Let Me Lead

Today’s Reading: Exodus 35-40

IT WAS ALWAYS GOD’S PLAN TO LEAD HIS PEOPLE.

It was always God’s plan to lead His people and to direct them in His ways. They were never alone and never without His leadership. This is evident in His instructions to Moses. He told Moses to build a Tabernacle so that He could live among His people – a holy sanctuary where He could dwell (Exodus 25:8). He gave Moses an exact pattern to follow in building this place of worship and “Moses proceeded to do everything just as the Lord had commanded him” (Exodus 40:16).

There were specific instructions about the Ark of the Covenant in which the stone tablets containing the 10 Commandments would be placed. Moses was given the exact measurements for the table, the lampstand, the framework and curtains for the Tabernacle. There was to be an altar on which to give burnt offerings and a courtyard. Lamps burning pure olive oil were to burn continually (Exodus 25-27). God set apart Aaron and his descendants as priests to minister in the Tabernacle and again gave specific instructions regarding their role and their garments.

These are the garments they are to make: a chestpiece, an ephod, a robe, a patterned tunic, a turban, and a sash. They are to make these sacred garments for your brother, Aaron, and his sons to wear when they serve me as priests. So give them fine linen cloth, gold thread, and blue, purple, and scarlet thread. – Exodus 28:4-5

On the ephod (apron with front and back pieces joined by shoulder straps) was engraved the names of Jacob’s twelve sons in birth order, representing the twelve tribes of Israel. He would carry these names on his shoulders reminding him of who he represented every time he went before the Lord.

IT WAS NEVER GOD’S PLAN FOR AARON TO LEAD GOD’S PEOPLE OF HIS OWN STRENGTH.

The chestpiece was beautifully adorned with twelve stones, again representing the twelve tribes of Israel. It was worn as a constant reminder that it was the priest’s task to bring the people to God and to bring God’s word to the people. He was to wear the chestpiece for seeking decisions from God. Aaron was never meant to lead the people of his own strength, but was to always seek God and follow His lead.

“These burnt offerings are to be made each day from generation to generation. Offer them in the Lord’s presence at the Tabernacle entrance; there I will meet with you and speak with you. I will meet the people of Israel there, in the place made holy by my glorious presence. Yes, I will consecrate the Tabernacle and the altar, and I will consecrate Aaron and his sons to serve me as priests. Then I will live among the people of Israel and be their God, and they will know that I am the Lord their God. I am the one who brought them out of the land of Egypt so that I could live among them. I am the Lord their God.” – Exodus 29:42-46

The preparations God asks us to make are different than those He instructed the Israelites and priests to do, but He still desires for us to prepare our hearts to enter into His glorious presence. He longs to live among us and be our God, that we might know that He is the Lord our God!

For we are the Temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore, come out from among unbelievers, and separate yourselves from them, says the Lord. Don’t touch filthy things, and I will welcome you. And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
Because we have these promises, dear friends, let us cleanse ourselves from everything that can defile our body or spirit. And let us work toward complete holiness because we fear God.
– 2 Corinthians 6:16b-7:1

What a privilege to be in God’s presence!
Who am I representing when I come before the Lord?
Whose needs am I lifting to God in prayer?
Am I seeking God for every decision, following His lead?
Is His will the desire of my heart?

IT WAS NEVER GOD’S PLAN FOR MOSES TO LEAD GOD’S PEOPLE HIS OWN WAY.

Moses was never meant to lead the people at his own pace, but was to always seek God and follow His lead – God’s will, God’s way, in God’s time. Sometimes the whirlwind of life pushes us to move at a faster pace, or sometimes it slows us down. God says – Let me lead. Let me set the pace. I know where I am taking you. Trust me.

Now whenever the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the people of Israel would set out on their journey, following it. But if the cloud did not rise, they remained where they were until it lifted. – Exodus 40:36-37

Lord, cleanse us from everything that can defile us. Create in us a clean spirit and make us a masterpiece of your holiness at work, clothing us in your righteousness. Bring the needs of your people to our hearts this morning so that we can lift their needs to you in prayer. Dwell among us, oh Lord, and lead us on today’s journey. Help us to trust your timing as we relax and let you lead at your pace, taking us where you want us to go. May this be our song today:
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!

For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom in his wedding suit or a bride with her jewels.
The Sovereign Lord will show his justice to the nations of the world.
Everyone will praise him!
His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, with plants springing up everywhere.
– Isaiah 61:10-11

Palm of His Hand

Today’s Reading: Exodus 28-34

Moses went up on the mountain and received instruction from God. God emphasized over and over again how He is to be the only God and that they should not bow to any other idol or worship anything else but Him. When he came down from the mountain, Moses found God’s people doing the very thing God had just stressed over and over again not to do – he found them worshipping an idol.

Moses knew how important it was to God that His people not defile themselves in this way and he understood God’s plan to destroy them all and start over. But Moses stood between God and the Israelites and begged God to forgive them, to allow them the opportunity to repent and try again. And so God allowed the Israelites to live.

WHAT A MERCIFUL GOD WE SERVE!

Moses had a big job ahead of him and he knew it. He knew that he was called to lead a stiff-necked people. Moses knew he needed God if he was going to accomplish the task set before him. He knew what it was to be in God’s presence and longed to continue in His presence with God leading him.

