Praised for my strength, I internalized:
Maybe you have experienced darkness, too? I must admit, there were times the darkness was so strong, I felt like I was back in that sleeping bag, suffocating with no one coming to help. I think that is why, out of all the wonderful truths and beautiful pictures in Revelation, what stands out to me most, is that there will be no darkness.
Not even any shadows. God’s glory will radiate so strongly, no place will be devoid of light. What a glorious promise eternal life holds! This thought used to be only mildly comforting for me, because eternity is for later, not now. But, as citizens of God’s kingdom, we can walk bathed in light today.
Though we will have to wait to experience the full splendor of Heaven, John records Jesus’s prayer to God the Father where He identifies eternal life as knowing God and believing Jesus as Christ.
Friends! This is great news. We can and do know Him now.
We have access to the Light now.
How? During my struggles, I had to choose beyond accepting Jesus as Redeemer. I had to give Him all access. Intentional thinking and remembering the goodness of God and how He gave it all so I could know Him was finally how my darkness began to break. Knowing God and being known by Him.
A simple concept, hard to implement, but possible. By being relational with God, beginning with belief in Jesus, we can allow the Holy Spirit to radiate light in our lives. And though the enemy may strike at our heels we can crush his head every time.
This is after all, what God wanted from the moment of creation: for us to walk with Him, warmed by His light. Unhindered, unashamed, and unrestrained. To know His love for us, and to return it to Him, fully available to His blessings.
The Biblical account comes full circle, the curse broken, our debt paid in full, and creation restored to its original design. The “Light” once again returns to earth. Knowing this, we can live victoriously in that light even while we await the day when once again mankind will dwell with our Victor. Fully restored and full of promise, for the future and the present.
Will you make a choice to let go of darkness and live in His light today?
Memory Verse: “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” John 17:3 NIV
The problem with this method was that they were so intent on enforcing the rules, they lost track of the heart of the matter. God hadn’t just given rules and commandments to govern His people, but to teach them how to love His way. Imagine how exasperated Jesus as “Lord of the Sabbath” must have been to need to remind the Pharisees that it was in fact good to do good on the Sabbath (Matt. 12:12).
While it is easy to regard the Pharisees with a smirk and eye roll, I think we all, in one way or the other, have been guilty of the same offense.
It can be so easy to get caught up in societal rules which are often selfish (move your feet, lose your seat) and forget that we are called to humility (think of others before ourselves). Our popular rules often glorify a culture that caters to ourselves and shrouds the humility of Heaven.
Jesus spent a lot of time teaching His disciples God’s ways over the world's ways. Most of what He said must have sounded a bit crazy:
Admittingly counter-cultural, these new commands were to teach His followers to live a life that stands out from the world in a culture that valued religion over relationships. Although they may read like just a new list of rules to follow, Jesus’s teachings weren’t about trading in one list for another.
Jesus taught how to love each other as His Father loves us.
Being a Christ follower was never intended to be about upholding rules. It was always about being in right relationship foremost with our Heavenly Father but also with others.
And, when religion’s rules called for blood, Jesus answered, fulfilling all the requirements of the law, He shed His blood so we could live by, in and from love (Matt. 5:17; John 13:34).
Sometimes the “rules” that govern us are ingrained so deeply within that they are hard to recognize. Spend some time in prayer asking God if you are, even unknowingly, governing your life by familial, cultural or religious rules instead of God’s love.
If you struggle sometimes, like me, to live from God’s love, and find yourself instead living by the rules of our culture and popular society, I challenge you, like Jesus, to be a rule-breaker! Break away from legalistic rules and love others as Jesus did, with reckless abandon.
Memory Verse: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:3
I think the Isrealites experienced similar emotional upheaval. They were minding their own business when, without chastisement or explanation, their status changed from a people privileged to despised (Ex. 1:8-14). Though the burden on the Israelites intensified, God, as promised, continued to expand their numbers, but as their population grew, so did their oppression.
Did the Israelites ever wonder what they had done to bring such a heavy burden upon themselves? Did they question their worth? Their purpose? The why of it?
We know God had a plan for Israel and it began with a boy named Moses.
But, I wasn’t Moses. God wasn’t calling me to stage an exodus or address a nation. Honestly, I didn't know what to do anymore. I felt lost and trapped. Tethered to a circumstance out of my control. Although I knew God was working, I just wanted out. I wonder if any Israelite felt the same?
