When I read the story of Hagar and Ishmael, I think of the times I wanted to hide from God because of my own sin and shame. In Genesis 16, we read about how Sarai was impatient with God’s timing and took matters into her own hands. Sarai hatched a plan to speed up the process of having a child by way of her Egyptian maid-servant, and Abram agreed. But when Hagar became pregnant, Sarai mistreated her. Hagar ran away from Sarai, stopping at a spring in the desert. Here is where we see God’s great compassion displayed for a woman who was mistreated, “in misery” (v. 11), and on the run.
After the angel of the Lord meets the woman by the spring, he tells her to go back to her mistress and submit to her. He then gives her a promise for the future of her descendants (v. 10). Hagar responds to the Lord by saying, “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me” (Gen. 16:13). And the spring or well in the desert was called Beer Lahai Roi, which means "the well of him that liveth and seeth me.”
In God’s great mercy towards Hagar, he stopped her at the well. If she would have kept on running away, she may have faced danger on the run, or remained stuck in a cycle of shame. But God saw her, stopped her, and spoke to her. God had a plan even in the middle of the mess and misery.
Maybe you can relate to my examples of condemnation at the kitchen sink. Perhaps you’ve even felt the sting of shame today. Let me encourage you that those accusations coming against us are not from God. Out of the blue accusations are from the adversary - the “accuser of our brothers” (Revelation 12:9-10). We must remember that condemnation is from the enemy; loving correction comes from God. And the more we read God’s word and learn about His compassion, the easier it is to identify these attacks and combat them.
Hagar’s encounter with the angel of the Lord gives us an example for how God deals with us. Firstly, He meets us in the wilderness- in the wandering of our own hearts. Yes, the “God who sees us” meets directly with us in the middle of our sin and shame. Secondly, he speaks to our situation, and through his Word, he offers hope and life. Lastly, he sees our hearts and calls us by name. He knows everything about us because he created us and knows our future. So, the next time the enemy tries to shame you, remember that your God knows you, speaks to you, and calls you by name. Your God forgives you and does not accuse you. Yes, Your God is the one who sees and loves you! Rest in his abounding love for you today.
Memory Verse: “The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever.” Psalm 103:8-9 NIV
More times than not, the inner conflict is over a relationship. It’s so easy to be misunderstood and misinterpreted in our relationships. After all, we each have a filter through which we give and receive.
The early church was not without tension and conflict either.
Paul wrote to young Timothy, encouraging him to not grow weary in his faith. He also wrote to give him clear instruction concerning matters of the church and Christian living. Paul warns Timothy about false teachings and doctrines that were common in the Ephesian church. The first portion of 1 Timothy is full of instructions, and truths for the believer.
Paul doesn’t mince words in the first chapter of 1 Timothy. He admonishes the believers under Timothy’s care, stating that they had missed the whole point. Instead of living their lives in genuine faith, from a pure heart and clear conscience, they’ve been spending their time caught up in meaningless discussions.
I can recognize times when I’ve missed the whole point too. I get tangled up in meaningless discussion. I overthink every angle. I play out imaginary scenarios that will likely never happen. My default approach is to be defensive. Unfortunately, I often don’t recognize my lack of love until it’s too late.
Paul’s words show me that I must have a clear awareness of my human predisposition. Like the Ephesians, I’m bent toward meaningless pursuits… like dissecting a discussion in my mind that will more than likely never happen.
As a believer, our goal should be to mature not only in faith, but also in our relationships, and be “filled with love that comes from a pure heart” (1 Timothy 1:5). We can use Paul’s checkpoints of godly love: a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. It’s an ongoing battle, but let’s be encouraged that if we allow God to search our hearts and listen to the Holy Spirit for truth, then He will correct us.
Is there an area of your life where you are facing a dilemma of the heart? Do you feel inner conflict? Do you want to be filled with more love for others? Are you weary in the faith?
Humble yourself before God. Pray in earnest that He would search your heart. Allow Him to fill you with a divine love that breaks down barriers and infiltrates our human filters. When we allow God to search our whole being, He can give us a pure heart, a clear conscience, and a genuine faith. Then we will see clearly and make our decisions out of a pure love.
When I think about the fruit of the Spirit, I think about the sowing and reaping involved in gardening. The care we invested into preparing my rose and fruit tree garden serve as a spiritual lesson.
The Lord has been dealing with me on the condition of my heart “soil.” Is my heart prepared for sowing seeds that produce the fruit of the Spirit?
Recently I was having a really hard time with my middle child. It seemed like everything I tried with him failed. After many months of frustration, guilt, and exhaustion, I broke down. My husband and I began seeking the Lord and praying for insight into this situation.