Moses said to God, “Look, you tell me, ‘Lead this people,’ but you don’t let me know whom you’re going to send with me. You tell me, ‘I know you well and you are special to me.’ If I am so special to you, let me in on your plans. That way, I will continue being special to you. Don’t forget, this is your people, your responsibility.”

God said, “My presence will go with you. I’ll see the journey to the end.”

Moses said, “If your presence doesn’t take the lead here, call this trip off right now. How else will it be known that you’re with me in this, with me and your people? Are you traveling with us or not? How else will we know that we’re special, I and your people, among all other people on this planet Earth?”

God said to Moses: “All right. Just as you say; this also I will do, for I know you well and you are special to me. I KNOW YOU BY NAME.”

Moses said, “Please. Let me see your Glory.”

God said, “I will make my Goodness pass right in front of you; I’ll call out the name, God, right before you. I’ll treat well whomever I want to treat well and I’ll be kind to whomever I want to be kind.”

God continued, “But you may not see my face. No one can see me and live.”

God said, “Look, here is a place right beside me. Put yourself on this rock. When my Glory passes by, I’ll put you in the cleft of the rock and cover you with my hand until I’ve passed by. Then I’ll take my hand away and you’ll see my back. But you won’t see my face.” – Exodus 33:12-23 (The Message)

I don’t know what task God has before you today, but I pray you hear Him say that He will walk this journey with you to the end because He knows you well. You are special to Him, and He knows you by name. May you have the strength and faith needed to put yourself on “this rock” – this place right beside your merciful God. May you feel the protection of God tucking you safely into the cleft of the rock and covering you with His hand. May your heart’s desire always be to remain in God’s presence and allow Him to lead you each step of the way on this journey He has chosen for you.

GOD KNOWS YOU BY NAME.

Just as God cared about Moses and invited Him to experience His presence, He loves us enough to be present – to allow us to feel His presence in the good times and in the hard times. He has a purpose for our lives and He calls us by name (Isaiah 45:3).

Can a mother forget her nursing child?
Can she feel no love for the child she has borne?
But even if that were possible, I would not forget you!
See, I have written your name on the palms of my hands…
– Isaiah 49:15-16a

I love the thought that God knows everything about me – all my faults and all my fears, all my regrets and all my sins – yet He loves me!

MY NAME IS WRITTEN IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND AND SO IS YOURS.

Today, January 22nd, is a tragic day in the history of our country. Today marks the anniversary of a Roe v. Wade – a Supreme Court decision to allow a woman to end the life of her unborn baby. In 45 years, our country has acquired the scars of more than 60 million abortions. This heart-breaking reality is hard to think about, hard to live with. Some of you are even frustrated with me for mentioning it in this blog. It makes us uncomfortable. So we look the other way and close our ears when anyone mentions the word abortion. We ban the word “abortion” in our schools and sit comfortably in our pews as the word “abortion” is absent from our sermons. Meanwhile, our pews are full of men and women who live with the regret of their own abortion decision.

In April, the ministry I have the privilege of working for will hold their 9th healing retreat for individuals who are struggling with the pain of a decision they cannot undo. This weekend allows a woman or man to go “Deeper Still” to find the forgiveness and healing God wants to give them. Will you help me spread the word? There may be someone you know who holds a secret tightly in the depth of their heart and they need to know that God loves them and has written their name on the palm of His hand. For more information about the Deeper Still retreats, go to: http://hopeforafuture.com/services/deeper-still-retreats/

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.
He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favor has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.
To all who mourn in Israel, he will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair. In their righteousness, they will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for his own glory.
– Isaiah 61:1-3

OH, WHAT A MERCIFUL GOD WE SERVE!

To Love You More

Today’s Reading: Exodus 19-27

At Mount Sinai, God entered into a covenant relationship with the people of Israel. In Exodus 19-23, God taught the people who He was and what it should look like for them to have a covenant relationship with Him. What first appears to be a list of instructions or rules (10 Commandments) is actually God teaching His children about who He is – about His character and holiness.

A lot of what God required in this covenant relationship in Exodus is the same that He requires of us today. His instructions on how we can live in relationship with Him include how we live in relationship with others. He clearly instructs us in regards to how His people should treat one another. To love God is to love others.

LOVE GOD

If we are to enter into a relationship with the Most Holy God, we must live a life of holiness. It is not simply about salvation and the forgiveness of sins. Once we have been rescued from the bondage of our sins, we are to live out our faith daily in the glory of the presence of God, manifesting His holy character.

You must worship no other gods, for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a god who is jealous [passionate] about his relationship with you. – Exodus 34:14

The first four commandments help us understand our Holy God and why He must have our undivided attention. He is the Lord our God and nothing should be more important than Him. We are to treat His name as holy and dedicate the Sabbath to Him. Our covenant relationship with Him requires that we give Him first place in our lives – that we love Him with all our heart, mind, soul and strength.

But I lavish unfailing love for a thousand generations on those who love me and obey my commands. – Exodus 20:6

LOVE OTHERS

The next six commandments are about how we are to treat one another: Honor your parents, do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not testify falsely against your neighbor and do not covet what your neighbor has. God then laid out additional requirements regarding how our covenant relationship with Him should be reflected in our relationships with those around us – how we should treat one another fairly.