I didn’t understand it, but God had everything in His hand and just as He grew Israel into a great nation under the oppression of Pharaoh, He was at work in my heart, growing me towards spiritual maturity.
It was my mindset, not my situation that had me trapped. I had been so conditioned to relate my success to my actions, that I didn’t know how to be at peace with my role when everything around me was coming undone.
I was, like the Israelites, in a situation outside of my control. However, God is always in control, and He used an external circumstance to free me from an internal prison.
So friends, listen up and repeat after me: Circumstantial change does not cancel our calling.
The role of Israel as a nation did not change because of their oppression. They remained God’s people. Called to Him. Grown through oppression into a great nation.
God always has a plan.
I wish I had realized sooner that being trapped in God’s plan is a good place to be. It is where he grows us. Where He is demonstrates His love in miraculous ways and where He frees us from burdens we were never meant to carry.
It was a lie that I had lost my calling. The way I related to it shifted, but my purpose had not. God’s plan was for an internal change to allow me to fulfill my calling in a deeper way.
In His wisdom, He taught me that lesson in the middle of our hardship.
If you feel trapped in His plan, let me encourage you to go to God in prayer and ask Him if there is something internal from which He is trying to set you free, and allow Him access to break the bonds. Shift your thinking and choose to live in the freedom that is God’s plan.
Memory Verse: “And the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
1 Peter 5:10
Even with Daniel’s displacement as a youth and the loss of everything he had ever known, he excelled. God had his hand on Daniel, but that is not the only place we see it. In fact, the supernatural works of God are on full display throughout our reading this week: writing on the wall, shutting the mouths of lions, a heavenly battle!
Maybe Daniel really did have a super power. He wasn’t bitten by a radioactive spider or from another planet, nor did he have access to amazing technological breakthroughs.
Not just in emergencies, but as a daily routine. Daniel was so committed to prayer that when jealousy overcame the chief satraps, they knew his steadfastness in communing with God through prayer was how to trap him.
When Daniel received a troubling vision and needed comfort, he prayed and fasted. Answering, God sent a warrior angel to his aide and we got a glimpse of heavenly warfare that could have come straight out of the comics.
As the angel began to speak, he said something that blew my mind. He was on his way to answer Daniel’s prayer from the moment it was prayed. FROM THE MOMENT.
It turns out that Daniel did not have power of his own; he was merely in relationship with the one who was Power. It is this relationship that he carried with him which gave him the strength and ability to interpret the writing for King Belshazzar and that gave him the courage to defy the decree of Darius and address him with wisdom and respect after surviving a night with the lions.
Relationship with our Heavenly Father blessed him with the ability to not just receive visions, but interpret. And when the vision for God’s people, whom Daniel loved, became too troubling for him to bear, it was relational prayer that brought the warrior angel to help him.
Saying there is power in prayer seems a bit cliché, but it doesn’t make it less true. However, I would add that there is power in relationships too.
In my own life, there have been many times when I wished a superhero would swoop in and save the day. Funny though, that never happened. Instead, I would pray and cry out to my Heavenly Father and be strengthened.
And help would come.
An encouraging text, a check in the mail, a miraculous change of heart, life blossoming when the circumstances spelled death. Friends, it was not by my might nor my strength; it was never due to my striving or attempt to persuade circumstances.
It was the Spirit of God, acting relationally through His people.
As Christians, God’s Spirit is available to all of us. His power is not just for salvation, and when we are rooted in Him, His power becomes palpable in our lives. Daniel prayed out of relationship, not just ritual. As a result, Daniel’s spirit and God’s Spirit were in tune and he lived life in supernatural power.
So, “dare to be a Daniel.” Commit to being in relationship with God and others, praying consistently, rooting your spirit in His.
Memory Verse: “So he said to me, ‘This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty.’” Zechariah 4:6 NIV
I wonder if this is how Moses felt as the leader of Israel. Every step he took forward was met with grumbling and resistance. Having only their own understanding to draw on, whenever a challenge was presented and God’s provision was not what they thought it should be, they responded out of a pattern of fear and complaint. In the end, this way of thinking led to 40 years of merry-go-round-like roaming, without destination, in the desert.
Even Moses had his moment of acting rashly. Drawing from his own experience, he disobeyed God when he struck the rock for water instead of speaking to it.
