his strength finally gives out (imagine how exhausted you have to be to use a stone as a pillow?), here alone in the wilderness, he hears and sees God for the first time recorded in Scripture.

Jacob. His very name means deceiver. Jacob, who dishonored his faither in his old age. Jacob, now hated by his own brother. Jacob, leaving all he has ever known, and headed toward years more struggling and wrestling. Jacob, chosen by God even still. And as he finally succumbs to rest, God shows him a ladder.

In the middle of this desert place, in the middle of his weariness, God speaks and reveals the most beautiful promise of all time: God Himself will come down to get us. God Himself will come to make a home with us. And this God, our God, will not leave us until He has fulfilled these promises to us.

Behold I am with you and will keep you wherever you go…I will not leave you until I have done what I promised you.

And as Jacob awakes a slow realization tumbles from his mouth, one that often stirs in my heart, too, “Surely the Lord was in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it.”

Paul isn’t that different from Jacob, really. Worse than a deceiver, he is a murderer. Running. Running from his own terrible sin, running to kill even more Christians. Paul, chosen by God even still. And doesn’t he even call himself that? The worst of sinners. And I know I have been. And there on the road, on Paul’s way from one murder to another, God speaks to him, too, revealing that same beautiful promise: they will receive the forgiveness of sins. There will be no more ladder to climb because He Himself will come down to get us.

Paul will be persecuted. He will be beaten, flogged, tortured. He will be imprisoned and shipwrecked, hurt, and misunderstood. And Jesus will continue to appear to him, continue to speak to him, continue to reassure him of the promise that He will not leave until He has fulfilled His promises. And while he never says it, I wonder how often Paul thought, surely God was in this place and I wasn’t even aware of it.

This is what is always true, dear one. In the midst of things we label pointless trials, annoyances and setbacks – the Lord is in this place. In the middle of our weariness, when all of our own strength has run out and we are all but ready to lay our head on the hard stone floor and call it a day – the Lord is in this place.

We have had our share of weariness this year. Emergency travel and hospital stays and plenty of losses and goodbyes. We have had our share of the trivial annoyances and interruptions that crop up, too. Things that shouldn’t make me clench my teeth in anger but do. And repeatedly God has brought me to the very end of myself, the place where I slump on the ground tired enough to sleep on a stone.

Remember Psalm 119? Did you know that word “blessed” literally translates to the word happy? We can be happy in God, not because we are righteous or blameless, but because of the ladder, Jesus. Because God came down to get us and gave Jesus as the bridge, the ladder back to Him. We can be happy, even in the desert place, because He who is always working will always fulfill His promises to us.

And so how do we become the Jacobs, those who sit without hesitation and say, “surely the Lord was in this place even when I was not aware of it.” And how do we go a step further and become the Pauls, those who are aware of the presence of God even in the midst of the hardship, whether hardship looks like petty irritations that spark a reaction too big or outright crisis that leaves us gasping for spiritual breath?

I want to be the kind of person who names this place, even the hardest place, Bethel, House of God, because God is always here and Jesus is always our ladder and He will never leave and is with us wherever we go. Even in the desert. Even in the shipwrecks. Even today.

Week 27: God Who Triumphs Over Fear

Monday: Genesis 27

Tuesday: Matthew 27 and 28

Wednesday: Esther 4

Thursday: Acts 27

Friday: Genesis 27, Matthew 27 and 28, Ester 4, Acts 27


Monday, Genesis 27: 

It seems the very thing that Isaac and Rebekah prayed fervently for has become a cause of discord in their marriage. Isaac clearly doesn’t trust, or maybe has forgotten, the promise of the Lord that his older son would serve the younger and that the promise would continue through Jacob. Rebekah clearly doesn’t trust her husband’s leadership, either. This is such a clear example of the fall – man not trusting God, woman not trusting man (or ultimately God) – and is the cause of much hurt in marriages and other relationships today. Another possibility, also reminiscent of the fall, is that Isaac does remember the prophecy God gave, but so desires the indulgence of his favorite food that he ignores it completely.

Rather than speak to her husband in encouragement and remind him of the promise God had given them, Rebekah takes matters into her own hands, using deception to get her way. Yes, ultimately the will of God is achieved – it always is! But I wonder how much deep hurt could have been avoided, how much future family turmoil could have been prevented, if she had gone to her husband in humility and they had prayed fervently for God’s wisdom the way they had fervently prayed for children.

Here in this passage we see clearly that God’s purposes will always be accomplished, but our obedience can make the path a lot more joyful. Choosing to take matters into our own hands, or yielding to our own selfish desires, rather than trusting the promises of God, is sure to lead to hurt and dissension.

Isaac, much like Adam, chose to ignore the instruction of God and instead satisfy the desires of his flesh. While I’m not often tempted by “delicious game” I know that too often the desires of my flesh look shiny and appealing next to the commands of God.

Is there an area of life where your own desires are preventing obedience to God?

Rebekah on the other hand might be justified as wanting the things of God, but rather than trust Him, rather than approach her husband, she uses sin and deception to get her way.

Is there a situation in your life that you need to approach with humility and honesty, trusting God to reveal His will and His way? 

Tuesday, Matthew 27 and 28: 

They say it is the command Jesus spoke most often, and the most frequent command throughout the entire Bible – “Do not be afraid.” And yet the world around us, and my own heart, seem increasingly anxious. So how do we move this from a command on the pages of our Bible to a heart truth that truly changes the way we live? I’ll be honest. I am still working on this, wrestling to embody this, daily. I want to live unafraid. While it may seem simple, something that never fails to put my mind at ease is reciting, out loud or in my mind, memorized Scripture.

When I find myself scrolling haphazardly through my phone, my mind wandering to all the “what ifs” imaginable, when I wake up at 3 am and my mind begins racing with all that needs to be done in the morning, the Word of God is the only thing that can calm my anxious heart.

“Do not be afraid,” the angel said to the women at the tomb. “Do not be afraid,” our Savior whispers to us.

What are you afraid of?

This question, while simple, never fails to bring tears to my eyes. Because when I answer honestly, behind all my fears is a false belief that maybe God won’t be enough, maybe He won’t provide, maybe He won’t see us through this time.

Let’s memorize Psalm 91 together this week. It begins like this:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,

My God in whom I trust.”

Wednesday, Esther 4:

“And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” While God is not mentioned directly here, Esther and her people need His command more than ever – “Do not be afraid.” The Jews are facing complete annihilation and Esther is facing death if she doesn’t find favor with the King. I understand her pushback to her uncle – this is a monumental, seemingly impossible task.

And yet sometimes the impossible task before us – the difficult parenting, the relationship in need of restoration, the fight for the oppressed and marginalized, the sharing of the Gospel with an unbelieving friend – is the very Kingdom work that we are called to right here, right now. Here we are, for such a time as this.

What “impossible” task are you facing?

What fears are getting in the way of jumping into this task wholeheartedly?

Let’s follow Esther’s example. Are there some friends that you can call and invite to fast and pray with you as you do the next thing God is calling you to?

Thursday, Acts 27:

There it is again – Do not be afraid.

And did you see Paul’s response? I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.