But if there is further injury, the punishment must match the injury: a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot, a burn for a burn, a wound for a wound, a bruise for a bruise. – Exodus 21:23-25

This concept of equal response to the crime or injustice is repeated more than once in the Old Testament. The people’s sinful response was to “one up” each other or respond harsher than the initial mistreatment, so God is instructing them to pay back in kind. It is the law of retaliation. The penalty must fit the crime.

Anyone who injures another person must be dealt with according to the injury inflicted – a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Whatever anyone does to injure another person must be paid back in kind. – Leviticus 24:19-20

But Jesus showed us a whole new way to love God by loving others. What if we did not retaliate at all? Jesus said:

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury: ‘An eye for an eye, and tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also. If you are sued in court and your shirt is taken from you, give your coat, too. If a soldier demands that you carry his gear for a mile, carry it two miles. Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.” – Matthew 5:38-42

Love God, love people. This is a great way to sum up the 10 Commandments given to Moses, which is exactly how Jesus summed up all the Law of Moses when asked by the Pharisees which commandment was the most important.

Jesus replied, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:37-40

God, I love you so much but I ask for you to teach me how to love you more. It is such a joy and privilege to be in a covenant relationship with you. I long to understand you, to be filled with your holiness so that I can love you by loving others. Help me to live out my faith daily through my actions – that my response to your holy character would show in my ability to love others the way you love me. God, only you are capable of producing this kind of love in my heart. Fill me with who you are; lavish me with your unfailing love. Amen.

Getting Your Attention

Today’s Reading: Exodus 15-18

Therefore, say to the Israelites: “I am the Lord, and I WILL BRING YOU OUT from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I WILL FREE YOU from being slaves to them, and I WILL REDEEM YOU with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I WILL TAKE YOU as my own people, and I WILL BE YOUR GOD. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I WILL BRING YOU to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I WILL GIVE it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.” – Exodus 6:6-8

DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE GOD IS TRYING TO GET YOUR ATTENTION?

He wants to be Lord; He wants to show us that He is in charge! Just as He allowed the Israelites to suffer at the hands of the Egyptians, He allows us to walk an unknown path. Just as God showed His power to all the Israelites through the plagues, God wants to show us that His mighty hand is at work. By the things going on in your life right now, He wants you to know that He is the Lord.

If Pharaoh had listened to Moses and Aaron after their first few encounters, it is possible that the Israelites would have seen Moses and Aaron as their rescuers. If Pharaoh had treated them kindly and let them go, the Israelites would have bowed to Pharaoh. Instead they saw that God was at work. They saw that El Shaddai, God Almighty, was in control (6:3).

God is saying – Stop looking to food to satisfy you. Let me satisfy you.
God is saying – Stop looking to people to give you want you want. Let me provide for you.
God is saying – Stop looking to caffeine to energize you. Let me strengthen you.
God is saying – Stop focusing on what you want, what will make you feel better. Let me be Lord.

I am the Lord your God. I will be on time.

“Now the length of time the Israelite people lived in Egypt was 430 years. At the end of the 430 years, to the very day, all the Lord’s divisions left Egypt.” – Exodus 12:40-41

I am the Lord your God. I know what is best for you and I will choose the path.

“When Pharaoh let the people go, God did not lead them on the road through the Philistine country, though that was shorter. For God said, ‘If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:17

I am the Lord your God. I will guide you.

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar by night left its place in front of the people.” – Exodus 13:21-22

I am the Lord your God. Be still.

“Moses answered the people, ‘Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.’” – Exodus 14:13-14

I am the Lord your God. I will heal you.

He said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his sight, obeying his commands and keeping all his decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am the Lord who heals you.” – Exodus 15:26

I am the Lord your God. I have heard you and I will provide.

Then the Lord said to Moses, “I have heard the Israelites’ complaints. Now tell them, ‘In the evening you will have meat to eat, and in the morning you will have all the bread you want. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.’”…When they measured it out, everyone had just enough…Each family had just what it needed. – Exodus 16:11-18

I am the Lord your God. I will use your story to help others believe that I am God.

Moses told his father-in-law everything the Lord had done to Pharoah and Egypt on behalf of Israel. He also told about all the hardships they had experienced along the way and how the Lord had rescued his people from all their troubles. Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the Lord had done for Israel… “Praise the Lord,” Jethro said, “for he has rescued you from the Egyptians…I know now that the Lord is greater than all other gods, because he rescued his people from the oppression of the proud Egyptians.” – Exodus 17:8-11

Almighty God, help us to recognize your mighty hand on our lives. Lord we submit to your Lordship – to your will, your way, in your time. Remind us again today that you are Lord – that you know what is best and will guide us, heal us and provide for us. Forgive us for our complaining and help us to rest in your provisions. Forgive us for the times we have been too discouraged, too consumed and too stubborn to trust you. Use the story of your great power displayed in our lives. Bring those who do not believe to a saving knowledge of who YOU are through your glory reflected in us. Amen.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand…
For I am the Lord your God who takes your right hand and says to you,
Do not fear; I will help you.
– Isaiah 41:10,13 (NIV)

Accusing God of Doing Nothing

Today’s Reading: Exodus 5-14

HAVE YOU EVER ACCUSED GOD OF DOING NOTHING?

Then Moses went back to the Lord and protested, “Why have you brought all this trouble on your own people, Lord? Why did you send me? Ever since I came to Pharoah as your spokesman, he has been even more brutal to your people. And you have done nothing to rescue them!” – Exodus 5:22-23

So let me ask again – Have you ever been so bold as to accuse God Almighty of doing nothing?

Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh, just as God told them to do, but Pharoah did not react the way the Israelites expected. God did not provide in the way and in the time His people thought He would. Instead of letting the Israelites go, Pharoah increased the workload by making the people provide their own straw for making the bricks. The workers took their anger out on Moses and he took his confusion out on God. God had a plan and He was about to move in such a way that the Hebrew nation would NEVER forget.

“…You can be sure that I have heard the groans of the people of Israel, who are now slaves to the Egyptians. And I am well aware of my covenant with them. Therefore, say to the people of Israel: ‘I am the Lord. I will free you from your oppression and will rescue you from your slavery in Egypt. I will redeem you with a powerful arm and great acts of judgment. I will claim you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God who has freed you from your oppression in Egypt. I will bring you into the land I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I will give it to you as your very own possession. I am the Lord!” – Exodus 6:5-8

HE IS THE GOD WHO RESCUES, WHO PROVIDES AND WHO SAVES!

What a powerful word from God! Yet the people were too discouraged by their circumstances to find hope in God’s promises, too consumed by their own pain to see the capacity of God to rescue them and too stubborn to wait on God’s perfect timing and plan. They refused to listen. But God was about to get their attention in a grand display of His mighty power:

1. A plague of blood turned the water of the Nile River into a stinky river of dead fish, taking away the Egyptians source of drinking water.

2. A plague of frogs invaded their river, their bedrooms, their kitchens, their lives.

3. A plague of gnats covered everyone and everything, causing the Egyptian magicians to shout out “This is the finger of God!” – Exodus 8:19

4. A plague of flies filled their homes and the palace, covering the ground and throwing the land of Egypt into chaos.

5. A plague killing all the livestock owned by the Egyptians still did not move Pharoah’s stubborn heart.

6. A plague of festering boils broke out on all the Egyptian people.

7. A plague of hail fell on all the people, livestock and plants throughout the land of Egypt. Never in the history of Egypt had there been a storm like that, with such devastating hail and continuous lightning (9:24).

8. A plague of locusts covered the land, devouring any plant that had survived the hailstorm.

9. A plague of darkness covered the entire land of Egypt for three days.

10. It was finally the plague of the firstborn that caused Pharoah and the Egyptians to urge the Israelites to leave.

During all of these plagues, God’s people were protected. They became the audience to God’s grand display of judgment. The Israelites were given specific instructions to follow to make sure the angel of death passed over their house, sparing their firstborn. God’s people now had experienced God firsthand and had a story to pass on to their children and grandchildren, from one generation to the next for the remainder of time.

“This is a day to remember. Each year, from generation to generation, you must celebrate it as a special festival to the Lord.” – Exodus 12:14a

“Then your children will ask, ‘What does this mean?’ And you will reply, ‘It is the Passover sacrifice to the Lord, for he passed over the houses of the Israelites in Egypt. And though he struck the Egyptians, he spared our families.’” – Exodus 12:26-27a

“This is a day to remember forever – the day you left Egypt, the place of your slavery. Today the Lord has brought you out by the power of his mighty hand…This annual festival will be a visible sign to you, like a mark branded on your hand or your forehead. Let it remind you always to recite this teaching of the Lord: ‘With a strong hand, the Lord rescued you from Egypt.’” – Exodus 13:3,9

TELL THE STORY OF THE GOD WHO DID SOMETHING!

The story of God rescuing the Israelites from their Egyptian captivity is a story I grew up learning and a story I have taught to my daughters. They know God is powerful because they know of the plagues. They know God provides “dry land” when all we see is “the Red Sea” in front of us and the “Egyptian army” behind us (Exodus 14).

But we have more than just the stories of those who have gone on before us to tell the next generation. We also have our own stories – stories of difficulty, pain and discouragement – times when God has stepped into our situation with a mighty hand. We have stories that provide proof that God provides and that God heals. These faith-building stories are gifts for our children and our children’s children.

God, when I am tempted to accuse you of doing nothing, help me to remember ALL that you have done in my life – according to your plan and in your time. You are the God who rescues, who provides and who saves. Thank you for your presence in my life! To you be all the glory! Amen.

Come to the Well

Today’s Reading: Genesis 24 & 29, Exodus 2

IT WAS EVENING AND REBEKAH DID THE SAME THING SHE DID EVERY EVENING.

Rebekah gathered her empty water jug and walked to the well along with the other women. Perhaps the water would be used to prepare the evening meal or to water the garden where she grew food for her family. It was her routine and, perhaps, her favorite time of day – the opportunity to take a walk with the other women.

It was in living out her routine of daily spending time at the well that Rebekah’s life was forever changed. Today was different than the other days. Today there was a servant with 10 camels kneeling close to the well. Rebekah went down to the spring, filled her jug and then came up again. The servant ran over to her and asked her for a drink. Without hesitation, Rebekah quickly lowered her water jug from her shoulder and gave him a drink. She offered to draw water for all 10 camels and quickly emptied the remainder of the jug into the trough and returned to the spring over and over again, drawing perhaps as much as 250 gallons of water for the camels (Genesis 24).

I wonder what Rebekah’s reaction was when the servant gave her a gold ring for her nose and two large gold bracelets for her wrists. Had she ever been given a gift of such value? Did she realize the significance of the gift? Did she have any idea of how quickly her life was going to change?