The Master Gardener, Jesus, helped me get to the heart of the matter. I began meditating on Proverbs 4:23 and realized there were some roadblocks in my own heart that were preventing healing. God showed me parts of my heart AND my son’s heart that had been neglected. I was sowing seeds (trying to be patient, kind, loving), but the seeds fell on poor soil.
Isn’t it a relief to know that we can talk to the Master Gardener anytime we need to? If you feel stuck or stagnant in an area of life, ask the Master for insight into the situation because He has the answer.
When I allowed God to work on my heart and mend the soil, I began to feel a change from the inside out. Instead of “trying to be patient,” I felt peace. Rather than trying to give my son more attention to curb his outbursts, I felt more joy when we were together. And the Master replaced my feelings of resentment with pure love. Peace, love, and joy— real, lasting fruit of the Spirit began to grow.
What is the condition of your heart? Is it dry and resistant, or well-watered and ready to receive? Ask the Master Gardener to show you what He sees.
In the physical garden, the soil mixture and properties must be high quality to grow beautiful roses and produce much fruit. The same is true for our spiritual gardens-- we must cultivate the heart soil so the Holy Spirit can help us bear much fruit. Laying the right soil can be a humbling and hard process, but when you ask the Master Gardener to show you the way, He will always get to the heart of the matter.
Truth be told, I don’t know very much about the 924 accounts I’m following. But I do know that what or whom we choose to follow can lead us to truth, or the twisting of it. I say “twisting” because sometimes the lies are subtle, and if we don’t recognize lies for what they are, they become intertwined with the truth. That’s when all the “noise” can make us feel overwhelmed and confused.
As Christians, it is imperative that we correctly handle the word of truth. And I think that’s increasingly important in our current culture. We have become a culture obsessed with influence, personality, fame, likes, and follows. It’s natural to want to follow someone whom we admire. Our challenge is to follow the Gospel of Christ versus the gospel of a personality.
Our ultimate goal should be to become more like Christ— not someone else. In Malachi chapter 2, we read that “the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge.” If we are following messengers of the Lord to instruct us, we also need to be rightly dividing the knowledge they profess. Is it in line with God’s truth? Do they preach the gospel, or push their personality? 2 Timothy 2:15 requires me to periodically take stock of what I’m following, because after all, I feed on what I follow.
I enjoy following encouraging and beautiful accounts on Instagram, and social media can be a helpful resource when used with caution. But I also know how easy it is to “follow” without following through to vet the sources that influence us. Let’s challenge ourselves to hold the modern day Priests to the standard of God’s truth. Ask God to give you discernment when you read a post or comment about Him and His word.
Even in “happy places,” we need to be on the lookout for twisting of half-truths. Make it a point this week to pray about the feeds you follow, and ask God to fill your heart and mind with His truth.
When I was in middle school, my mom bought me a decorative ceramic cross with Jeremiah 29:11 written in the center. Throughout high school and even college, the scripture verse became a source of comfort in the face of many unknowns. “God knows the plans for my life, so I don’t have to worry,” I reassured myself whenever I had a hard day. That cross hung in my room until I moved out of my parents’ house. When I left home I made sure to pack the colorful keepsake as a reminder of God’s promise for my future.
Jeremiah 29 is a message to the Exiles about their future in Babylon and beyond. Jeremiah tells them to build houses, marry, have children, and seek peace and prosperity in Babylon until they are restored to their homeland in 70 years. They are not just given the promise of restoration— they are given instructions on how to live as exiled people in Babylon.
In Matthew Henry’s Commentary on Jeremiah 29, he explains, “Promises are given, not to supersede, but to quicken and encourage prayer: and when deliverance is coming we must by prayer go forth to meet it.” The promise for a hope and a future shouldn’t make us content, it should quicken us to seek God. The promise of Jeremiah 29:11 is a call to action rather than just a sentimental verse about our bright future. When we read beyond Jeremiah 29:11, we see another promise in verses twelve and thirteen: When we pray, He listens. When we look for Him wholeheartedly, we will find Him.
Here’s a prayer I’ve been praying in the troublesome days of our world. “Stir up my faith, God.”
We know the ultimate promise of God as believers is salvation through Jesus Christ our Lord. The Bible says “all creation is groaning,” as we patiently await the second coming of our King. In our quest to follow God and know Him on a deeper level, it behooves us to read beyond the more familiar verses that have always brought us comfort and hope. Cling to the hope we find in Christ, but let that great hope also stir up our faith and prompt us to pray.
Recently I hung up that very same cross in my 4-year-old daughter’s room. When I hammered the nail to display the colorful keepsake, I couldn’t help but feel sentimental. The promise that gave me hope is now a display of hope for the next generation. When I read the passage that brought me hope for the future, now it beckons me to pray...
Stir up our faith, oh God! May your promises prompt us to seek your face.