And I wonder… Do I? Isn’t all my churning fear and worry just another way that my heart says that maybe it won’t be exactly as God has promised?

I am amazed at how long and arduous Paul’s journey has been. Both physically and literally he has been beaten down, crashed by the waves. And yet, he knows who God has been, and so he can rest assured of who God will be. Do I? Can I look back at all of life’s storms and see Him there with me? I can. And so, can I look at the storm ahead, though uncertain, and say with sure confidence that it will be exactly how God ordains it and that He will be with me every step of the way?

Paul breaks bread. He gives thanks. He believes in the God who will deliver them.

Think of some storms in your life that God has carried you through.

Give thanks for who He has been to you!

Now spend some time asking Him to remind you that He will deliver you through all of life’s storms, for He is the same yesterday, today and forever!

Friday Reflections

I can see the women with their eyes wide open as they tremble in front of the tomb.

They listen to the angel’s words – can it be? This, their greatest nightmare, the death of their friend and Savior, will be their greatest joy if what the angel says is true.

And I have always lingered long on those words in verse 8, “they hurried away from the tomb, terrified yet filled with joy.” Because so often this is me – definitely afraid of what is to come, and yet filled with awe to be in a position to have to trust Him in the first place.

I think of Esther as she calls for her friends and countrymen to pray and fast with her, and I imagine her trembling just like the women beholding the angel. Is it possible to be afraid of what obedience to God might bring and yet simultaneously giddy with anticipation because we remember all that God has done for us and believe that He will bring more good, even in the unknown, even in the storm?

Then, as they hurry away, they see Him. They see Him and they fall and grab ahold of His feet. And I imagine in that moment that all their fear disappeared and was replaced with only their joyful sobs as they clung to the real, live, tangible feet of Jesus. And He says it again, the angel’s command, His own, often-repeated command, “Do not be afraid; but go and tell my brothers… they will see me.”

Jesus doesn’t just take away our fear. He triumphs our fear with joy. He replaces our fear with purpose.

Just seconds after He reminds the women not to be afraid He gives them further instruction – go and tell my brothers they will see me. And isn’t it true for us, too, that often when we are most afraid, our eyes are most opened to see Him working? Often in the situations that feel the most like an earthquake or the eye of the storm we have to trust Him more than we have before, and thus experience His provision more than we have before.

We tremble. Because who wouldn’t tremble at the feet of the Savior? At just a glimpse of all He might have planned? But like Paul, we break bread – we remember what He has done for us. And we give thanks, because we can rest in His promises to us. As we trust, we are filled with joy and peace, we overflow with hope, just as it is promised. We know all He has done for us, and we know all that He has yet to do when He brings us into His kingdom.

Friend, whatever it is you are facing, do not be afraid. Whatever it is He is calling you to in obedience, rest assured – you will see Him! Go and tell the world of what He has done for us, for you! We can trust Him. And today, we REJOICE in Him!

Week 26: God Who Gives Us Courage to Stay

Monday: Genesis 26

Tuesday: Matthew 26

Wednesday: Esther 3

Thursday: Acts 26

Friday: Genesis 26, Matthew 26, Ester 3, Acts 26


Monday, Genesis 26:

Look at how graciously God provides for Isaac! Isaac has a decision to make – there is a famine in his land. Will he go down to Egypt? Will he stay even though all seems bleak? God instructs him to stay. It’s a choice that doesn’t make much sense by most standards. Why would you stay in a land with no food? Because the Lord asked you to. Isaac trusts God and does as God instructs him, and he is abundantly blessed. He plants and harvests a hundredfold that same year! God provides for him and his family, probably in ways he never could have imagined.

We can do what God asks of us. We can follow His instruction even when it doesn’t make sense to a watching world. He will always give us what we need for what He has called us to do.

Is there a difficult place where He is asking you to stay, to press in, to not grow weary, even if it doesn’t make much sense?

Hear Him whisper to you today, “I am the God of your father Abraham. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.”

Tuesday, Matthew 26:

This chapter is gutting and yet is so beautiful, our Savior, fully God and fully man, giving up His life for us. “Not considering equality with God something to be used to His own advantage” (Philippians 2) but laying it all down, for His Beloved, for His betrayer, for me, for you.

My words feel inadequate against the awe of this chapter. Jesus, calling the woman’s act of sacrifice beautiful. Jesus, giving thanks before He allows His body to be broken and His blood poured out for us. Jesus, serving the very one who would turn on Him. Jesus, planning to use the very one who would disown Him. Jesus, singing with His beloved just before asking the Father to please make another way. Jesus, obeying His Father in the hardest moments, for you. For me. Jesus.

Like the woman at Bethany, spend time today standing in awe of our Savior. Let the tears fall, if they come. There is no greater love than this.

Lord Jesus, may this never be just another story. May we always stand in awe of what you have done for us. May we never grow tired of this testimony, this outrageous love.

Wednesday, Esther 3

Haman seeks after one thing: his own honor and glory. I’ve been there. He shamelessly uses pride, flattery, and even bribery to get what he wants, and what he knows is wrong. Esther gives us several very straightforward examples of what it looks like to be the people of God and what it looks like to be an enemy of God.

The Jews, especially Mordecai, are a sharp contrast to Haman. They keep themselves “separate from the ways of the other peoples.” Isn’t this our call today? Isn’t this how we should live? Not conforming to the ways of the world around us but looking only to God and His word to inform our customs and our decisions? We are to live in the world but not to be of the world. We are to live with the people of the world but stand out among them because we have a joy, a peace, a confidence that is different because it is from Jesus.

Are there areas of your life where it is easier to seek your own glory and honor than to lift up others or to seek the glory of God?

Are there areas of your life where you are tempted to conform to the culture around you, even when it is in opposition to God’s Kingdom culture? (There are a lot of these for me and often they are subtle.)

Let this be your encouragement to live in the world but not of it, with the world but set apart. Ask the Lord to help you!

Thursday, Acts 26

Paul testifies again and again. He never tires of telling what God has done for him. How many times have we read this account so far in Acts? How many more times will we read it in other letters? What Jesus did for Paul doesn’t seem to ever get old or stale or boring for him. I so badly want this to be true of me.

Has the Gospel lost its luster in your life? Does it feel like the “same old story”?

I pray we would never tire of speaking of God’s goodness, both in our salvation and in the little details of our lives. I pray that we would never get over His goodness to us, that we would never stop boasting of who He is and what He has done for us!

Friday Reflections

I thought I was brave once. At 18 years old I decided to move across the ocean to a village in East Africa with a suitcase full of crayons and construction paper and a heart determined to change the world with the Gospel. I was bright-eyed and optimistic; I felt like Abraham, on the cusp of this exciting new adventure with the Lord, ready to go and do whatever He called me to in an exotic, foreign place. 

And yes, it is beautiful and brave to set off for a foreign land, to follow His calling into the new, the unknown, the exciting. But lean in close and I’ll tell you something else: sometimes the thing that is just as brave? To stay. To dig in where it seems old, familiar, and unexciting. To not grow weary in the good that He has placed right in front of you, right here, right now.

Early in my adult life God did a lot of big things. Together, we grew a big ministry and a big family in the beautiful place I now call home. He used that bright-eyed optimism, blind trust and often naivety in ways that I never could have imagined.