Rebekah was simply living out her routine of daily spending time at the well and God met her there. Her life was never the same. God had a plan for her life and she began a new journey, willing to go wherever God wanted her to be – even if that was a very long way from her family and friends, from the life she had always known. God blessed her generously and she became a matriarch in the lineage of the Messiah.

IT WAS THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY AND RACHEL DID THE SAME THING SHE DID EVERY DAY.

Rachel gathered her father’s flock and led them to the well to give them something to drink. Every day she made this trip to the well, waiting until the other shepherds all arrived and together moved the stone from the mouth of the well. It was her routine and, perhaps, her favorite time of day – the opportunity to take a quiet walk with the sheep.

It was in living out her routine of daily spending time at the well that Rachel’s life was forever changed. Today was different from other days. Today there was a stranger talking with the other shepherds at the well. He was a kind man who moved the stone from the mouth of the well and watered her father’s flock for her. His name was Jacob (Genesis 29).

I wonder what Rachel’s reaction was when this handsome man kissed her and then began to cry. Had anyone ever kissed her before? Did she realize the significance of this moment? Did she have any idea of how quickly her life was going to change?

Rachel was simply living out her routine of daily spending time at the well and God met her there. Her life was never the same. God had a plan for her life and she began a new journey. God blessed her generously, and she experienced what it was to be loved and highly favored by a man of God.

IT WAS EVENING AND ZIPPORAH DID THE SAME THING SHE DID EVERY EVENING.

Zipporah gathered her empty water jug and walked to the well with her six sisters. Every evening the girls made this trip to the well, bringing back water to fill the troughs for their father’s flocks. It was her routine and, perhaps, her favorite time of day – the opportunity to take a walk with her sisters.

It was in living out her routine of daily spending time at the well that Zipporah’s life was forever changed. Today was different than the other days. Today there were cruel shepherds at the well who chased them away, keeping them from what they needed to do. But there was also a hero at the well who swept in and rescued the girls from the shepherds. His name was Moses (Exodus 2).

I wonder what Zipporah’s reaction was when this handsome man dressed as an Egyptian prince came to her rescue. Had anyone ever done something of that kind of value for her before? Did she realize the significance of this moment? Did she have any idea of how quickly her life was going to change?

Zipporah was simply living out her routine of daily spending time at the well and God met her there. Her life was never the same. God had a plan for her life and she began a new journey – a journey that would someday take her a very long way from her family and friends, from the life she had always known. God blessed her generously and she had a front row seat to watching her husband be used by God to rescue His people out of slavery.

IT WAS NOON AND THE SAMARITAN WOMAN DID THE SAME THING SHE DID EVERY DAY.

She gathered her empty water jug and walked to the well alone. Every day she made this trip to the well by herself, avoiding the other women who would come to the well later in the day. She wanted to avoid the stares and the whispering, the condemnation she knew she deserved. But there was a hero at the well that day, a Savior who knew her secrets and offered her living water.

Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” – John 4:13-14

It was in living out her routine of daily spending time at the well that the Samaritan’s life was forever changed. Today was different than the other days. Her heart leapt at the thought of a different life, a life in which she would no longer need to face the condemnation of others each day. She understood the value of the gift she was being offered when Jesus told her, “I am the Messiah!” (John 4:26). She ran to the village and brought many Samaritans back to the well to meet Jesus.

The Samaritan woman was simply living out her routine of daily coming to the well and Jesus met her there. Her life was never the same. God had a plan for her life and she began a new journey – a journey that would take her a long way from the sinful life she had known for so long; a life in which she would never thirst again.

It is in living out a routine of daily spending time at the well that OUR lives can be changed forever. God meets us when we faithfully spend time in His presence. Many days it will feel the same, like routine. But there will be days in which God gives us a moment that will change our lives forever. He has a plan for our lives and He longs to guide us daily on our new journey – a journey with God-moments, opportunities, and living water.

And all who thirst will thirst no more, / And all who search will find what their souls long for, / The world will try, but it can never fill, / So leave it all behind, and come to the well. [Mark Hall, Matthew West; sung by Casting Crowns]

But blessed are those who trust in the Lord and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
They are like trees planted along a riverbank, with roots that reach deep into the water.
Such trees are not bothered by the heat or worried by long months of drought.
Their leaves stay green, and they never stop producing fruit.
– Jeremiah 17:7-8

God is Never Unaware

Today’s Reading: Exodus 1-4

The nation of Egypt had grown very powerful because the hand of God was on Joseph’s life, yet they were still a self-seeking, sinful people and they oppressed God’s children. A new king was now in leadership and he was intimidated by the size of Joseph’s growing family, the Israelites. He decided to make them slaves and appointed brutal slave drivers over them, assigning them with crushing labor.

Life was bitter for the Israelites as they were worked without mercy and under the pressure of ruthless demands (Exodus 1:11-14). The more Pharoah oppressed God’s people, the more the Israelites multiplied and spread. Pharoah gave an order to the Hebrew midwives to kill every newborn boy, only letting the girls live. But the Hebrew midwives feared God and refused the King’s orders. So Pharoah ordered all the Egyptians to kill every newborn Hebrew boy (1:22). Imagine the terror and grief of God’s people as their babies were yanked from their arms and cast into the Nile River.

BUT GOD IS NEVER CAUGHT UNAWARE. HE IS NEVER WITHOUT A PLAN.

