“Then God said to Jacob, “Get ready and move to Bethel and settle there. Build an altar there to the God who appeared to you when you fled from your brother, Esau.” So Jacob told everyone in his household, “Get rid of all your pagan idols, purify yourselves, and put on clean clothing. We are now going to Bethel, where I will build an altar to the God who answered my prayers when I was in distress. He has been with me wherever I have gone.” Genesis 35:1-3 NLT
Jacob’s family didn’t leave for Bethel until they threw away all of all their pagan idols. I imagine Jacob telling them not to pack the idols and try to hide them. What idols am I still holding onto? So many times I give them to God and take them back. It hinders me from moving forward to what God has for me next.
Jacob knew that God would be with him, just like he was before. If only I could remember that more often. I think that’s why it’s important to have “altars” in my life to remember all God has done. He was with me, even when I felt like he was far away. He was working when I couldn’t see it. It spurs on my faith for future unanswered prayers.
“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 NLT
I was talking to a friend’s daughter who is in the process of looking for a college. She wants to go to the same art college that I went to. As I was telling her about my experience there, I was remembering all of God’s goodness. It wasn’t the first college I went to. I transferred there from a Christian college. I was planning on commuting, but I needed transportation. God provided a car. As I stood in the art store on one of my first days there, I met a girl who was involved in a small Christian group on campus. God was showing me that I wasn’t alone. That he was intimately involved in my life. Reciting his faithfulness, gives me the hope that he is not finished with me yet. His plans are still good.
Fast forward 25 years or so later. And I am still asking Him what it looks like for this 43 year old mom of four to use her gifts. Trying to discipline myself to make it a priority. Sometimes it means becoming an intern at my church so that I catch up on skills that are foreign to me. And trusting God in the process. Remembering when I stepped out of my comfort zone before, gives me the courage to do it again.
Thank you Father for always meeting me where I am. Forgive me for when I doubt. I pray that my weaknesses would bring me closer to you. And that my faith would flourish (my one word this year). Amen.
“Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Luke 1:18-20 NLT
Zechariah’s response takes me back to a time in my life when I was having trouble having a baby. After two miscarriages I went to doctor after doctor to find out what was wrong. The wait seemed so long. Scientific answers were found. But, to this day, I wonder if it was God’s timing all along. I couldn’t imagine life without the four children he has blessed us with.
“In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, you will name him Jesus…Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” Luke 1:26-34 NLT
Mary was confused, but she responded in faith and not fear. Will I be able to look back at this new year and remember all the times I did something afraid? Will I be able to say that I was stretched out of my comfort zone, but trusted that God was with me? Recounting the mighty ways that he showed up in my life?
“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.” And evening passed and morning came, marking the first day.” Genesis 1:1-5 NLT
This passage is so familiar that I can lose the wonder of it. And the way he can be so interactly involved in my life, but so powerful at the same time.
Help me Lord, not to lose my awe of you. Thank you for new beginnings and fresh starts. A new year to see how you will work in my life. I pray that I never lose sight of you. Amen.
“But true wisdom and power are found in God; counsel and understanding are his.” Job 12:13 NLT
Job’s friends were trying to make sense of his suffering. Even though Job himself, didn’t understand, he pointed them to the one who he knew did. He knew where true wisdom could be found.
“O God, grant me these two things, and then I will be able to face you. Remove your heavy hand from me, and don’t terrify me with your awesome presence. Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to you, and you reply. Tell me, what have I done wrong? Show me my rebellion and my sin. Why do you turn away from me? Why do you treat me your enemy?” Job 13:20-24 NLT
There have been times in my life when my faith has been stretched and I wonder what God is doing. I can relate to Job, when I think that God’s silence means that I have done something wrong. But, I’m learning to lean in and trust in the waiting.