At the time, I did not know the beauty that would find me in a life poured out for Him, the joy of calling little ones “daughter” and pressing into Him to learn what courage really meant, the exhilaration of true and undefiled worship in a sea of people who did not speak the same language but worshiped the same God, the thrill of witnessing a life changed due to basic and simple provision of such things as medical care and nutrition assistance.

I did not know the pain that awaited me on the other side of the ocean, on the other side of humility where I would recognize just how little I had to offer. I did not know that I would carry the responsibility of looking into a mother’s face and telling her that her child was not going to live. I did not know that I would forge deep friendships with people imprisoned by addiction that I could not help them fight, no matter how I tried. I did not know that I would provide care, for months at a time, for people living with HIV, desperately begging God to spare their lives, only to later find myself holding their hands as they slipped into eternity with Him on the other side.

And I did not know that in the middle of much pain and grief and loss, I would experience a joy and a peace that far surpassed human understanding. The Lord would take the most dark and difficult places of my life and make them the places where I knew Him more intimately and deeply than I had ever fathomed possible.

Over the years of motherhood and ministry the “big” things got smaller and the loud things got quieter and as a family we settled back into a pattern of life that wasn’t quite so flashy, wasn’t quite so bold, wasn’t quite so exciting. I hung laundry on the line a lot more than I cared for the dying and I made huge pots of spaghetti and changed diapers and mediated sibling rivalries as my amazing team of Ugandan staff worked on the frontlines providing for and sharing the Gospel with our community. And on lonely nights I would tuck warm little bodies into bed and sit on the couch planning tomorrow’s spelling lesson and wonder what, if anything, I had accomplished that day.

And in the quiet, God whispered a secret: obedience is always the bravest.

He taught me that just as Mary of Bethany poured out her life’s savings in perfume over her beloved Savoir, my life poured out for Him was enough, even when no one was watching. This daily laying down of myself for my family, my neighbor, my community, was just as beautiful to the heart of God as any grand gesture or dramatic move.

I’ve wrestled as I have folded mountains of laundry with a longing to do something “bigger” for the Kingdom. I’ve wondered as I’ve chopped carrots and checked homework and wiped noses if this is what I am supposed to be doing for the Gospel. I’ve dreamt of something a little more bold, a little more adventurous, a little more exciting.

Isacc stays.

Paul shares his testimony again.

Jesus goes to the cross in obedience to the Father.

Jesus said of the woman who anointed Him in Matthew that wherever the Gospel was preached in the world, “what she has done for me will also be told.”

When I look at my children and ask myself what I want them to remember of me, what I hope that they will tell people when asked about their mother, all I want is them to picture me like that woman, all that I have poured out for Jesus, genuinely, quietly, without any fanfare, my tears of gratitude falling on His feet. I have spoken on big stages. I have built a “big ministry”. I have opened schools and I have lived in a foreign country, and I have written bestselling books. (Oh please hear my heart here, all and only by the grace of God.) But those are not the things I want to be said of me one day when I am gone. Those are not the images I want my children, my friends, and my community members to have of me one day. 

I want them to remember me here in the messy kitchen chopping that pile of carrots. I want them to remember me there curled up on the couch with my Bible. I want them to remember a warm smile when they walked in the door and a warm meal on a cold night. And most of all I want them to remember that in all of it, the big and the small, the miraculous and the mundane, my Joy was found in Jesus alone.

I want to be the one who stayed.

I want to be the one who shared about what God had done for her again.

I want to be the one who did the little things in obedience to the Father.

Friends, He might call you to something big and grand today. There are seasons for that. There are mighty works and growing ministries and miracles that are so far beyond what we can imagine. But also, He might call you to be right here. To grow those roots deep. To love extravagantly and not grow weary doing the good and the seemingly small right where you are with the people right in front of you.

And if He is, obedience is always the bravest.

Week 25: God Who Goes Before Me

Monday: Genesis 25

Tuesday: Matthew 25

Wednesday: Esther 2

Thursday: Acts 25

Friday: Genesis 25, Matthew 25, Ester 2, Acts 25


Monday, Genesis 25:

For 20 years, Isaac and Rebekah prayed for sons, and God answered their prayers and His promise to keep Abraham’s lineage going. But when their sons are finally granted to them, will they continue to believe in the promises of God? God reveals to Rebekah that the older one will serve the younger one, which was certainly a reversal of cultural expectations. Can they believe that God will indeed go before them?

Are you having trouble clinging to some of the promises of God in your life?

List them out here and then look up scripture to remind yourself of the truth of His word. You may not see if yet, but God is always a God who fulfils His promises to His people!

Tuesday, Matthew 25: 

There He is again, throughout all of time, throughout all of history, going before us, preparing a place for us! Are we ready? Are we stewarding what He has entrusted us in such a way that if He came back today we would gladly run into His arms knowing that we have used our time wisely here on earth and are ready for new life in eternity? I don’t believe this text is meant to be scary, but certainly an exciting encouragement to live every day ready, fully trusting Him, and fully desiring to use each gift, each breath, each moment He has given us for the glory of His name!

How would you live today if you knew Jesus was coming back tomorrow?

We don’t know, and the Bible makes it clear that no one can know the exact time Jesus will return. This should encourage us and spur us on to love and serve. How glorious it will be on that day to be among His sheep!

Wednesday, Esther 2: 

Esther. The only book of the Bible with no mention of God and yet God’s divine favor is clearly with Esther, Mordecai, and the Jews. Can we believe for a second that the events in this book are just happenstance as they position Esther and Mordecai in the perfect position to later save their people from impending destruction? There will be no signs and wonders, no blatant miracles, and yet it is so evident that God is working every little detail together for the bigger story, the salvation of His chosen people.

Even when God is most hidden, He is here. Even when we cannot see Him, when there are no signs or wonders or miracles, He has a purpose. And that purpose is always to deliver His people, to draw them to Himself.

Is there an area of your life where you don’t see or feel God at work?

Can you believe He is in the details, orchestrating all events, big and small, for the good of His people (you!) and His own glory?

Thursday, Acts 25:

Unlike Isaac and Rebekah, Paul is sure of God’s promise to bring him to Rome to share the Gospel. Still being deterred, still being questioned, still being tried like a criminal. But Paul, faithful and true, unwavering in his trust of God and God’s plan for his life continues to share his same Gospel boldly.

I want this kind of faith! I want to finish the race in this way! If Jesus comes back tomorrow, I want Him to find me here faithfully serving my people, boldly sharing His Gospel, firmly clinging to His Word.

Lord Jesus, make us a faithful people, a people who shine like stars in the universe, holding firmly to the Word of life. Lord make us people confident that you have gone before us and give us the grace and strength to live as those just passing through, on our way to our heavenly home. We love you. Amen!

Friday Reflections:

Sometimes I think about my early days in Uganda. I lived with the most generous host family who spoke barely any English in a room smaller than my old closet. Sometimes, the loneliness took my breath away. But sometimes the beauty did, too. I think about standing on the first acre of property I purchased here, just a plot of grass with a mango tree right in the middle, the tree we would gather under for years to sing praise and study God’s Word as a community.

I had no idea.