God raised up a leader from one of those baby boys to rescue his people. A married couple from the tribe of Levi gave birth to a son and hid him for three months. When they could no longer hide him, they placed him in a basket and laid it among the reeds of the Nile River, with the baby’s sister watching close by. Pharoah’s daughter found the baby and claimed it as her own. Because GOD IS GENEROUS, He even worked out a way for the baby’s mother to take him back home and nurse him until he was old enough to move into the palace and be raised by the princess, who named him Moses (2:1-10).

Although Moses was adopted into this royal family, he never lost his connection with the Hebrew people. He saw how hard they were forced to work and came to their defense, killing an Egyptian who was beating one of the Hebrew slaves. When Pharoah heard of this, he tried to kill Moses so he fled Egypt and went to live in the land of Midian (2:11-15). There GOD PROVIDED him with a wife, the daughter of the Midian priest, Jethro.

While tending Jethro’s flocks one day on Mount Sinai, the mountain of God, Moses came across a blazing fire in the middle of a bush. The bush was engulfed in flames but was not consumed by the fire. As Moses stepped forward to get a closer look, he heard from God.

“I have certainly seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their cries of distress because of their harsh slave drivers. Yes, I am aware of their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them out of Egypt into their own fertile and spacious land. It is a land flowing with milk and honey…Now go, for I am sending you to Pharoah. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.” – Exodus 3:7-10

AGAIN, GOD IS NEVER CAUGHT UNAWARE. HE IS NEVER WITHOUT A PLAN.

He knows how His people suffer and He hears their cries, responding with His perfect plan. Moses had the privilege to be a part of this plan – to have a front row seat to the mighty hand of God at work. But Moses responded in fear and doubt.

God said “Go” and Moses responded “Who am I?” God made it clear – It isn’t about who you are but about who I am and “I Am Who I Am” (3:14). Moses protested – What should I say? God responded – “Say this…” Moses reacted in fear and doubt, asking “What if…?” God pointed out the staff in Moses hand and told him to throw it down to the ground. It turned into a snake. God told him to pick up the snake by the tail and when he obeyed, the snake turned back into the staff. God was showing Moses how He would perform all kinds of miracles to show Himself to both Pharoah and the Israelites.

Then the Lord asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.” – Exodus 4:11-12

GOD IS NEVER CAUGHT UNAWARE. HE IS NEVER WITHOUT A PLAN.

God has a plan and that plan often involves us. He calls us to do something and He desires obedience and faith. When we say, “Who am I? What can I do?” God says, “It’s not about you, it’s about me and I Am Who I Am.” When we ask how, God says, “Take what I have already placed in your hand, what I have already equipped you with, and let go of it. I will take it from there. I will tell you what to do and I will give you the words to say.”

Many of us are called by God to rescue others who are suffering. We have a message to give those who are hurting – God hears, He is concerned and He has a plan to rescue them. Let’s listen closely to God today as we make ourselves available to be used by Him in the lives of others. Let’s respond in obedience and faith instead of fear and doubt. Let others know that God has seen, He has heard, He is concerned and He has come down to rescue them!!!

Heavenly Father, thank you for the many ways in which you have generously provided for us. Thank you for being present and active in our lives, knowing what has been and what will come. It is comforting to know that nothing about my day will catch you off guard or unaware. Help me to trust you in the midst of it all. When I start to argue or find excuses, remind me that it is about you. Remind me of who you are and what you have already provided in my life. Give me the courage to respond in obedience and faith. Amen.

When I Argued With God

Today’s Reading: Job 26-42

In our humanity, we often think we know better than God what should happen. In our arrogance, we often think we have all the answers. In our ignorance, we often question God instead of submitting to His plan. But do we know? Do we understand? Can we even imagine? Are we as strong as God?

Most of the book of Job is one long conversation. His friends have come to visit him after he has suffered great loss and pain. They argue with him that his sin has caused him to lose favor with God and that is why disaster has taken his family, possessions and good health. Job defends his righteousness and whines about how God has abandoned him. A young bystander, Elihu, finally steps into the conversation to remind all of them WHO God is and to caution them when making such grand accusations against God. God. You remember him, right? The Creator of the world, the Almighty, the One more powerful than we can comprehend or imagine?

“Listen carefully to the thunder of God’s voice as it rolls from his mouth.
It rolls across the heavens, and his lightning flashes in every direction.
Then comes the roaring of the thunder – the tremendous voice of his majesty.
He does not restrain it when he speaks. God’s voice is glorious in the thunder.
WE CAN’T EVEN IMAGINE THE GREATNESS OF HIS POWER.

“He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down.
THEN EVERYONE STOPS WORKING SO THEY CAN WATCH HIS POWER.
The wild animals take cover and stay in their dens.
The stormy wind comes from its chamber, and the driving winds bring the cold.
God’s breath sends the ice, freezing wide expanses of water.
He loads the clouds with moisture, and they flash with his lightning.
The clouds churn about at his direction.
They do whatever he commands through the earth…

“DO YOU KNOW how God controls the storm and causes the lightning to flash from his clouds?
DO YOU UNDERSTAND how he moves the clouds with wonderful perfection and skill?
When you are sweltering in your clothes and the south wind dies down and everything is still,
he makes the skies reflect the heat like a bronze mirror. CAN YOU DO THAT?