“Even a tree has more hope! If it is cut down, it will sprout again and grow new branches. Though its roots have grown old in the earth and its stump decays, at the scent of water it will bud and sprout again like a new seedling. “But when people die, their strength is gone. They breathe their last, and then where are they? As water evaporates from a lake and a river disappears in drought, people are laid to rest and do not rise again. Until the heavens are no more, they will not wake up nor be roused from their sleep. “I wish you would hide me in the grave and forget me there until your anger has passed. But mark your calendar to think of me again! Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death. You would call and I would answer, and you would yearn for me, your handiwork. For then you would guard my steps, instead of watching for my sins. My sins would be sealed in a pouch, and you would cover my guilt.” Job 14:7-17 NLT
I am thankful that I don’t struggle without hope. Even when things seem dark, I know that light is coming. Jesus is near. I grapple with Job’s questions and vulnerability. He didn’t have the knowledge of Jesus like I do. Yet, he still pressed in, when it would have been easier to fall away.
Help me to remember Lord, in times of silence, you are teaching me to depend on you. Thank you for friends who point me to you. Thank you for your word and your promises. Help me to praise you in the midst of suffering. Amen.
“Shout with joy to the Lord, all the earth! Worship the Lord with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the Lord is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation.” Psalm 100 NLT
“When the builders completed the foundation of the Lord’s Temple, the priests put on their robes and took their places to blow their trumpets. And the Levites, descendants of Asaph, clashed their cymbals to praise the Lord, just as King David had prescribed. With praise and thanks, they sang this song to the Lord: “He is good! His faithful love for Israel endures forever!” Then all the people gave a great shout, praising the Lord because the foundation of the Lord’s Temple had been laid. But many of the older priests, Levites, and other leaders who had seem the first Temple wept aloud when they saw the new Temple’s foundation. The others, however, were shouting for joy. The joyful shouting and weeping mingled together in a loud noise that could be heard far in the distance.” Ezra 3:10-12 NLT
Restoration has been a theme in my life for the past few years. I can understand the feeling of joy mixed with sorrow. The grief over what was and the hope for what will be.
These verses encourage me to…
Press On (the rebuilding of the new temple didn’t start until 50 years after the old one was destroyed).
Expect opposition. Satan is a very real enemy, who wants to take me down. (“The enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the exiles were rebuilding a temple to the Lord, the God of Israel…Than the local residents tried to discourage and frighten the people of Judah to keep them from their work. ”Ezra 4:1&4 NLT)
Anticipate what God is doing. Wait on him and be watchful. Listen to his voice. Even when things don’t look like I thought they would, know that he can be trusted.
“But the godly will flourish like palm tress and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon. For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house. They flourish in the courts of our God. Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green. They will declare, “The Lord is just! He is my rock! There is no evil in him!” Psalms 92:12-15 NLT
No one can stop the work that God has begun.
“But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT
Dear Father, thank you for your faithfulness. Thank you that you are working eveything for my good. That you forgive my sins. For your promise to always be with me. Amen.
Daniel gets visions that terrify him, images and meanings he doesn’t understand.
26 “This vision about the 2,300 evenings and mornings is true. But none of these things will happen for a long time, so keep this vision a secret.”
27 Then I, Daniel, was overcome and lay sick for several days. Afterward I got up and performed my duties for the king, but I was greatly troubled by the vision and could not understand it. (Daniel 8:26-27, NLT)
They are explained to him, and the end result, after all the struggle, is victory.
26 “After this period of sixty-two sets of seven, the Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing, and a ruler will arise whose armies will destroy the city and the Temple. (Daniel 9:26, NLT)
Psalm 91 proclaims the Lord’s presence and protection. Terrors, disease, deadly traps, the Lord says:
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
I will be with them in trouble.
I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
and give them my salvation.” Psalm 91:14-16, NLT
They mocked Jesus, slapped him, crowned him with thorns. Pilate knew enough to fear.
5 Then Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said, “Look, here is the man!”
6 When they saw him, the leading priests and Temple guards began shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”
“Take him yourselves and crucify him,” Pilate said. “I find him not guilty.”
7 The Jewish leaders replied, “By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”
8 When Pilate heard this, he was more frightened than ever. 9 He took Jesus back into the headquarters again and asked him, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave no answer. 10 “Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?”