Sometimes I think even further back to that little girl kneeling in front of a hard church pew having swallowed down bread and wine, overcome with gratitude to Jesus and bowing her head to ask God to use her little life for something, anything that would build the Kingdom. I remember the rough, pinkish upholstery on the kneeler.

I had no idea.

I think of young Esther. We don’t know much of her background other than she lost both parents at a young age, something no child should ever endure. She has grown up in exile as a minority, likely facing hardship and mistreatment. There she is in the middle of many women subjected to all kinds of beauty treatments and diets, hiding her true identity as she awaits being taken before the king.

I bet she had no idea.

No idea she would indeed become Queen, not just of her own people but of a foreign people as well. No idea that God had orchestrated all these events – the removal of queen Vashti, Esther’s appointment as the queen instead, Mordecai’s overhearing of a plot against the king, the records that wouldn’t be referenced for years – not just to save her, not just to save her family, but to save her people, God’s people. I bet she had no idea that all of these things were in fact God orchestrating the salvation of His chosen people. 

For thousands of years throughout the Old Testament, God has preserved a remnant of the Jewish people no matter how much they rebel or disobey. God’s saving work in and through Abraham’s descendants would have come to an end if God had not been in every little detail of Esther’s life and story. God’s people have endured thousands of years of persecution and hardship, and now an enemy seeks to completely destroy them.

And yet, God goes before.

I think of Esther, young and newly queen, reporting the officer’s plot to the king and giving credit to Mordecai. She was probably just trying to do the right thing, to protect her husband and maybe even herself. She may have thought it was “by chance” that Mordecai “just happened” to overhear the guard’s plans. And maybe many years later it would be “just by chance” that the king would be unable to sleep and “just happen” to ask to read the exact place in the Chronicles where it had been recorded that Mordecai saved his life.

But we serve an intentional God, a God who goes before. A God who doesn’t let things happen by chance but uses even the seemingly small to bring about His purposes.

I get teary now to think of it, in those early days in a foreign country, how I had no idea. But God knew. I had no idea of how He would answer my little heart’s cry to live a life poured out to Him, of how He would bring rich community and fellowship into my loneliness, of how one day hundreds and thousands of people of all ages and tribes would hear His word preached there on that plot of grass. I feel overwhelmed and small and undeserving as I let the realization sink in – He always knew. He had always already gone before me.

He knew when I made small steps to move here and a man from my hometown “just happened” to be visiting and when little girls’ lives “just happened” to intersect with mine that He was building my family. He knew when I walked that acre of grass with the mango tree that it would be one of hundreds of acres I would walk falling more deeply in love with this country and community each day. He knew one day I would look down the hill at that same little mango tree and it would be surrounded by classrooms, a chapel, and a clinic, surrounded with children and parents laughing and eating and just enjoying one another.

And He knows right now as I go about my day that all the other little things that just happen to crop up might indeed be shaping our future, the future He has for us, the one we can’t see yet, but we can rest in certainty that it will bring us to Him.

And you might be where I am now, looking at your family and your ministry and your very life standing in awe of the way that He worked it all together. Or you might be closer to little orphaned Esther, little me on the church-kneeler asking God to do something with her life, young me in a foreign place lonely and yet hopeful for what might come. And that’s ok. Even when we can’t see it yet, God goes before us. He is going before you now, Beloved. He is making a way. He is going to take all these pieces and He is going to weave them all together beautifully into the story He is writing.

One day we’ll look back and we will know with certainty that He has always, already gone before us.

Week 24: God Who Knows the End From the Beginning

Monday: Genesis 24

Tuesday: Matthew 24

Wednesday: Esther 1

Thursday: Acts 24

Friday: Genesis 24, Matthew 24, Ester 1, Acts 24


Monday, Genesis 24

How often am I tempted to lower my standards, my expectation of what God will do because it just doesn’t seem possible? But Abraham is unflinching. Surely by now, he knows God will indeed provide exactly what he and his family need. Surely by now, I should, too.

Abraham’s trust seems to be contagious, because his servant, who doubted just verses before now prays a very specific prayer to the Lord. And God answers, even before He was finished speaking. We shouldn’t be surprised. This is always who God is – providing exactly what we need. Now, I am not saying He will always give us exactly what we ask for, and I am not saying He will always do it instantly as He did in this story. But what would it take for us to have the trust of Abraham, the trust of the servant, to lay it all out there to God believing He hears and He will give in accordance to His will? I like that God does not just provide for Abraham and Isaac in this story, but for the servant as well. He gives the servant what he needs to serve his master. And He does the same for us.

What do you need to ask God for more of in order to serve Him well?

Meditate on Philippians 4:19 today, “And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus.”

Tuesday, Matthew 24:

“The one who stands firm to the end will be saved,” Jesus says. What an amazing picture, the Gospel of the Kingdom going out to all nations. It both fills me with awe and reminds me: we are not done yet. We are not done preaching the Gospel to each other and to the world. With our words, with our lives, with our love. May we stand firm to the end!

Who can you share the Good News with today?

Lord Jesus, make us ready. Make us a people standing firm in Your love, Your strength, Your grace. When You come on that day we have all confidence that we will see Your radiance and Your glory and that You will gather us to Yourself. Oh, what joy! Lord, may we not grow weary. May we not grow lukewarm in our love and passion for You. Make us faithful and wise servants until that day when every knee bows before You. Hallelujah!

Wednesday, Esther 1

A.W. Tozer wrote, “Our choices reveal the kind of person we are, but there is another side to the coin. We may, by our choices, also determine what kind of person we will become.” This gives great hope to me that my past mistakes and choices do not have to define me. I doubt Queen Vashti understood the far-reaching consequences of her choice not to come when her husband summoned her. The author doesn’t really reveal her motive. Maybe it was rebellion or defiance; maybe it was a conviction not to be paraded around for show. Either way, her choice set into motion a series of events that would alter the future for many.

Our choices have weight. They have consequences. And today, with the help of the Holy Spirit in Christ, we have the opportunity to determine what kind of person we will become, one small choice at a time.

What choices lie in front of you today?

Ask the Holy Spirit to lead all your steps with wisdom and discernment.

Commit James 1:5 to memory over the next several days, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

Thursday, Acts 24:

There are times when we are tempted to manipulate the truth or our circumstances because we don’t quite trust that God will come through for us. But Paul tells the truth when falsely accused, trusting God alone to be His protector. For years, he refrains from offering bribes, using flattery, or altering the truth even a little bit because He knows that God is His defense.

Is there an area of your life where you feel like you need to come to your own defense?

Have you ever been tempted to manipulate the truth, bribe, or coerce to ensure a certain outcome?

Let’s ask God today to increase our faith in Him alone. Only HE can secure our future and our eternity.

Friday Reflections

In Isaiah 46:10, God declares that He “makes known the end from the beginning.” He says, “My purpose will stand… what I have said, that I will bring about; what I have planned, that I will do.” I have been thinking about this a lot lately, especially as we have passed through several seasons of lots of unknown. It seems we are always either at the beginning of something or right in the middle.