Momentarily, his heart returned to his earlier days in Egypt when he murdered the Egyptian for beating an Israelite. In his rage, Moses put his trust in his own actions, not God’s instructions.
The pull to remain on the merry-go-round of self-reliance is strong, but stronger still is the power of the One who frees us.
Although self-sufficient thinking is praised in our society, God wants us to be dependent on Him. It seems that from the dawn of creation the one thing He desires most is our hearts in close relationship with Him; trusting His methods, committed to obedience, and receiving His blessings.
Isn’t that just like a parent?
He knows what we do not, and if we live our life based on our own understanding, I believe, like Israel, we often end up forfeiting the abundant life God promised to us, dooming us to a life of wandering and feeling trapped, spinning on the merry-go-round of habit with “if only”’s swirling through our minds.
How do we exit? What will stop the spinning? Can we get off the merry-go-round and break these cyclical patterns?
What was powerful for Israel and in my life as well? A decision followed by action. Stepping off my current path and onto God’s, every time life begins to spin.
Choosing not to hold to the ways we set in our hearts is an intense fight. And when we lose, when we choose our own ways over God’s, we may find ourselves feeling defeated. But three things are encouraging even still:
So, here is the hard question. Are you able to trust what God says enough to take the leap from your own merry-go-round?
It will be uncomfortable, come with a bit of uncertainty and might have kind of a rough landing, but freedom from spinning is worth it.
Every. Single. Time.
So friend, let’s leap from our own merry-go-rounds into the steady arms of God our Father and trust His plans for our lives.
Memory Verse: “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps.” Proverbs 16:9 NIV
Consider what God may have been feeling just prior to the flood. How crushing man’s sinful ways would have been to Him.
In the first few chapters of Genesis, God goes from creating the world and saying it was good, very good, to regretting and changing His actions from creation to destruction. OUCH.
I wonder if Noah ever questioned God’s decision, perhaps thinking, “Is it really necessary to start over?”
Noah knew God was going to spare his family but even so, it must have been pretty scary for him as the waters burst forth from the deep and rain fell from the heavens causing the ark to tilt and groan until it was lifted from the ground.
The sound alone would have been terrifying, yet they made it safely through the storm to dry ground where the ark passengers began the task of repopulating the earth.
It is hard for me to comprehend how a creator would choose to destroy his own creation. Why would God destroy what He had previously blessed?
We don’t have the capacity to understand the mind of God, and friend, it is important not to get stuck here insisting on answers, lest we become guilty of pride, demanding God be accountable to our desires and solutions.
God is all-knowing. He is all-powerful. And, what makes this beautiful is our loving Father always has been and always will be a promise keeper.
He promised, in the form of warning, that eating fruit from the tree of Knowledge would bring death. He promised Noah He would spare His family and the animals on the ark while destroying everything else that drew breath; He promised that He would never again flood the entire earth. And, He has held true to His word.
God’s ways of accomplishing His purpose are out of our comprehension. But, we can trust that when we obey and are surrendered to Him, there is always something new, something next, something good.
For God is our loving creator and, just as my daughter cared for her drawings, He put detailed thought into every stroke of His creation, including you.
After she saw I threw out her pictures, my daughter got more paper, a marker and went to work. Having learned from her previous hours spent at the drawing board, her new round of drawings were even better than the last.
The new beginnings God has for us are not always smooth and often come in the wake of loss. Still, we can have faith that God always makes a way forward. Through death, depression, joblessness, anxiety, and fear while lost in the wilderness of life, God is with you, directing your steps.
Is there an area in your life where you don’t understand how God is at work? Ask Him to show you your next step forward as you continue to trust in His promises.
Memory Verse: “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV
He was desperate. The disciples had tried but could not free his boy of the spirit. Upon Jesus’ rebuke, the father cried, “I believe, help my unbelief!” Jesus rebuked the demon, and it came out screeching and throwing a fit.
The disciples had authority yet they failed to free the boy. They had authority, but their belief in that authority was now challenged. Had they grasped the attitude authority affords?
Have I adopted that attitude? Have you?
I exercise authority in my role as a parent, but do I have an attitude of authority over my emotions or moods? Or over my words, both spoken and thought? Over my perception of circumstance?