“We cannot look at the sun, for it shines brightly in the sky when the wind clears away the clouds.
So also, golden splendor comes from the mountain of God.
He is clothed in dazzling splendor.
WE CANNOT IMAGINE the power of the Almighty;
but even though he is just and righteous, he does not destroy us.
No wonder people fear him.
All who are wise show him reverence.”
– Job 37:2-12,15-18,21-24

Stop looking for the sin in your life that has caused your suffering and start looking at how your suffering is causing you to sin. Perhaps your current pain is more about your present grumbling than a consequence of your past actions. Humble yourself and listen to what God has to say about your complaining and arguing.

Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words?
Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell me, if you know so much.
Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line?
What supports its foundations and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted with joy?

Who kept the sea inside its boundaries as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and wrapped it in thick darkness?
For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores.
I said, ‘This far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’

“Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east?
Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness? …

“Have you explored the springs from which the seas come?
Have you explored their depths?
Do you know where the gates of death are located?
Have you seen the gates of utter gloom?
Do you realize the extent of the earth?
Tell me about it if you know!
“Where does the light come from, and where does the darkness go?
Can you take each to its home?
Do you know how to get there?
But of course you know all this!
For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced!”
… – Job 38:1-13,16-21

Then the Lord said to Job,
“Do you still want to argue with the Almighty?
You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers? …
ARE YOU AS STRONG AS GOD?”
… – Job 40:1-2,9a

Then Job replied to the Lord:
“I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you.
You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’
It is I – and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me…
I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.”
– Job 42:1-2,6

What a powerful section of scripture. I wish I could say I have never argued with God. I wish I could claim I have never disagreed with God or questioned His decisions. Unfortunately, I am as guilty as Job. It was I who was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me.

This morning I recognize that YOU, Almighty God, are strong and powerful and wonderful. I listen to the wind blowing outside and I recognize your strength. I stay inside from the cold snow and I recognize your control. I do not know what is best. I do not pretend to understand your greater plan. But I do trust you. I sit quietly and watch Your power at work – the power I cannot even fathom the depth of. You, Oh God, are holy and You, Oh God, are great! Amen.

When I Questioned God

Today’s Reading: Job 11-25

“Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” – Job 2:10

Job’s friends seemed to have an understanding of Job’s sufferings as if it was simply Job’s turn. He had been blessed for years and now it was his turn to suffer the realities of life. Where is your faith, Job, and where are your confident words now that the shoe is on the other foot? When they could have encouraged him, Job’s friends chose instead to mock him.

“Your words have supported those who were failing; you encouraged those with shaky knees. But now when trouble strikes, you lose heart. You are terrified when it touches you. Doesn’t your reverence for God give you confidence? Doesn’t your life of integrity give you hope?” – Job 4:4-6

QUESTIONING THE PRESENCE OF GOD

Job developed an attitude of self-pity and defeat. What good does it do to argue with God if He isn’t listening?

“So who am I that I should try to answer God or even reason with him? Even if I were right, I would have no defense. I could only plead for mercy. And even if I summoned him and he responded, I’m not sure he would listen to me. For he attacks me with a storm and repeatedly wounds me without cause. He will not let me catch my breath, but fills me instead with bitter sorrows. If it’s a question of strength, he’s the strong one. If it’s a matter of justice, who dares to summon him to court?” – Job 9:14-19

I agree with Elihu’s response to Job when he said, “But it is wrong to say God doesn’t listen, to say the Almighty isn’t concerned” (Job 35:13).

QUESTIONING THE WISDOM OF GOD

Job questioned God’s wisdom in even allowing him to be born if He was going to eventually let him suffer like this (Job 10:8-12,18-22). Job demonstrates an internal conflict between being in awe of the power of God and being disappointed with the wisdom of God. In one breath he is speaking of how great God is and in another breath he is questioning the motives and decisions of God. If Job was without sin before the hard times came, he is now demonstrating his humanity and sin nature by questioning the authority of God.

More than that, Job was downright angry with God. Many of us can relate to a moment in our lives when we questioned God or asked “Why?” In our grief, we experience anger but there’s a difference between taking our anger to God and taking our anger out on God. I think this is where Job messes up. It is not a sin that he is experiencing human emotions in the midst of his grief and pain; it is what he does with the emotions that trip him up. Job is arguing with God and criticizing God’s wisdom.

QUESTIONING THE GREATNESS OF GOD

Are you currently questioning the wisdom of God regarding a situation in your life? Are you arguing with God? Are you angry with Him? Let’s look at some verses in Job to consider just how awesome and wise our God is – how worthy He is of our trust even in the most difficult times. Let us consider that God is greater than we can understand.

“Can you solve the mysteries of God?
Can you discover everything about the Almighty?
Such knowledge is higher than the heavens – and who are you?
It is deeper than the underworld – what do you know?
It is broader than the earth and wider than the sea?”
– Job 11:7-9

“God stretches the northern sky over empty space and hangs the earth on nothing.
He wraps the rain in his thick clouds, and the clouds don’t burst with the weight.
He covers the face of the moon, shrouding it with clouds.
He created the horizon when he separated the waters; he set the boundary between day and night.
The foundations of heaven tremble; they shudder at his rebuke.
By his power the sea grew calm…
These are just the beginning of all that he does, merely a whisper of his power.
Who, then, can comprehend the thunder of his power?”
– Job 26:7-12,14