There is a reason that Paul and the writer of Hebrews repeatedly refer to life as a race, a journey requiring perseverance, strength, and above all, the help of the Spirit. But when we dedicate our next steps, our choices, our decisions, our very lives to the Lord, He will give us what we need. He will equip us for what is ahead, all the while holding the end in His loving hands.

Beloved, if you are still reading this, it’s not the end yet.

God isn’t finished yet.

I think of Paul waiting for two years in prison, having already received the promise that he would testify about Christ in Rome. I wonder if there were days when he wondered how he would get there. I think of Abraham, insistent that God will bring Isaac a spouse from his own country and family. I think of myself in my own seasons of uncertainty, when I cannot yet see what God might be trying to accomplish, when it doesn’t quite appear like God’s plans, in fact, are for my good.

I can sit in my own “middle” places and look at my little tribe feeling at a loss, overwhelmed, unequipped. But God knows the end from the beginning. And if this is the place He has called me, if these are the people He has given me, if this is the thing He has put in front of me, He will equip me for the next step, the next right choice, even if the path ahead is hazy.

In the midst of a very dark day recently, a dear friend prayed, “God, help us remember that it ends with us with You.” I clung to that phrase for days.

It ends with us with Him.

Paul can tell the truth because he knows where it will end for him. Abraham can trust that God will fulfill His promise to make him a great nation, because he knows where it will end for him.

And we can stand firm because we know where it will end for us.

Even in the middle of the darkest circumstances, even when we cannot see ahead of us on a winding and hazy path, even when it looks like no good could possibly come from this, we can trust, we can hope, we can believe. Because we know what awaits us. We know that this is not all there is.

We know this all ends with us with Him.

Week 23: God Who Prepares a Home For Us

Monday: Genesis 23

Tuesday: Matthew 23

Wednesday: Nehemiah 13

Thursday: Acts 23

Friday: Genesis 23, Matthew 23, Nehemiah 13, Acts 23


Monday, Genesis 23:

Abraham calls himself a foreigner and a sojourner. Even after many years of living in Canaan, it isn’t fully “home.” 

Abraham knows a greater truth, that he “looks forward to the city with foundations, a city whose designer and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:9-10). And even as Abraham looks forward to his secure eternity, he lives in such a way that the people around him clearly see and know that he has a special relationship with God, that He has been set apart by Him.

We, too, are foreigners in this land. We will never be fully at home on this earth, and we shouldn’t be. We were designed for that same city as Abraham, the one where we get to behold the face of God forever. Does this change the way we live? I sure hope so. I pray that like Abraham, all those around us, whether they know our God or not, know that we love Him by the way that we live.

Is your focus today on your earthly home or your eternal one?

How does shifting your gaze to Heaven, our forever home, impact the way you live today?

Tuesday, Matthew 23:

There is firm instruction here from Jesus that cannot be ignored. I am convicted that so often I seek my own recognition, my own respect, my own honor, rather than His. I am humbled today by this call to exalt our Lord and our neighbor above ourselves. And, I am in awe of His mercy! Even in the midst of a strong warning, He longs to gather His people – us! – to Himself! He longs for us much like a mother hen desires to gather her chicks to herself and protect them underneath the safety of her wings.

His love for us, even while we were still sinners, is far beyond our comprehension.

Are there areas in your own life where you are seeking your own recognition, glory, or respect?

How can you make a conscious decision to value others above yourself?

How can you elevate the importance of God and promote His glory and respect?

Wednesday, Nehemiah 13:

Again and again we watch Israel fall back to her old patterns of sin. I wish I couldn’t relate. Does Nehemiah feel guilty as he catches his people in sin? Does he feel responsible? His plea is that God would remember him and show mercy as he reinstates the rules and repents on behalf of his community. But just as in yesterday’s text, there is God’s mercy, even amidst the direst of situations.

In verse 2, in parenthesis and easy to miss, it says this: “Our God, however, turned the curse into a blessing.” This is who He always is. This is what He always does. We will see Him save Israel time and time again though she continues to sin. And it is true for us, too, though we mess up and turn away and do the unspeakable, God in His mercy reaches for us, blesses us, gathers us to Himself. He really does make beauty from ashes. He does not forsake His people, nor will He ever.

Is there a habitual sin that you need to repent of today? 

Lord, have mercy on us according to your great love.

Take heart, dear one. God’s desire is still to bless you, still to call you into a relationship with Him.

Thursday, Acts 23:

In the midst of what probably looks and feels like the end, God assures Paul that it isn’t. And as we have seen over and over again in Genesis and throughout the rest of Scripture, when God promises, He keeps His promise. Paul will continue to testify about Jesus. And even when it looks bleak, God continues to equip Paul – giving him all he needs to accomplish His purposes, thwarting all the plans of Paul’s enemies (even at the last minute!), pouring out His favor through unlikely officials.

The same is true for us today! He has purpose for us and nothing – not persecution or opposition, not sickness or broken relationships or lost jobs or deep hurt – will stand in His way.

What in your life seems to be keeping you from what God has called you to?

Spend some time in prayer over that today. Believe that He who promised will accomplish His purposes in your life!

Friday Reflections

If I am honest, “home” is a topic that causes both my greatest delight, and over the years, more than a bit of angst. I think we are designed to long for a home – a safe place, a shelter from the harsh world, a place where we are nourished and comforted and can grow with those we love.

All my favorite memories are of “home” – whether gathered around my parents’ kitchen island laughing with family, or walking through the front doors of my own home to my children’s mess and chaos and laughter. I can imagine our children, crowded on the couch for a movie, holding hands in prayer around our giant farm table, running through the kitchen as I stir a big pot of soup for dinner, swinging from the trees in the backyard. I hope and pray their favorite memories will be of home, too – their favorite meal, the smoke of a bonfire on a hot, July evening, laughter too late into the night.

I love spending time and intentionality making our home comfortable and functional, a safe space that people feel welcome and safe, a place that even our grown children will want to come back to for years to come.  I don’t think there is anything wrong with that; we are called to love our people and this is one way we do it.

Yet over the years, as my children have grown and many of them have moved halfway across the world to a foreign country, as my parents have aged and family events have taken place far from where I live, I have waffled a bit. Is this truly where we should be making our home?

I resonate with Abraham when he calls himself a foreigner and a sojourner, even after 60 years of living in Canaan. No matter how long I live in Uganda, there is always more to learn, I am always just barely scratching the surface of cultural understanding. And yet, when we visit the United States, we feel like foreigners there, too, hardly knowing how to keep up with a culture we have grown unaccustomed to. There is a sigh of relief when we walk back through our own front door and crawl into our own beds, but there is always a twinge of sadness about leaving our parents, brothers, sisters, and daughters on the other side of the ocean.

When I am here, there is always a subtle longing for that home, our people. And when we spend time there, there is always a longing for this home and all the people we adore in this place. The more He moves us around this world, the more and more I know the truth that I think Abraham, Nehemiah, the disciples, and Paul knew deeply – home isn’t really a place we will ever find here.

Hebrews 11 says Abraham went out, “not knowing where he was going.” By faith, it says, he went to a foreign land and lived in tents, “because he was looking forward to the city whose designer and builder is God.” It continues, “[Abraham] acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on this earth”…”they desired a better country, that is a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God for He has prepared for them a city.”

            He has prepared for us a city.