Am I walking in authority knowing I am the thinker of my thoughts, or am I letting those pesky worries steal my focus?
I have authority to proclaim the kingdom of God in all areas of my life. Do I proclaim it? Or do I make excuses? Excuses come between us and receiving what God has for us.
Prayer and fasting keep me in tune with who God is and who I am in Him so that I can receive God’s love and power from a posture of complete surrender to His authority. (Maybe that is why Jesus answered the disciples’ confusion by sharing the need to pray and fast.)
When I am surrendered, I can operate with an attitude of authority --
I can claim kingdom authority in all areas of life. So can you.
So my question is: which father are you? Do you recognize Jesus’s authority and walk in it yourself? Or, like the other father, do you struggle?
So often, in my life, I struggle. To me, it can feel scary, bold, and completely out of my comfort zone to walk in the authority of Christ, but it is part of our call as believers to do it.
Can we, sisters, commit to try? Will you join me? We can be comforted in knowing that when we fail, just like the desperate father, we can cry “Jesus, help my unbelief!”...and He will.
Memory Verse: "'Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.'" Matthew 18:18, NIV
As moms, we all feel a burden of love for our children, a love capable of strengthening us for great sacrifice. When it comes to our families, we act out of this love, doing the next right thing to the best of our ability.
Whether you’re changing diapers or doing the uncomfortable work of disciplining, I believe God has placed us all, intentionally, where we are for “such a time as this.” But because we are not only mothers, but daughters of the King, there will be different seasons.
I don’t know about you, but lately I feel my season changing. My heart is being stirred in new directions. Some of you may feel a calling to lead, some to build, some to write, serve, speak...the list is as broad as our giftings.
If you find yourself uncertain of your purpose for the season you’re in, consider Esther and Nehemiah—neither of them were given imperative commands into their calling. The expectation was that, no matter the season, they—and we—would act in love.
Sometimes God gives us solid words, other times He stirs our hearts in the direction of what is breaking His.
Where is my heart stirring out of love for others?
What can I do about it?
What does love require of me?
These questions weighed on me as I completed this past week’s reading. I am not currently being called to anything that would risk my life. But what about my comfort? Security? Status? Schedule? Pride?
Love required my daughter to sacrifice for her friend. My sister in Christ, what does love require from you?
Prayerfully consider over the next few days if you will allow God to stir your heart for what is breaking His. Ask Him to give you strength, fueled by love for all those made in His image, so you will be willing to sacrifice whatever is necessary to be able to do the next right thing.
When I examine this season of David’s life, there are many valuable insights: How he stood up to the taunts of Goliath when no one else was willing, or how he didn’t receive the doubt others tried to put on him. There was also the way he faced Goliath— not hiding behind Saul’s armor, but in his own identity. There’s also a lot to learn from his humility, and fierce love for his friend.
However, what calls to my heart most from our reading is the many times scripture tells us that David ran.
He ran to the front lines when Goliath disrespected the God of Israel.
He ran towardthe giant to slay him.
Time and again, David ran towardhis problems, throwing off all that entangled him...except for when he didn’t.
David ran from Saul, twice. His lies for the sake of self preservation carried severe consequences.
David was a runner. He either ran towards or away from the challenges God called for him to face.
The writer of Hebrews likens our Christian lives to a race where the runner is to focus on one goal: the finish line. If he is distracted, or carrying anything he is not meant to carry, it will hinder his freedom.
Like David, we also are runners. The question is, which way are we running?
When my faith is challenged, do I charge the giant? When others discourage me, do I continue to press on?
Do I run away when I’m tired or afraid? Do I make excuses, instead of running the race I know God has set for me?
Too often I get bogged down by the things of this life that I should be throwing off:
My own expectations
Fear for the future
The list is long.
In those moments, it is worth defining what the goal really is. Looking at David’s life, it’s tempting to think that his goal was the throne of Israel. While that was his anointing, it was not the prize to which he ran.
Scripture calls David a man after God’s own heart. He ran towards the love of God. He may have taken a few detours along the way, but always found himself running back to God’s arms with the faith of full surrender. It is that love that gave him the strength and character necessary for his calling.
Friend, like David, each of us has a calling. Are you running to it or from it today? Is anything slowing your race?
The Father is calling from the stands “RUNNNN!” He is cheering your every move. Run into His arms and receive His love, then run with perseverance the race before you.