“God alone understands the way to wisdom; he knows where it can be found, for he looks throughout the whole earth and sees everything under the heavens.
He decided how hard the winds should blow and how much rain should fall.
He made the laws for the rain and laid out a path for the lightning.
Then he saw wisdom and evaluated it thoroughly.
And this is what he says to all humanity:
‘The fear of the Lord is true wisdom; to forsake evil is real understanding.’”
– Job 28:23-28

“Look, God is all-powerful. Who is a teacher like him?
No one can tell him what to do, or say to him, ‘You have done wrong.’
Instead, glorify his mighty works, singing songs of praise…
Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”
– Job 36:22-24,26

God, you are greater than we can comprehend. Help us to simply rest in your wisdom, submitting ourselves to your greatness and your authority in our lives. Lord, give us the strength to let go of our need to understand and simply trust you. So when the reality we are facing is as bitter as our morning coffee, Lord we ask for the gift of faith and the ability to trust in order to sweeten up our perspective. Thank you for loving us patiently when we lack understanding. We love you back! Amen.

When I Was Down-And-Out

Today’s Reading: Job 1-10, Psalm 30

We don’t really think of the timing of Job’s life as falling between Genesis and Exodus, but historians believe this to be the case. There were many years between the death of Joseph (1805 BC) and the birth of Moses (1526 BC). The story of Job falls here, starting out very much like a fairy tale.

ONCE UPON A TIME…

There was once a man named Job who lived in the land of Uz. He was blameless – a man of complete integrity. He feared God and stayed away from evil (Job 1:1). Most of us know the story. Job was a righteous man who had been blessed abundantly by God. He had a large family, lots of servants and lots of animals. He was, in fact, the richest person in that entire area (1:3).

THE HIGHER YOU GO, THE HARDER YOU FALL.

Job lost everything when Satan challenged God regarding the faithfulness of Job. God allowed Satan to test Job by taking away his possessions and then by causing him physical pain through terrible boils from his head to foot. Job’s response shows the strength of his faith as he continued to praise God.

“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave.
The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away.
Praise the name of the Lord!”
– Job 1:21

When his wife nagged him, encouraging him to curse God and die, Job’s response was powerful: “Should we accept only good things from the hand of God and never anything bad?” – Job 2:10

THE MORE FRIENDS YOU HAVE, THE HAPPIER YOU ARE.

As we read through his book, we see that Job is having a difficult time. He feels the pain and suffers from the loss just like anyone else would. He is surrounded by friends who are trying to give him advice through this time of suffering but seem to only be saying the wrong things. We have probably all been there – either we have been the one going through a hard time and had well-meaning friends say something that makes the pain worse OR we have been the one who has sincerely tried to comfort a friend only to end up saying the last thing they wanted to hear.

Job’s friends assume that Job is being punished for something and needs to repent in order for the hard times to end. Perhaps Job’s friends are slightly enjoying the fact that Job is not perfect – that something is finally going wrong for him. Jealousy is a powerful thing, even among friends, and it is possible that the words of self-righteousness coming from Job’s friends are a result of past envy or attempts to measure up to Job.

THE HARDER YOU WORK, THE LUCKIER YOU GET.

Job’s friend, Bildad, made a mistake commonly made today. He assumed that earthly blessings come to the righteous and the wicked can never prosper here on earth. “But if you pray to God and seek the favor of the Almighty, and if you are pure and live with integrity, he will surely rise up and restore your happy home. And though you started with little, you will end with much.” – Job 8:5-6

Oh the prosperity gospel! We have all heard it and probably believed it to some degree. But the fact remains that there are some godly Christians who live and die “dirt poor” by earthly standards and there are some very ungodly, unbelieving people who have everything they could possibly ask for in regard to their position and possessions. This is not always easy to understand but our response to what seems unfair in life should be to simply trust God and, as Job did, look forward to our heavenly rewards instead of measuring our earthly possessions.

“But as for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and he will stand upon the earth at last.
And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God!
I will see him for myself.
Yes, I will see him with my own eyes.
I am overwhelmed at the thought!”
– Job 19:25-27

AND THEY LIVED HAPPILY EVER AFTER.

Job’s story has a happy ending. God stepped in, healing Job physically and restoring him with earthly possessions even greater than what he once had. And the great news for us today is that our story has a happy ending also! No matter what our current circumstances are, no matter how much we are suffering today, Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven where there will be no more sorrow, no more pain, no more loss. In the words of Job, “Praise the name of the Lord!” In the words of David:

I give you all the credit, God—
you got me out of that mess, you didn’t let my foes gloat.
God, my God, I yelled for help and you put me together.
God, you pulled me out of the grave,
gave me another chance at life when I was down-and-out.
All you saints! Sing your hearts out to God! Thank him to his face!
He gets angry once in awhile, but across a lifetime there is only love.
The nights of crying your eyes out give way to days of laughter.
When things were going great I crowed, “I’ve got it made.
I’m God’s favorite. He made me king of the mountain.”
Then you looked the other way and I fell to pieces.
I called out to you, God; I laid my case before you:
“Can you sell me for a profit when I’m dead?
Auction me off at a cemetery yard sale?
When I’m ‘dust to dust’ my songs and stories of you won’t sell.
So listen! And be kind! Help me out of this!”
You did it: you changed wild lament into whirling dance;
You ripped off my black mourning band and decked me with wildflowers.
I’m about to burst with song; I can’t keep quiet about you.
God, my God, I can’t thank you enough.
– Psalm 30, The Message