            He has prepared for us a home.

Abraham knows it as he humbly asks the Hittites to sell him a piece of land on which to bury his wife. Nehemiah knows it as he rebuilds a city and then begs the Lord to have mercy as its people continue in rebellion. Paul knows it as he declares that to live is Christ and to die is gain. The rest of the kings and prophets mentioned in Hebrews 11 know it as they endure all persecution and hardship “so that they might rise again to a better life.”

So friends, make your home. Fill it with memories and the people you love. Fill it with praise and laughter, things that are so glorifying to the Lord. But hold all loosely. And when your kids move out or your besties move away, when you take a new job or move to a new city, when you are just feeling a bit displaced even in your own home, be reminded: we are citizens of a better country, a heavenly one.

Let’s be present to wherever we find ourselves while remembering that we are truly just passing through, on our way to that glorious place that will be forever.

Read Hebrews 11 over the weekend and be filled with encouragement by all those who have gone before us, who have forsaken all else to race toward this Heavenly home.

Shift your eyes to Heaven, beloved. This is all temporary, but our life with Him is forever.

Week 22: God Who Provides

Monday: Genesis 22

Tuesday: Matthew 22

Wednesday: Nehemiah 12

Thursday: Acts 22

Friday: Genesis 22, Matthew 22, Nehemiah 12, Acts 22


Monday, Genesis 22: 

I can’t ever read Genesis 22 without tearing up. Abraham’s obedience is astounding. So is His trust in God, and the certainty with which he says, “God will provide the lamb,” in the face of an unfathomable situation. I long for this kind of trust and certainty of who God is.

And then, even more amazing than the obedience of Abraham is the provision of God. It gives me chills thinking about that ram in the thicket. Because I know that God is still the God of that kind of provision. He provided Christ, the promised Lamb, the sacrifice needed to redeem me. And if He can provide that, then surely I can trust and believe He will provide everything I need.

Spend some time today reflecting on Romans 8:32 – “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

If He has provided His Son, the ultimate sacrifice, the greatest gift, He will not fail to provide what you need in this season, friend. He doesn’t always give us what we want, but we can rest securely knowing He will provide exactly what we need for our good and His glory – every single time.

Tuesday, Matthew 22:

Our God prepares good things for His children! Because we are His, we will receive an invitation to the wedding feast. And the very best way to express our gratitude for this promise is to love the Lord and to love others. This is the sum total of what He wants from us and what He wants for others here on earth – love. All the commandments point back to this. We don’t love so we can find favor with God, we love because we have found favor with God, and living in His grace gives us what we need to love sacrificially in big ways and in little everyday ways.

Spend some time today praising Jesus for your invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb in eternity.

How does this knowledge equip you to better love Him and love others?

Wednesday, Nehemiah 12:

If the wedding feast doesn’t give us a clear enough picture of Heaven – here’s another one. These priests and Levites are people who have devoted their whole lives to God and His people. And here they are, named. They each have a place and they each give praise to God and respond to each other’s praises to God – what a picture of the Kingdom! This is what Heaven will be, a place prepared for each individual, each known and loved by God, each responding to one another in praise, worshipping together with one voice. They joyfully dedicate all they have done to the Lord who has provided for them, who has made it all possible. What a glorious celebration!

Are you cultivating this kind of Kingdom culture and experience here on earth as it is in Heaven?

Practice today sharing your praise of God out loud with friends, family or neighbors. Respond in praise as they share theirs. Worship together, laugh together. This is a little glimpse of eternity!

Thursday, Acts 22:

I love Paul’s testimony, and even more, I love the boldness with which he shares it. He doesn’t share with shame or guilt, but as a clear indication and proof of what God can do with a life turned toward Him.

God has chosen us – you! – no matter your past, no matter your guilt or shame, to know His will and to see the Righteous One, Jesus! If we know this good Father, who provides us His Son and all other good gifts, how can we not tell the world?

Are there parts of your story that you are ashamed of?

How can those be a testimony to the goodness and provision of God that encourages others?

Friday Reflections:

I already mentioned that I love the story of Abraham and Isaac on Mount Moriah. Such a story of courage, obedience, and God’s clear provision.

The chapter starts by saying God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!”

“Here I am,” Abraham replied.

Then God said, “Take your son, your only son whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.”

The Scripture says that early the next morning, Abraham got up and loaded his donkey.

Can you imagine? There doesn’t seem to be any argument here. He just loaded up his donkey? I don’t know about you, but I am certainly not this quick to respond when God asks something of me, and I especially don’t think I would be if He was asking for my child.

Can you imagine the pain and confusion of Abraham as he loads his donkey with firewood? As he treks up the pebbly mountain with his beloved son walking beside him? This is the son whom he prayed for. This is the son that God Himself promised to him, to make him a great nation. He had promised an everlasting covenant to this son and his descendants. And now He would take him away? 

And yet, faithfully, courageously, he loads up that donkey and he climbs the mountain.

Have you ever been there? Looking at your own plans, the things you thought God had promised you and just wondering, “Why, Lord? How can this be good, Lord?”

Do you wish you had this kind of blind and crazy trust, this kind of resolute courage?

Me, too.

I envision Isaac plodding along next to his father, the firewood on his back. Genesis says that Abraham carried the knife and the fire, and I wonder if his hands trembled with the unknown, with the weight of the task that the Lord had asked of him.

Isaac is uncertain.

“The fire and the wood are here,” Isaac said, “but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?”

Abraham answered, “God Himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.”

I just can’t get over Abraham’s certainty. It is a bold claim he makes, seemingly unwavering, and he says it before he can even see any proof of it: God will provide the lamb. He seems so sure.

Do I believe this? That whatever the mountain is, no matter how steep or seemingly hopeless, though the pebbles slip under my feet as I trudge onward, God will provide? That no matter what I’ve been asked to sacrifice, God will provide? God will provide the strength, God will provide the grace, God will provide the way?

That’s courage, isn’t it? To look up at our mountains, whatever they are and trust Him and proclaim that God will be enough, because He will provide Himself.

Abraham builds his altar and piles it with wood. He binds his son there and reaches out his hand to slay him. His trust in God to provide a way out is unimaginable. And just as he lifts his hand, he hears a voice from heaven call his name, stopping him, instructing him to lay aside his knife.

 “And Abraham looked and there in the thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns.…”

Sometimes we feel like the one carrying the knife, climbing that mountain with our faces set against the wind and wondering all the long way why God would call us to this, how He could ask this thing of us.

Where is your Mount Moriah? Maybe it’s your church, your ministry, or just your family and your home life and you feel like you’ve hit a wall, a climb so steep, and you’re so exhausted, you aren’t even sure you want to do this anymore.  Or perhaps your Mount Moriah is your relationships – with your spouse or your children or your closest friends.  It’s lonely on this mountain road, trying to be faithful to what God is asking of you. What is God asking you to lay on the altar? 

Do you think it could be that what God is after most is our surrender? The laying down of your life and your plans and the opening of your hands to His? Could it be He doesn’t want your leadership skills or your productivity or your big plans as much as He wants you? Just you.