Why? Because I had promised my kids I would, and it was on me to deliver.
It doesn’t matter if my children remembered I made them pancakes that morning (they don’t); it does matter that they know me as a promise keeper.
In this week's reading, Moses wants the Israelites to know the same thing— He reminds the Israelites of God’s faithfulness by taking them back in history. Their physical journey was something God had put into motion a long time prior. Joseph was sold into slavery and, because of famine, moved his family to Egypt where the descendents of Israel grew to be so numerous Pharaoh was threatened and, well, you know the rest of the story.
Here, the nation of Israel is on the cusp of change, again. They are getting ready to enter into their Promised Land. Moses uses the opportunity to address their heart condition. He encourages them to be humble and keep God’s ways. Then, my favorite part, reminds them that they did not earn access into this promised land— it is a gift from God. And if God started it, and God promised it, God would finish it.
Have you, like me, ever felt like you are, a bit impatiently, waiting in the wilderness? Knowing that God made you a promise, but not seeing any progress?
God freed the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt forty years before they actually succeeded in entering the land flowing with milk and honey. Interestingly, they had reached the doorstep of the Promised Land less than two years after leaving Egypt, but didn’t trust God to give them the victory. God never intended for Israel to wander forty years. It was their own choices that had prolonged the journey. But, through it all, God cared for them and walked each step with them, bringing their descendants back again.
You see, friend, God never wastes our time. He is walking each step of this journey with us and, just like with the Israelites, continually teaching so we can be ready to step into what He has promised.
Are you in a season of waiting and repetition? Consider what God is teaching you. Is there a faith step forward that you can take?
As moms, we’re not always perfect promise keepers, but God is. What God puts into motion, He will bring to completion. Like Israel, our journey is less about what is happening around us and more about what is happening within us. In the dust of the desert God is preparing our hearts to trust Him. He is patiently waiting for us to trust and obey. As with the Israelites, obedience doesn’t earn us the Promised Land, but it is necessary to claim it.
Remembering God’s faithfulness in the past helps us remember that He is present both now and in the future. He is a Promise Keeper.
Jacob, whose name means “heel biter” or “deceiver”, uses cunning and deceit in an attempt to help God. Despite God’s many promises, pursuits and proven faithfulness, Jacob continues to meddle in his life and the lives of others. He cheats Esau, deceives Laban, and tactically divides his family for protection while trying to buy Esau’s forgiveness with lavish gifts. Finally, when faced with Esau’s 400 men, Jacob recognizes that his own efforts may not be enough. He prays, “God, I am not worthy. God, I am afraid. God, save me. God, you said!” (Genesis 32:10.)
Have you ever prayed like this— desperately realizing the control you thought you had was just an illusion? God answers Jacob’s prayer, not by relieving him of his situation, but by sending “the man” to wrestle with him. In Jacob’s own strength, fueled by willpower and determination, he wrestles with God and “wins”. Realizing Jacob would not yield his will, God overcomes him, taking out his ability to wrestle by touching his hip. (This, to me, feels like losing.)
God changes Jacob’s name saying “...your name shall no longer be Jacob but Israel, for you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” Genesis 32:28.
Physically wounded, and realizing God is more powerful than he, a fully surrendered Jacob holds onto God until he receives God’s blessing. The outcome of his meeting with Esau is out of Jacob’s hands. But now, clinging to God, Jacob is ready to face Esau, with God’s blessing.
However, as his new name, “one who wrestles with God,” foreshadows, Jacob is soon to resort to his old tactics. After a friendly reunion with his brother, Jacob blatantly lies to Esau. Just like I keep going back to trying to manipulate life with my own hands, Jacob also struggled with submission and acceptance to God’s plan.
Jacob had a heart change, a personal encounter with God, and still messed up. He never fully learned how to be hands-off in a way that honors God. But through it all, God kept every promise He ever made. He continued to pursue Jacob, and bless him and his family. Not just despite his struggles, but during his struggles. God pursues us too, desiring to lead and bless us. He doesn’t want our perfection; he just wants our complete surrender.
You see, when we wrestle with God and choose to submit to him— that, my friends, is when we actually win.
What do you need to surrender to God this week? I challenge you to give it fully over to Him.
The timing. The method. The outcome. We can be hands-off because He is handling it all. Will you trust Him with your future?
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