11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” (John 19:5-11, NLT)
The love of the Lord and his victory are woven throughout the scriptures–the thread that breathed existence holds the world together. Forces that punish, manipulate, deceive are put in proper light. Battles waged on earth are fought also in heavenly realms. An Anointed One is killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing … taken down from a cross, wrapped in a cloth, and put in a tomb. It may have looked like an end, but the victory was and is always his.
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him. (Psalm 91:2, NLT)
“The place will be littered with corpses, and you will know that I alone am the Lord. “But I will let a few of my people escape destruction, and they will be scattered among the nations of the world. Then when they are exiled among the nations, they will remember me. They will recognize how hurt I am by their unfaithful hearts and lustful eyes that long for their idols. Then at last they will hate themselves for all their detestable sins. They will know that I alone am the Lord and that I was serious when I said I would bring this calamity on them.” Ezekiel 6:7-10 NLT
Sometimes the destruction is all I see. But, when I look up to God I have hope. He is merciful. He can use my brokenness to teach me to run to him.
“Then his disciples remembered this prophecy from the Scriptures: “Passion for God’s house will consume me.” But the Jewish leaders demanded, “What are you doing? If God gave you authority to do this, show us a miraculous sign to prove it.” “All right,” Jesus replied. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” “What!” they exclaimed. “It has taken forty-six years to build this Temple, and you can rebuild it in three days?” But when Jesus said “this temple,” he meant his own body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered he had said this, and they believed both the Scriptures and what Jesus had said.” John 2:17-22 NLT
Like the Jewish leaders, I don’t always understand what Jesus is doing. It can be hard to see past my hurts. The tearing down of my own life can be painful. There are unhealthy habits that took a long time to build. But, they don’t take long to tear down when I surrender to him. He promises to rebuild and restore. He breaths life into the dead areas in my life and makes them new. By His blood, I already have the victory.
“Because of the miraculous signs Jesus did in Jerusalem at the Passover celebration, many began to trust in him. But Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew all about people. No one needed to tell him about human nature, for he knew what was in each person’s heart.” John 2:23&24 NLT
Jesus knew that some would still betray him, even after seeing the miracles he did. They were caught up in the moment and their hearts wavered. Their trust didn’t run deep. It was fleeting.
Dear Father, I desire to remain faithful to you. Thank you for the promise to heal my broken heart and bind my wounds (Psalms 147:3). Thank you for your faithfulness. I give you the Glory. Amen.
“Zedekiah son of Josiah succeeded Jehoiachin son of Jehoiakim as the king of Judah. He was appointed by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. But neither King Zedekiah nor his attendants nor the people who were left in the land listened to what the Lord said through Jeremiah. Nevertheless, King Zedekiah sent Jehucal son of Shelemiah, and Zephaniah the priest, son of Maaseiah, to ask Jeremiah, “Please pray to the Lord our God for us.” Jeremiah 37:1-3 NLT
King Zedekiah’s heart wasn’t right before the Lord. He didn’t want to listen to what Jeremiah said. But, he wanted his prayers answered. How many times have I come before the Lord with the wrong heart? Feeling far from him. Knowing that I needed to ask for forgiveness. What a contrast to David’s humble plea…
“Help us, O God of our salvation! Help us for the glory of your name. Save us and forgive our sins for the honor of your name.” Psalms 79:9 NLT
Sometimes “Help” is the only word I can utter.
“Are any of you suffering hardships? You should pray. Are any of you happy? You should sing praises. Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. And if you have committed any sins, you will be forgiven.” James 5:13-15 NLT
I am amazed at all the prayers God has answered in my life. I look through old photos and pause to reflect on his goodness. A verse comes to mind, “Who am I Lord, that you have brought me and my family this far?” (2 Sam 7:18). But, still at times I forget all he has done. I get tired in the waiting.
“Elijah was human as we are, and yet he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops.” James 5:17&18
If it would have been three and a half days, I’m sure Elijah would have been grateful . But, I can imagine how elated he was after three and a half years. Did he ever want to give up hope? Maybe. But, he didn’t give up praying. What an example his faith is to me.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.” James 5:16 NLT
Dear Father, I praise you for who you are. Thank you for your faithfulness. How you care about my every need. Thank you for your promises and for the hope I have in you. Amen.