Maybe, the greatest courage is to lay it all down. To look up the mountain and tremble with fear but don’t let it stop you.  Do it anyway, knowing God’s way is better and that ultimately He will provide the very best – His Son, the sacrificial Lamb. God will give us a ram in the thicket.  He will give us Himself.    

Week 21: God, Our Well

Monday: Genesis 21

Tuesday: Matthew 21

Wednesday: Nehemiah 11

Thursday: Acts 21

Friday: Genesis 21, Matthew 21, Nehemiah 11, Acts 21


Monday, Genesis 21: 

The Word says The Lord was gracious to Sarah to do what He had promised. Even when she is certain it will never happen – a son.  And how much more gracious to us, to give us His Son, just as He promised! Just when we are tempted to despair, a well, a place of refreshment – Jesus.

How often do I laugh like Sarah, not believing that His promises could be possible and yet they are? How often do I despair like Hagar, allowing myself to believe that I do not have what I need to move on, and yet He provides?

Gently He calls to me, “Do not be afraid.” He has heard us, He has seen us, He has done what He has promised and He has provided His son.

Are there places in your life where you are doubting God or doubting that He will come through?

How can His fulfillment of His promises in Scripture, most importantly His fulfilled promise to send the Messiah, encourage you today that He will fulfill all His other promises to us?

Tuesday, Matthew 21:

We begin today with Jesus fulfilling prophecy, the very proof that God keeps His promises, Jesus Himself the very best promise God kept. And even until the very last minute, Jesus so desires the people to understand, the grace of God desiring all to come into the Kingdom. There are hard truths here for the Pharisees, for those who would not accept His message. But there is a great truth here for you and me – apart from Him, I know that I am a Pharisee. I know that my tendency is to be like the son who says he will do it but doesn’t, to be lacking in fruit like the fig tree, to be as selfish as those selling in the temple. Can you identify? 

We need a Savior and so we cry out, “Hosanna! Save us!” And in His amazing grace, He does!

Spend some time today examining your heart for places where selfish ambition may have gotten in the way of humility, where distraction or disobedience has caused you to remain unfruitful, or where you have obeyed with lip service and not with your heart. Repent as He reveals these things to you.

Now REJOICE! He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord, who saves us from our sin and will bring us into eternity with Him forever!

Nehemiah 11:

I’ll be honest, it was a bit difficult for me to pull encouragement from another list of names, but I keep coming back to the truth that we are all necessary in the plans of God. Here, Jerusalem is finally rebuilt, but it is still weak and vulnerable without enough people living there. Verse two says some people had to volunteer or willingly offer to live in Jerusalem, suggesting that there was some sacrifice involved. Some would have been leaving their homes, their farms, their families. But their sacrifice was accomplishing something bigger, something better – unity in the community of God’s people.

Is there something you are being called to sacrifice for unity in the Body of Christ? Maybe it is something tangible, but often for me it is my own pride, selfishness, or comfort. Maybe you can relate?

Spend some time today asking God to give you a heart that is ready to joyfully sacrifice for the sake of the Body of Christ.

Acts 21:

Sometimes, I cannot believe that Paul kept going. Uproar after uproar, persecution after persecution, one tearful goodbye after another, suffering upon suffering. And yet, he carries on. The only way this is possible must be that he remembers the grace of God who saved him. Paul describes himself as the worst of sinners, but rather than despair this only strengthens his resolve to see other sinners come and receive the grace and healing that Paul himself has experienced, at any cost. 

Even in the midst of persecution, Paul asks for permission to share the Gospel with the crowd. How can this encourage us to testify to God’s grace even in the midst of our own hardship?

Only one thing can keep us persevering through suffering – Jesus. His grace, His strength, His presence with us. Can you testify to His goodness today, no matter what you are facing?

Friday Reflections

There is grace here.

But we have to choose to see it.

There is joy here.

But sometimes I am too focused on my own agony that I am blinded by what is right in front of me.

Genesis doesn’t say God made a new well appear. It says He opened Hagar’s eyes to see it. And then just a short walk away she filled up her skin with water for her son.

Is it possible that in her pain and despair, Hagar assumes the worst – that God is not with her, that He will not help her, that God does not see her suffering – and that this perspective is what caused her to be blind to the well in front of her?

Is it possible that in my own trials or pain, I let that same lie sneak in – that God couldn’t possibly see me, that maybe this time God has left me or maybe this time will be the time that He does not come to my aid – and my eyes become so fixed on that lie that I am blinded to the grace and joy that is right in front of me, all around me, or perhaps just around the corner?

I need Him to open my eyes.

I remember watching my children and our dear friends jump around in a circle, singing loudly one evening after dinner. Our friends were living with us temporarily because they had just lost their mother. It had been an extremely painful season, one where we begged for healing and miracles and God answered in a different way. I remember watching them jump, the sound of their laughter filling up our tiny house. The words dropped into my spirit as if straight from the Lord, there is joy here.

From an outside perspective, maybe there shouldn’t have been. Their mom, my friend, had just died. My own children, whose laughter rang loud in this moment, had also lost parents in similar fashions at different times in their lives. There were many days where it felt like a desert, where I thought grief might take all of us under. And the momentary laughter didn’t mean that the grief wasn’t there, it didn’t take the sorrow away, but in that moment I saw there was joy there, too. No matter how hard it got, we would still have joy, and He would give us eyes to see it.

I scribbled it on the journal always laying open on the counter:

This is what I want them to remember: there was joy here, too.

Yes, it was hard. Yes, there was pain. Yes, there were long seasons in the desert. But His grace didn’t leave. 

And this has remained true through all our seasons. We’ve walked through several hard ones. In fact just a few months ago we found ourselves in the midst of impossible grief all over again. There were nights where I felt like we were wandering in the desert, water skins and hearts depleted. There were nights when we couldn’t see the way through, just barrenness stretching in all directions and me crying to God that I couldn’t watch my child suffer like this any longer.

But I have been in the desert enough times before that it doesn’t take me too long to ask the Lord to open my eyes. 

Beloved, the well is there. Here. Our well is Jesus. His grace, His joy, they never run out. But we have to choose to see it. We have to ask Him to open our eyes to His goodness right here in the middle of the desert. We need His grace like Hagar and Ishmael need water. And it doesn’t come from within.

Maybe you feel it, too, like you are here in the wilderness with your own empty water skin and if you don’t find some grace soon then you just won’t be able to keep going. It’s true. Without Him, we perish. God has to open our eyes to the well before we can drink from it. And He opens our eyes to the truth of His grace and goodness through our time in His Word.

Do you remember what Hagar called God last time she was in the desert? Back in Chapter 16, Hagar said to the Lord, “You are the God who sees me.” He is the God who sees us, and He is the God who makes us see.

When I forget that He is the God who sees me, I am blind. But when I, like Hagar, cry out to Him remembering His grace, He gives me eyes to see Him right here in the desert. He provides the well of grace in this moment – enough for today. He provides the well of joy in all circumstances – even the hardest. He provides the well of His goodness, even in the midst of this world’s pain.

Nehemiah knows it, and he keeps building. The disciples know it, and they keep following. Paul knows it, and he keeps testifying. We know it, let’s keep looking for it.

Genesis 1:20 says God was with the boy.

Make a list of the ways that you see God – glimpses of His grace and joy today.

What if we challenged ourselves to do this every day for the next few weeks? I bet you’d be surprised how long the list gets, and how looking for the good truly changes our wilderness into places of His grace and provision.

Week 20: God, Our Guide

Monday: Genesis 20

Tuesday: Matthew 20

Wednesday: Nehemiah 10

Thursday: Acts 20

Friday: Genesis 20, Matthew 20, Nehemiah 10, Acts 20


Monday, Genesis 20: 

God can use even seemingly strange and unlikely circumstances to bring glory to Himself and blessings to His people. God speaks to those who listen attentively to His voice, and He protects those who are seeking Him.

God knew the intention of Abimelech’s heart and so He kept him from sinning.

Do you ever get stuck in a place of guilt over sin you’ve already repented of? I know I do. While repentance is a good and necessary part of our relationship with the Lord, we are not called to live in guilt and sorrow after we have confessed and repented. In Christ, we are forgiven and set free!

If there is past sin that is still haunting you, give it to the Lord today. Rest in knowing that He sees the intention of your heart and has forgiven you in Jesus!

Tuesday, Matthew 20: 

Again His grace, covering us all, those who have been faithful for their whole lives are welcomed into the Kingdom right alongside those who turned at the very last moment. What mercy!

I am struck by the picture of the landowner, going out into the streets and calling all he sees to come do the work. Clearly, the landowner represents The Lord in this parable, but I want my life to be spent this way also – calling others to come into the Kingdom, calling others to come and see what God has done for us, calling others to come and put their hands to the work that has eternal reward.

In what ways are you spending your life calling others into the Kingdom?

If that question is hard to answer, in what ways could you start calling others into the Kingdom of God?

Ask God to open your eyes, as He did for the blind men, to opportunities around you to invite others into His Kingdom.

Wednesday, Nehemiah 10: 

This long list of names gives us a pretty clear idea that the entire community was wholeheartedly committed to this covenant with God. The whole community, priests, Levites, leaders and ordinary lay people essentially promise to keep the entire Mosaic law, and they are very serious about it. Even as I read this I thought, “these are a lot of rules to keep… there is no way I could keep them.” And, of course, if we know any of Israel’s history, we know they don’t keep them, they can’t keep them, at least not perfectly. It is impossible to read this and not be astounded by the grace of Jesus who redeems us, not just even though we can’t keep the rules, but because we can’t keep the rules. Because no matter how hard I try, though I might commit to it with all my might or even sign my name to prove my dedication, I cannot perfectly follow the law and I deserve death because of it… but Jesus. Jesus takes the punishment I deserve, you deserve, even these signatories deserve on Himself and gives us life instead!

Rejoice today in the free gift of Jesus!

Another takeaway for me in this passage was that the sheer quantity of names here (84, over half that are not mentioned anywhere else) highlights something else we have seen often in Ezra and Nehemiah – it is not just the great leaders, but the ordinary people as well, who are essential to accomplishing the will of God and a part of His redemptive plan.

The things you have to do today may feel small, especially if you are tempted to compare your life with someone else’s life or ministry, but YOU are essential, vital in accomplishing the purposes of God!

Thursday, Acts 20:

Paul, Luke, and their companions are hopping all over the globe it seems, preaching the Gospel, performing miracles, and even raising the dead! Though this life came with much hardship, I admire how little attachment they must have had to their physical possessions and earthly homes to be able to pick up and travel about as they did. In fact, verse 24 confirms this as he says to the Ephesians, “I do not account my life of any value… if only I may… testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

Oh, how I long to be able to truly say this – that my life is of no worth except to testify to the Gospel! Paul emphasizes to the Ephesians the word of His grace. His word gives us the hope and encouragement we need to live like this – less and less attachment to earthly things and more and more longing for heaven. His word gives us the assurance we need to be able to say as certainly as Paul, that it’s not our lives or our things that are precious, but the Gospel of Christ and our secure eternity with Him.

What earthly attachments might be standing in the way of us giving our “all” for the sake of the Gospel?

Can you, like Paul, say that your life is of no value in light of sharing Jesus with those around you? (I know that’s a loaded question! I, too, am not always sure I can confidently say this, but it certainly is a good goal to have at the forefront!)

Who can you share the Gospel with today? Who needs to hear the testimony of God’s amazing grace?

Friday reflections:

I got a message from someone recently: How do you know what God wants you to do next or where He wants you to go? How do you hear His voice?

I thought about it for a while. I wanted to give a really profound answer, something prescriptive with specific steps that might help this person discern the will of God. But I also wanted to give a really truthful answer, and as I thought about it the truth was this: Sometimes I just know. And sometimes, I don’t know.

And I really, really don’t like not knowing.

Sometimes God’s voice is loud and clear and we know exactly what to choose or where to walk. There is a clear right and a clear wrong and we will ourselves to choose the right way. But a lot more often, at least in my own life, there are two choices in front of us which seem equally good and we don’t necessarily hear the voice of God calling us into one or the other.

And while I don’t really like the not-knowing, while I still make the pros and cons list and still beg God to drop some kind of really obvious sign or speak audibly about what should come next, I am learning that the not-knowing seasons can become fertile soil for my heart to grow in trusting Him. And that doesn’t always happen in the seasons where I know (or really just think I know) what comes next. 

So yes, we do the things we know to do – we spend time with Him in the quiet and we read and internalize His word. So much of His purpose for our lives is found clearly there – in the quiet with Him and in His word – our purpose to love Him and love others and live lives that point others to the Gospel. We ask trusted friends and mentors to pray with us, and to speak wisdom into our decisions. We even make the pro and cons lists. But sometimes, we still don’t know, and that is ok. Sometimes we have to wait. And sometimes we have to make the next choice even while we don’t know yet and trust that if our heart’s desire is to honor God, He is going to use whatever we choose.

Just as with Abimelech, as we make our choices with a clear conscience and clean hands, God will guide us into what is next. He will not let us make a “wrong” choice if both options can be used to glorify Him. He will protect us and keep us as we choose our next steps with Him in mind.

By His amazing grace, His people are essential to accomplishing His redemptive plan.

And for our big God, just the desire to please Him, to follow Him, to make the next right choice is enough for Him to use to accomplish His purpose, His redemption, the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

When the blind men call out to Jesus, He asks them point blank: what do you want me to do for you? I think of this question as I look at these crossroad places of my life, where I can’t quite discern what the next right step might be, where there doesn’t seem like a “better” option. When I honestly ask myself this question, I know there is only one thing I truly, deeply want: more of Him. In Ephesians, Paul asks God to give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation so that you may know him better”

Not so that they chose the right thing. Yes, our choices are important and I don’t want to discredit that, but maybe when we are asking God to show us which choice to make next, He wants us to choose the one where we know Him better, where we spend our lives for others to know Him better, where we fall more deeply in love with Him.

Jesus opens the eyes of the blind men and they see and they follow Him. He opens our eyes, too, to see that He is all that we need, the hope of eternity. He sees the intentions of our hearts and He will continue to use us as we keep our eyes focused on Him.

Often our next right choice is just to seek Him, to trust Him in the waiting and the not-knowing, and He will guide us into what is next.